Intangible Heritage of Croatia – Lastovski Poklad

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Lastovski Poklad

TCN’s Filipa Marušić gives us an intimate look at one of the island of Lastovo’s incredible pieces of cultural heritage.

One more interesting carnival tradition is based on Lastovo island. This heritage dates back all the way to the year 1483, but was first mentioned as Carnevale in 1310. This range of events went through a series of changes before reacing today’s form. This is considered as time to party, relax and escape from the everyday life as well as the time to eat and drink well.

The carnival period starts from January the 17th and ends on Ash Wednesday, at a time of the year when people do major spring work to prepare for the coming year. For local people on Lastovo, it’s important to keep alive this tradition which their ancestors preserved over the centuries. This is also one of the oldest carnival traditions which is listed as intangible heritage of Croatia.

The Lastovo Carnival traditions which are still preserved today are related to the siege of Korčula town by the Moors in 1483. According to the legend, the Moors sent a messenger to Lastovo to surrender, but the inhabitants captured him. Owing to the fact that he never returned, the Moorish Army went to Lastovo to conquer it. The lookout noticed the ships and started to shout “Cock-a- doodle-doo upper village, cock-a- doodle-doo lower village – the Moors are coming, we’re in trouble!”

When the inhabitants heard that, they left the village and climbed the highest hill on Lastovo called Hum, went to St. George´s Chapel and prayed to God to save them from Moors. Then suddenly, a storm sank several ships while the rest sailed back to Korčula. When the locals realised they were saved, they went back to the village and put the Moorish messenger on a donkey, mocking him. The saying ”Cock-a- doodle-doo upper village, cock-a- doodle-doo lower village” accompanied by a barefoot walk to St. George’s Chapel has remained a tradition to this very day.

In historical documents, advice to refrain from disorderly conduct and loud behavior during the carnival can be found, while some other people wrote poems and drama pieces about the Lastovo carnival. All the events related to carnival celebrations take place in village of Lastovo, except for an egg hunt.

One of the interesting features of the carnival are the carnival groups. The carnival group is led by kapo sale (hall master) and they need to meet around Christmas to open their halls. Each carnival group needs to find a hall and sanatur (lyre player) by Epiphany. The groups can obtain the carnival puppet, known as Poklad – this means great pride for the carnival group and they all want to have the Poklad puppet. If they do get the Poklad puppet, they need to organise the hall, the music, and all of the people to coordinate all the events.

The first carnival dance starts on January the 17th, but it can occur by Ephipany. Some of the invitees to the first dance are The Municipal Head, a physician and a priest. The Hall Master welcomes the guests and the usual dances on this event are the waltz, the English waltz, polka, lišo, rašpa, and kvatropas.

The Hall Master can announce different kinds of dances during this event like a dance for the elderly, a carnival group dance, a lyre dance or a guest dance. Other participants are Hall Masks – they are a masked group of people who amuse and entertain everyone present. They have a leader and they can attend any dance evening until carnival Sunday. The Lyre Dance is an important part of the Lastovo Carnival custom, it is danced during the dance evening season, in the period between Candlemas and Carnival Sunday. The Lyre Dance includes the following figures:

– each man with each woman,
– round dance in couples to the left and to the right,
– under arms – once,
– round dance to the left and to the right,
– snail formation – once

There are several important days during the carnival celebrations, one of them is Candlemas Day, when a carnival group dinner is organised and before the dinner, participants accompanied by the lyre sing while walking to part of village called Gornja Luka and then to the house of carnival puppet maker, before finally going back to the Hall. Participants shout “Uvo” and sing the carnival songs. This “Uvo” shout is an essential part of these carnival traditions, and this shouting is called halekanje. Nobody knows the exact meaning of the shouting, but it is historically used as part of the carnival events.

The carnival group that has the Poklad puppet needs to sing under the nettle tree three times – On Candlemas Day, Carnival Sunday and Fat Tuesday.

Then, there is Carnival Thursday which is the last Thursday of the carnival season. During the evening of Carnival Thursday, carnival groups sing under the nettle tree in the village – on this day, all the terraces where procession participants will dance in Lastovo village need to be defined.

Carnival Sunday is the last Sunday of the carnival season, a day for the children’s carnival. Children wear masks and go around Lastovo village, singing carnival songs as they go.

Carnival Monday is the last Monday of the carnival season. This is the day with a lot of important events and activities. Early in the morning, at 08:00, the Hall Master, lyre player, a child and carnival group members go to the Hall. They all go to get the donkey and some soil from Kolač field – always collecting the soil from the same location. On their way back, they pick up the Poklad puppet maker while singing the song titled ”Podiglo se
malo četovanje” (A Small Troop Went into Battle).

Then they go to the Hall, and there, the puppet maker and his assistants start making Poklad out of wheat and the bomb maker and his assistants start making gunpowder bombs. Carnival group members and other villagers also assist, with the lyre is playing throughout all this time. When puppet maker is done with Poklad, the Hall Master carries it outside and people call “Uvo” and another bomb is detonated, after that, Poklad is dressed in uniform.

After dressing up Poklad, the Hall Master again takes it out and people call “Uvo” and another bomb is detonated to announce that Poklad is now ready. The Poklad puppet is the symbol of all carnival events and activities, especially on Shrove Tuesday.

Then the carnival groups have lunch together, put masks on, and collect eggs. The carnival group that made Poklad goes around the village and sings to all the houses in the village. Most of the participants go around the village while some of them go from house to house and collect eggs. When they enter the houses as a whole group, they sing accompanied by lyre and call “Uvo” on the terrace where the procession participants will dance on Shrove Tuesday. These terraces are called sulari.

The host offers the group food and drinks. The group collects the eggs until the evening church bell rings, when they leave the buckets with eggs in the hall and go home. The egg hunt is a custom as old as carnival itself – all generations of Lastovo residents participate in it. Groups and individuals put masks and use musical instruments. They go through the village and visit houses on the way. When they enter the house, they sing: ”An egg, madam, an egg, madam, please give us an egg!” After some more entertainment, the hosts give them eggs.

Carnival Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday is the most festive and important day of the carnival season. On this day, children don’t need to go to school and a lot of people don’t go to work. They all prepare for the most festive event of the whole carnival season. At 8:00 in the morning, the Hall Master, lyre player, carnival group members and one member of each pair of mens masks gather in the Hall. They take the Croatian flag and collect the equipment necessary to lower the carnival puppet (ropes, soap, rakla –construction, which supports the Poklad puppet on the rope, šusta – construction, which stops the Poklad when it slides down the rope).

They put up a rope between the hill above Lastovo village called Pokladareva Grža (Carnival Hill) and Gornja Luka at the bottom of the village and detonate a bomb at Pokladareva Grža to signal that the rope is ready to lower the Poklad puppet. Men at both ends, Gornja Luka and Pokladareva Grža, call ”Uvo” three times, and then they all go to the Hall and sing carnival songs. This is the way to complete the morning’s carnival activities. The 12:00 bell rings at 11:00 on this day as a sign for all participants to prepare for the final celebrations.

Men gather in the Hall while women gather in another hall.

Only native people from Lastovo can wear the traditional mens carnival uniforms and participate in the carnival processions. A man participating in the procession is called Pokladar. His uniform is expensive and detailed, and it changed in same way as the carnival traditions changed throughout the time. The uniform consists of a white shirt, black classic cut trousers with yellow stripes along both sides, black socks and shoes. A short
red jacket (koret) with embroidered yellow trim is worn over the shirt, and a black waistcoat over the jacket.

Some interesting features are a yellow belt with roses, glittery embroidery worn over the shoulders, wide ribbons in various colors around the waistcoat. Pokladar wears coral and golden necklaces and a gold pin. He also wears a bowler hat with an embroidered sash, a white flower wreath and other flowers and feathers. He also has a wooden sabre with a ribbon bow.

Procession leaders wear the following uniform: black socks and shoes, black classic cut trousers with yellow stripes along both sides, hats and sabres like the Pokladar, and a red collarless jacket with gold-yellow trim on the sleeves and shoulders. Over the jacket, they wear the same belt as the Pokladar.

When the procession leaders and Hall Master come to the Hall, they go to the lyre player, walking in line, two by two. Then they go to get the donkey which will carry the Poklad puppet. When they get the donkey, everyone returns to the Hall. The men rehearse the Carnival Round Dance, the Poklad puppet is put on the donkey and the men get in the carnival line. The pageant begins first with the flag bearer with the Croatian flag, then the donkey with the Poklad puppet, boys wearing carnival uniforms and the lyre player.

After them, the procession leaders walk and the rest of the men walk in pairs. The whole group goes to the Municipal Head to ask permission for the procession to go around the village and to burn the Poklad puppet, After the Municipal Head gives permission to the Hall Master and the mens carnival procession, the most festive part of the event starts.

After this, the men dance the Carnival Round dance and shout “Uvo” at the end. Everyone eats, drinks and sings and finally thanks the Municipal Head for his permission. Then they go to the priests house and do the same thing. After that, they go towards Gornja Luka and visit the terraces along the way. The Poklad puppet is tied to the rope at Carnival Hill at 15:00 sharp. Poklad has five gunpowder bombs on his feet, and they’re detonated on its way the first time, then seven bombs the second time, and finally, nine bombs the third time.

After sliding it three times, the mens procession dance the Carnival Round Dance at Gornja Luka and they go to the Dolac Square with singing and lyre music.

The womens procession also visits the terraces. When the church bell rings at noon, the masked women gather in a different hall and visit the terraces following the same path as the masked men, but always a bit later than them. After taking down the Poklad puppet and after the mens Carnival Dance at Gornja Luka, the women also dance their dance and go to the Dolac Square, visiting the terraces along the way.

After the masked males have visited all terraces, they come to Dolac Square in Lastovo village, where they line up and the lyre player starts playing the Carnival Round Dance. Towards the end of the mens Carnival Dance, the masked women come to Dolac and start dancing their own round dance. When the female masks are done with their dance, they join the men and each male mask is accompanied by the female mask and they all dance again.

The puppet maker takes the Poklad puppets’ clothes off and binds the puppet to a long stake, and then the Poklad puppet is burned. This is the final event of carnival’s custom celebrations at Dolac. When the Poklad puppet is burned, the evening bell rings, followed by all the other bells and then men take the lyre player and the donkey to their homes.

After all the activities on Shrove Tuesday, there is a dance event organised. The Hall Master announces the male dance followed by the female dance. The church bells then ring at 23:00, which is the sign for everyone to go back home and have last plentiful dinner before Ash Wednesday fasting. After that, they all come back and enjoy the dance until the morning arrives. 

Finally, the carnival group which had Poklad puppet organises evening event in the Hall on Ash Wednesday. Prkle (small doughnuts) and hard boiled eggs from the traditional Carnival Monday egg hunt are served and everyone who participated in the carnival events comes to thank the carnival group with Poklad for organizing the carnival.

All the visitors who wish be part of this Carnival can wear masks too but they cant disturb the carnival customs in any way. This year, participating carnival groups prepared entertaining events which are all in accordance with this very long tradition.

SOURCE: Lastovski poklad, Mačevni plesovi


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