Not specifically a “snow creature”, Marzanna is a Slavic goddess of death and everything that is harsh about winter. She has many names: Marzanna (Polish), Morena (Czech, Slovak, Russian), Morė, Mara, Maržena, Morana, Moréna, Mora, and Marmora. She is important in seasonal agrarian rites – in fact, some regions of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia hold March festivals in which Marzanna’s effigy is burned and then dumped in the river. This represents spring’s triumph over winter. The Catholic Church tried to Christianize the tradition by either burning an effigy of Judah or throwing a Judah puppet from the Church’s roof.
Once Marzanna’s effigy has been sunk in the river, it is bad luck to touch the effigy or even to look back at her. To do so would enrage the spirits and lead to bad luck, disease, or death. After Marzanna is destroyed, young girls carry a gaik (green pine branch decorated with ribbons) through the village to symbolize spring.
So many young people use the day as an excuse to play hooky from school that the Polish Department of Education declared March 21st a school holiday (Truant’s Day). There are no classes, but students wear costumes and carry on.
At first, I wasn’t sure if this poem could be considered a haiku. But … holidays are seasonal events even if they are not specifically tied to nature and the weather. See “observances” at the Season Word page.
I can relate to the desire to destroy winter symbolically. My friends have been joking about finding and killing that horrible Groundhog who gave us another 6 weeks of winter!
First image: Marzanna effigy by Magic Madzik. From en.poland.gov.pl.
Second image: Marzanna effigy held by Polish children. Wikipedia.
Third image: Children in Slovenia with Marzanna, early 1900s. Wikipedia.
Even her essence /
is swept from grey hamlets with /
ribbons and green boughs. /
Still, her singed and soggy hair /
is danger even in death. //