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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Rites of Spring, Czech Style

The Whipping Stick. This is the Czech tradition on Easter Monday. Here’s how it goes …

Czech men go about town knocking on doors with a willow-branch whipping stick in hand. The women of the house upon answering the door must submit to a “whipping” — after which the women give the men some “treat”, often a colored Easter egg, or more likely, a shot of liquor. This Easter Monday rite takes place in the morning. After Noon-time, the women turn the table and dowse the men with water (cold shower from all that whipping? perhaps.).

The tradition behind the whipping is two-fold: the woman is kept obedient and pure, and also is prevented from “drying out” through the year. The “drying out” has been defined for me as, mostly, staying pretty and young and fertile. A typical spring rite, as folklore would have it. Likewise, in the afternoon dowsing men receive from women, there is a purification and wetting and general “sobering up” — such as Czech men naturally need (at least in this scenario, after having been given many many shots of liquor).CZECH whipping stick

While contemporary Czechs still practice this rite (willow whipping sticks can be purchased for about 30 Kc on the street: and note, the colored ribbons are the traditional “treat” given to men by the women, so the many collected colored ribbons shows a dedicated male), whipping of women has fallen out of favor in Prague and other, large, cities.

Czechs have figured a way around this neo-ERA craziness: they get out of town on Easter Monday to find women whom they can whip and receive treats.

All I have to say about this tradition is this: Where’s my whip?!

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