The Wendish Research Exchange

Wendish Folklore Portfolio 2. ZABIJANJE KOKOTA - Slaying the Rooster

mersiowsky - 7-22-2014 at 09:05 AM

2. ZABIJANJE KOKOTA - Slaying the Rooster
Translated by Elmer Hohle

Zabijanje kokota.jpg - 750kB

Harvest time was a period in farm life that laid claim to every ounce of energy from sunup to twilight. It took troublesome and tiring labor to save the produce, putting it into barns and sheds before inclement weather and storms possibly ruined it.

Small wonder that experience and this custom played a significant role in the joy and celebration that found its way into the village's season end after the last bundle had been harvested.

After the last of the grain had been cut, one would say: "Today is Rooster."

The Rooster (Cock) was the symbol for the spirit of growth, and the people believed that this spirit would withdraw in the last stalk or blade on the field. So that he wouldn't again transfer this weakness into nature, he had to be slain. Therefore it became a practice to organize the "Rooster Kill" on a Sunday in August. It took place on a stubble field or suitable meadow. In earlier times this tradition was carried out in a very crude and brutal manner. One would place in a pit a rooster whose feet and wings were tied. A beer barrel was placed about a hundred paces from the rooster with its open plug hole pointed in the direction of the rooster. Anyone desiring to try his hand at slaying the rooster was blindfolded. The handle of a threshing flail was stuck into the barrel's plug hole. The blindfolded young man would take the handle between his legs to determine the direction of the rooster's location. Then he placed the flail over his shoulder and walked towards the pit. As soon as he thought he was standing over the pit, he started flailing away. Most of the strokes would miss, amidst the laughter of the onlookers.

If a young man finally scored a hit, he would be lifted on the shoulders of the others and carried to the public house(community hall). There they cooked the rooster and concluded with a festive carousal.

In later history, this custom was practiced in a more humane manner. The pit in which the rooster lay was covered over with boards, and a tone pot was placed over the boards. Each contestant was given 3 swats. Whoever hit the pot, reigned as king. He received a crown and a present. Then, while still blindfolded, with the maidens circling around him, he got to grab one as the queen. She also received a gift. Then in a festive procession they wended their way to the public hall for a dance.

To this very day, only a tone pot is struck, and the threshing flail is frequently replaced with just a stick.