Ritual dances in the Lublin region

Ritual dances, as the name suggests, appeared during rituals. Only rudimentary information, excerpts on the subject, has survived to this day.

The longest surviving ceremonial dances were wedding dances. The first dance at a wedding was that of the senior best man or starosta. In fact, these were figures at the wedding much more important in rank than the bride and groom themselves, and it was up to them to start the dance party. However, the best man’s dance itself had a playful rather than ceremonial character. When we talk about ceremonial dances – we are not talking about a dance party, but about special dances that are mystical in meaning. And such a first dance of the wedding party occurred very early, because before the unbuttoning (haircut) and the bride’s exit from the house. Young bridesmaids would dance around the bride, thus bidding her farewell to her maiden status and wishing her the best of life as a married woman (the symbolism of the circle is very important here). The dance itself often took place to the very singing, according to the words e.g. “Zatocyła sie cerwuno wisienka w poprzecki, tak się tocyły do panny młodyj druhnicki”.

Another dance already appears at the wedding feast, during the introduction of the ceremonial cake – korowaj. The korowaj was carried by the starosta or senior best man, who had to dance with it while carrying it, which can also be confirmed by the words of the song:

„Druzba korowaj niesie, pod korowajem krzesie, pod korowajem krzesie,
nózkami, ostrózkami, carnemi bucikami, carnemi bucikami.”

(Chairing is a specific decorative dance step). In the Lublin region, the most well-known wedding dance is the mach – it was never performed under other circumstances, and only the most important figures at the wedding could stand to dance: the elders, the senior best men, the bride and groom and the parents. It is a show-off and “greeting” dance – during it, the dancers bow to each other and show their skills to all present. The last of the ceremonial wedding dances took place after the nuptials. This was the last dance that could be danced with the bride, without asking the groom for permission. Each subsequent dance already required permission from her husband. This dance was customarily the oberek, but it lasted an exceptionally long time, even more than an hour, so in such situations the melodies were changed and waltzes or zippers were also played “for the rest of the bride”. The wedding dance had to be paid for, it was the so-called “cap money” – the purchase of a suitable headdress for a married woman. Both women and men approached the dance, and the best men in between chased away reluctant guests with special chants, for example:

„Macie jej doć, to jej dojta, po kuntach sie nie chowojta,
trzeba jej dać, nie załować, na cepecek podarować.
jak kto nie ma niech pozyco, bo u nas to taki zwycoj,
trzeba jej dać, nie załować, na cepecek podarować”.

In addition to weddings, ceremonial dances certainly also occurred during harvest festivals and agricultural work. We can mention, for example, the obtańcowanie of a sheaf of grain, left in the field after the harvest, which was supposed to ensure the fertility and safety of the crop the following year. Again, dancing along the contour of the circle appears here as an omen of good fortune. Certainly there was also a dance to ensure an abundant harvest when the crops were slow to grow; and evidence of it survives in the children’s game “hemp.”

„Zabawmy sie w konopie, konopie,
bo dziś małe są snopie, bo dziś małe są snopie,
mało nas, mało nas, a ty miła chodź do nas,
mało nas, mało nas, a ty miła chodź do nas.”

Ceremonial dances certainly occurred at other times in life as well; unfortunately, as a mystical and pagan element, they were quite quickly eradicated by the church. Today we can find their remnants mainly in the lyrics of chants.