Witch Burning


Growing up, the burning of witches was always one of my favorite traditions. I loved the gigantic bonfires with witch sculptures, gathering with people from the village to roast bread and bratwurst, singing and jamming with guitars, and adults finishing the fiesta with their homemade slivovitz.

The tradition takes place on the evening of April 30th, to burn the witch that kept winter around so long with the belief that the witch’s power weakens with warmer weather. The witch sculpture usually consists of a cross with attached straw that fills old pants and shirts, finished with a witch hat on top of the cross and an attached broomstick. Older children of the village are usually responsible for building the fire, gathering tree trunks in the woods around. Many children gather to dress up as witches themselves and everyone comes over to participate in a contest of which village has the largest bonfire. When the witch figure finally collapses and the bonfire gets small enough, women from the village jump over the fire dressed in traditional dresses and headbands made of flowers. This concludes the witch-burning ritual.

Below are some images from the burning witch holiday I spent with my family in Moravia. In Moravian villages, it is a custom for each home to make their own slivovitz and my uncle is very proud of his own brand and 10 or so versions of it. People of the Moravian countryside drink slivovitz like water, having their “mecheche” in the evening, sleeping like a bear, and wake up refreshed, no hangover, with a glass of slivovitz waiting along with coffee and kolacky for breakfast. I highly recommend visiting this part of Czechia.

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