Poland Ethnography 2

Poland Ethnography Part 2


We can observe another important coincidence in the SE corner. of Poland. The current line from west to east of the ancient Thracian civilization merges with the current ethnographic border line, which crosses the Ruthenian-speaking territory. Here we certainly have the old frontier that once divided the northern Indo-European lineages from the Thracian ones: on the other hand, the interpreters of Ptolemy’s map agree that at the beginning of the Christian era the Carpazis were inhabited by the Thracians.

It should be noted that the cultural products common to the Slavs date back to about the beginning of the Christian era. To these belong Fr. ex. the ovens built in the living room, which we do not find instead between the Balti and the Germans. The oven seems to have been borrowed from classical Latin, while the denomination of the bread is of Gothic origin. The territorial limits within which we find the oven built in the living room are in no way related to the aforementioned old boundary lines. The oven is a much more recent product, although it appeared in Poland at the beginning of the Christian era.

The most important result of the ethnographic investigations in Poland is the finding that the upheavals of the last three millennia could not erase the traces of the ancient past. They have been so well preserved up to the present that they can now be identified through the cooperation of ethnography and prehistory.

Given the richness of forests, wooden constructions prevail in Poland. Clay huts are found mainly in the southeastern voivodeships; in the western areas instead (Greater Poland, Pomerania, Silesia) wall constructions predominate. Houses built of wood offer some variety; thus, for example, the roof is preferably two-water in northern and eastern Poland, four-water in the other regions. The roofs, except in the more advanced areas, are usually covered with straw. In the Carpathians, the clapboard roof is also in use. The interior of the villerecce houses consists mostly of two main rooms, divided by a corridor. The stove for cooking and heating is usually located in the room (izba) located on the right from the entrance. Two-storey houses are very rare, but according to the shape of the roofs all have a more or less wide and high attic. The granaries, stables, pigsties, etc., are not united with the house, but arranged around it within a special enclosure.

Much care is taken by the peasants in furnishing their home. It is the work of carpenters who are not lacking in any village. Particularly interesting are the tables and chairs in the Tatra area (see fig. On p. 764). Rich in ornamentation – with evident traces of the Italian influence of the Renaissance times – are the chests of Krakow.

In the cultivations, having overcome the primitive systems that fell into disuse in the century. XIX (fields divided into three parts: for green sowing, for summer sowing, fallow), the use of a rational division of arable land according to the various crops prevails. Less progress, on the other hand, can be seen in rural tools: here and there we still encounter plows and harrows made of wood only. Small (toothed) scythes as well as hay scythes are used for the harvest. The grain is beaten by flakes, whose shape, especially as regards the juncture between the shaft and the top, varies a lot from region to region.

To crush the wheat (or barley) the farmers use a lot of hand-held mortars in the shape of cylinders or goblets; Southern Poland also knows lever-operated mortars on which one presses with the foot. To grind the beaten wheat, still very primitive hand mills are still needed in some regions. Windmills are still frequent, and they were more so in the past; the water ones were apparently imported to Poland by Italian monks. Once the peasants themselves served as pots, today – as well as for many other trades – there are specialized pot pots in the villages who produce, in some regions, popular pottery with artistic forms and ornaments.

The spinning of flax and hemp is the exclusive work of the peasants who, as in ancient times, often work collectively, thus spending the long winter evenings in company. The clothing also serves a lot of different elaborate animal skins. The art of wool is widespread everywhere: to report the white and gray cloths of the Krakow area, those with colored stripes by Lowicz, and above all the carpets, kilimy, from the eastern lands and the Carpathians, as well as the popular linen fabrics, for different uses of covering and interesting geometric designs, from the Vilna region. In the countryside the use of national costumes still prevails, which differs not only from region to region, but also according to whether it is everyday clothing or festive attire. The latter is mainly due to its use of an overcoat (Sukmana), now long up to the malleolus, as in Masovia, Kuyavian and Greater Poland, now instead shorter and with a straight collar as in Lesser Poland. In the sub-Carpathian area, the seagull is replaced by a short pilgrim. The wool belt is rich in colors, especially in the central-western areas; leather is usually the belt in the territory of Krakow. The hat serves in some regions to distinguish bachelors from married couples. This distinction is clear between married women and girls (so, for example, only these can go out bareheaded).

Great is the variety of tools used by the people for hunting wild animals: holes covered by a table rotating on an axis (usually against wolves who, falling into the hole, can no longer get out of it); pointed poles (bears, deer, etc., are injured and then easily killed; they are also used against sparrow hawks, in which case a dove is put under the pole to serve as bait); different types of traps, snares or hooks (also in the shape of an anchor) to catch not only birds, but also hares, foxes, wolves.

Nothing particularly interesting offer the fishing gear. Various types of harpoons, tiles, pots, nets, etc. are also in use in Poland, as elsewhere. The capture of fish under the winter ice is preceded in some regions by the stunning of the fish obtained with hammer blows on the ice.

Poland Ethnography 2