The Slovenia Times

Wedding summoner living cultural heritage

The pozvačin or a wedding summoner. Photo: Vida Toš/STA

Franc Jerebic has a joyful role in life. Wearing a colourful outfit, he visits the relatives, friends and neighbours of a betrothed couple to invite them to the wedding. Both his character and the role he performs have recently been added to the register of intangible cultural heritage.

Part of the traditional wedding ceremony in Prekmurje, the custom of "wedding summoning" is still kept alive in Slovenia's north-easternmost region, in particular in the municipalities of Beltinci, Turnišče and Črenšovci.

The person performing the custom is called pozvačin, which comes from the local dialect for someone who calls or summons. Jerebic has been performing the role with pleasure for 45 years and is currently the only registered personalised pozvačin.

Wherever there is a photo of a pozvačin, it shows him in his elaborate traditional costume, and whenever the character is needed for protocol, he will be there. And still people will ask him to go invite guests to their weddings.

His first wedding as a pozvačin was the wedding of his sister-in-law. "People have always been looking for a cheerful and playful person to act as pozvačin. Often they would find me and then once they invited me to a folklore festival," Jerebic remembers.

In time this has become a way of life for him because acting as a wedding summoner takes quite some time. It depends on how many guests the couple invites, but it takes him about three weeks to perform the task for one wedding.

He went inviting guests to his first wedding as pozvačin in "civilian clothes", as it were. He was wearing a wooden axe with a hedgehog's skin and a black hat with colourful ribbons. "A pozvačin must have nice ribbons, it's an honourable function and you have to perform it that way," he says.

The traditional costume includes high leather boots, "gentlemen's" trousers, a white linen shirt, and two embroidered towels slung over each shoulder. On these, his wife, who helps him with everything, attaches coloured strips of crepe paper.

On his left hip he has a bag of sweets for the children and a flask filled with millet or the "daughter-in-law's milk", and on his right hip a flask of wine, which he offers at the end of his speech in the house to which he comes to invite wedding guests.

Pozvačin also wears a cow's horn, a hat decorated with crepe paper flowers, and peacock, cockerel and pheasant feathers. In his hand, he holds a hedgehog's skin on a wooden axe, which Jerebic says is indispensable.

"Without the hedgehog's club there is no pozvačin. If the guests hide it during the invitation ceremony, he can't leave the house," he says. He has two bells tied around each leg and two on the hedgehog club.

The costume involves a lot of work. Jerebic sews his own ribbons, while Hedvika Križanič from Gančani and Anica Crnkovič from Beltinci have been decorating his hat with flowers for 30 years.

Pozvačin walks around the town or village, visiting and inviting people to weddings, dancing and jumping, chasing children, handing out candies, shouting, greeting passers-by, offering them a drink, and scratching women with the hedgehog's skin.

An important element of the ceremony is the invitation speech, which is in dialect. "Come all those of you who are bigger than your knees, smaller than your soles, with hard pouches, loud voices, and brisk heels!" is a rough translation of a phrase that has become the hallmark of wedding invitation.

Although Jerebic is registered as the sole performer of the custom, in reality the role is performed by all those whom couples ask to go around inviting guests to their weddings. He himself knows two other younger summoners, and sometimes others dress up for the occasion too.

"The bride and groom each choose their own pozvačin among their relatives; someone who is happy, who can sing and dance. I have also been asked by others to summon guests to their wedding party when they have not found a suitable person among their own family."

Pozvačin is also present at the wedding itself, so it is important that person is cheerful, jocular, so he can link the bride and the groom's families and keep the party in high spirits.

"Mind you, pozvačin cannot do without a wife, who helps him with everything. All the drinking can get to him, so he must have a strict wife," Jerebic says. Apart from the newly-wed couple, pozvačin is the last to leave the wedding and without a wife he could not manage all the effort.

"I believe Jerebic made a major contribution to the custom making it to the intangible heritage register," Beltinci Mayor Marko Virag has told the Slovenian Press Agency about the successful bid involving several local associations and institutions.

The municipality is proud of the success, with the latest custom joining three others that the community contributed to the register of intangible cultural heritage, the sotiš and šamarjanka dances and the majoš custom of maypole erecting.


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