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Clacker Makers from Piwniczna

Country: Poland

Region: Lesser Poland

Type of inspiration: Cultural customs Source:


Holy Thursday was treated as an important holiday in the past. In the afternoon the work in the field was finished early, all people tried to go to church in the evening. Everyone was expected to be serious - there were no conversations with people met on the way to church, no singing during housework, no unnecessary chatter. To make the last days of Lent silent and full of focus, the church bells, tied until the Resurrection, would also be silent. They were replaced by wooden clackers, whose official name is "crotalus". These were small ritual instruments consisting of a small board with a little hammer attached, which, when set in motion made a characteristic, hollow sound. In many parts of Małopolska [Lesser Poland], small boys would also run around the countryside with the clackers, making noise as a sign of mourning, and according to others - in remembrance that Judas betrayed Jesus. It was widely believed that noise scared away evil forces. The loud sound of wooden clackers was to chase away the devil, who in this temporary, and therefore dangerous period, could be lurking in the alleys of the village. 

In Piwniczna, this Lenten custom took the form of wandering around the city streets with clackers to call for prayers. Before World War II, similar marches took place in Łąck and Żywiec, but only in Piwniczna the custom is cultivated to this day. Clacker makers from Piwniczna, usually altar boys and lectors, go out to the city streets three times a day, always at fixed times, just like in the past. They clack at 6 am to wake people up, they clack at noon for the Angelus, and 4 pm at the end of the day. Their marches are of a mourning nature. The sound of the crotalus calls for repentance and prayer, setting the rhythm of the day. Nowadays, this is additionally emphasized by black, long clothes with hoods, referring to atonement vestments. The teams of clacker makers usually consist of about 20 boys, but in a long retinue, the so-called cohort, there were more than 50 of them. In the past, you could become a clacker maker at the age of 9-10. Everyone would make a wooden clacker, early enough, from well-dried wood, to obtain a powerful sound. Sometimes wooden clackers were made during crafts lessons at school. Source:


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