Thousands of people turned out to see one of Europe's oldest festivals, The Kurents, in the Yugoslavian town of Ptuj on Sunday (29 February).
GV PAN down from church to crowds
SV Women folk dancers in national dress with weeping village girl in wheel barrow
CU people with bird and african witchdoctors masks on (3 shots)
SV effigy of bridal couple ZOOM out to folk dancers.
SV & CU people in animal masks dancing
SV spectators viewing from trees (2 shots)
GV & SV people in animal skins with cowbells dancing (2 shots)
SV crowd and clown look on as festival continues (3 shots)
Initials RH/1550 RH/JA/JB/1640
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Background: Thousands of people turned out to see one of Europe's oldest festivals, The Kurents, in the Yugoslavian town of Ptuj on Sunday (29 February).
The recorded history of the town goes back more than two thousand years when the Romans established a settlement on the site of an even earlier village. The Romans called the settlement, Poetovio.
The present Ptuj is a modern prosperous town but every year the local residents-----and many thousands of visitors--------recall the ancient history of the village.
The townspeople hold a festival with a parade and dancers performed by masked characters depicting ancient fertility deities. The parade and dancers symbolize the defeat of Winter by the conquering god of Summer.
The design of the masks and the performance of the dancers have been handed down from times before the Roman invasion.
The masks and costumes used by those taking part in the festival are very similar to those used by "medicine-men or "witchdoctors" in the more remote areas of Africa and Papua New Guinea. The costumes and dancers are believed to be the only active example of ancient pagan Slavanic tradition.
There are two typical masks used in the festival. Both resemble animals or birds and the wearers use cow hides or sheep skins to cover their bodies. Most of the dancers also wear bells which keep up an hypnotic rhythm as they chant ancient spells.
One of the ancient plays depicted each year is the story of a young girl who is raped shortly before her marriage.