Sunday, March 25, 2012

Springtime rituals

On this Spring Equinox, in countries and cultures across the world, celebrations take place each year to celebrate Spring.  Many, of course, particularly focus on the female form, perhaps as the human embodiment of the generative powers of the new season, or possibly just as an excuse to ogle pretty girls wearing less than they have been during the winter month.

It is a little-known* fact that many of these celebrations have a strong femdom theme, perhaps to symbolise the driving out and scourging of winter by the power of the new seasons, or perhaps - again - as an excuse to be whipped by those same scantily-clad pretty girls.  Which is it?  We'll probably never know.  Or care. 

Anyway, as a service to readers, we present here a round-up of some of the more...forceful... Spring celebrations, from around the world.

In Bulgaria a delightful tradition known as 'first-footing' takes place on this day.  Males are required to kneel down and kiss the shoe of the first lady they encounter in the street.  She for her part then either places a flower into his hair immediately - as a signal that he is free to go on - or may require a task or service to be performed.  If a lady suspects that a male has not emerged from his house by 12 noon, she may enter the premises in search of him.  All tasks must be completed by midnight, so a male who really does not want to take part will have no more than 12 hours of being at another's beck and call to contend with.  In any case, recently laws have been passed to ensure that first-footers are not subjected to anything that can reasonably be expected to cause them irreparable harm, and first-footers may not be used for criminal purposes.  So there is really very little to worry about.  Tourists are welcome, and expected to take part.

A 'first footer', greeting the Spring with an affectionate kiss.

Despite the onset of Spring, the weather in Bulgaria can remain very poor at this time of year - so this enterprising Bulgarian lady has taken advantage of the first footing ceremony to keep dry in the rain!

In the town of Åasblød in Norway, the Spring Festival of the Birch takes place on this day.  All the men of the town who turned 18 in the previous year swim naked in the lake in the morning.  Then, naked and cold, they run to a lodge in the forest.  There, ladies who turned 18 in the prevous year, together with those turning 28, 38 and 48, have been gathered since the evening before, fashioning fine bundles of rods from the proud forests around.  The men are secured tightly over logs and birched vigorously, in a process that usually starts in an orderly fashion with the ladies forming a queue in front of each male, but often typically degenerates into mayhem, as bits of birch fly everywhere and the air fills with the shrieks of flogged males and the delightful murmur of female laughter and conversation.

Once all the rods have been used up, a white cloth is pressed to the backside of each of the secured males, to produce an impression in blood to recall the day.  This memento is kept safe, and usually presented to a bride by her groom on a wedding night, as part of the 'Marriage night ritual of the birch'.  As a matter of fact, the birch tree is the centrepiece of much of the cultural life of Åasblød, with no fewer than 17 festivals over the course of the year devoted to this noble plant.

The young ladies delight in making artistic arrangements of the birch sprays, using pretty ribbons and even interweaving flowers into the bundle.  There are prizes for the prettiest - and then later, prizes for the most bloody flogged bottom too.  Good girlish fun.

In South Africa it's not actually Spring, because it's in the southern hemisphere.  Nevertheless, on or around this date, a tradition has developed in recent years called "Apology Day".  A powerful figure from the apartheid regime is selected, as are several representatives of the new, young, multiracial South Africa.  This year, Capetown's former police chief is the main participant, and the photo below shows him with two of the youngsters selected to engage in dialogue with him about the apartheid era.  Interestingly, although he will be free to go once the day is over, he might well emulate his predecessors in choosing to go into domestic service for one or more of his young examiners, presumably out of a sense of remorse.

Young citizens prepare for Apology Day, along with this year's lucky 'volunteer' for atonement.

In Iceland, men are released from chastity and allowed to come on this day.  Then they are locked up again.  There's no great ceremony around it, but if you're visiting Iceland on business or on holiday, it's worth considering going at this time of year (or the Autumn Solstice of course) as it can provide a welcome moment of relief from Iceland's otherwise strict chastity laws.  If you're staying in a hotel, the chambermaid will probably have your key but you should always ask at reception the night before, to ensure you don't miss out.

Welcome to Iceland.  Hold still now.

* note for new readers: little-known because completely untrue - see the disclaimer to the right about the veracity of information presented on this blog.

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