Kurent, also known as Korant, is the central figure in Kurentovanje, a rite of spring and fertility which may date to the time of the ancient Slavs. Kurent has been mentioned as a god in Slovenian folk-mythology, as recorded in folk-tales of Carinthia in southern Austria. Its origin has not been established and has been the subject of ethnological, mythological and historical research. The annual festival of Kurentovanje marks the Shrovetide (Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – initiating the forty day period before Easter) in the northeastern Slovenian city of Ptuj (in the Stajerska region) and nearby towns. It is celebrated for ten days up to Shrove Tuesday. The festival has its origins in a parade in Ptuj of 1939. This helped to revive and re-establish the custom practised in only the Ptuj area in Slovenia. Similar rites take place in Hungary and in Serbia, but the Ptuj Kurentovanje is among the most extravagant. This period of the year is celebrated throughout central and western Europe, and is called “carnival” (the European Reformation of 16th century caused the carnival to disappear in northern Europe, and it is unknown in England and Ireland). Carnival is enjoyed throughout all of Slovenia.
Kurent is regarded as a god of unrestrained revelry and high-spirits. He has been compared as a ‘Slovenian Dionysius’. The Kurents – formed in groups – are dressed in sheepskins with cowbells dangling from their belts or chains. On their heads they wear huge furry caps decorated with feathers, sticks or horns and coloured streamers. The leather face masks have eye-holes outlined in red, long trunk-like noses and enormous red tongues that hang down to the chest. They wear hair made from horse-tails.
The Kurents move from house to house in procession, scaring off evil spirits with their cow bells and wooden clubs topped with hedgehog spines. They continually whirl and jump from side to side to sound the bells and chains they wear. These sounds are heard throughout the villages all day and into the night.
Different and ancient customs prevail throughout the villages; such as before the Kurent arrives at the house, the housewife throws a pot from the attic, to the first person who visits her in the day. This is according to an old belief that this will help the hens to lay eggs.The Kurents carry a basket to collect gifts from the households. A devil (hudicc, zlodej, vrag) accompanied the Kurent, dressed in all black or red, and was covered by a net to catch souls, leads each group. Young girls present Kurents with handkerchiefs which they then fasten to their belts, and housewives smash clay pots at their feet for luck and good health.