Rękawka Celebration in Kraków: Competing Catholic and Pagan Heritages.
Rękawka is a celebration held in Kraków (Poland), on Krakus’ Mound (it is an alleged place of the burial of Kraków’s legendary ruler Krakus) and on Lasota Hill on the first Tuesday after Easter. The name Rękawka comes from Slavic ‘raka’, which means tombs. Over time, the name Rękawka was ascribed to two events taking place on two neighboring hills. These events are a Roman Catholic ceremony at the church of St Benedict on Lasota Hill and events, identified as Pagan, held on Krakus’ Mound. Historical sources pertaining to the beginnings of Rękawka are scarce. Though there are just a few notes from the 15th and 16th centuries describing the burning of fires on Rękawka Hill, the whole celebration is believed to have early medieval, Pagan roots. Supposedly later on it has converted into a Catholic celebration, but scholars saw in Rękawka traces of pre-Christian religions even at the beginning of the 20th century.
Today Rękawka, organized since the beginning of the 21st century, is a kind of historical re-enactment event and the ceremony at the church of St Benedict remains a separate celebration, organized for centuries only with some breaks resulting from political situation. The “Pagan” Rękawka has a new script and a different leading theme each year, and in 2018 it was Slavic Netherworld. References to the Pagan past are the very important and visible aspect of the whole celebration. The aim of Rękawka organizers is thus to promote Kraków’s pre-Christian heritage. Re-enactors admire the culture they re-enact, they also feel respect for its religion. They perceive recreated and performed rites as a true religion of their ancestors, one which also formed Kraków history, has contributed to the present character of the city and therefore, in their opinion, it should be included into a local heritage along with Roman Catholic part of Rękawka celebration.