Hunting part 3: Hunters initiation in Croatia
There is one long-standing tradition within hunting communities around Balkans. It is called "lovačko krštenje" or "hunter's christening" in English. Basically, it is an initiation where one becomes a full-fledged member of the hunting community.
To become a hunter in Croatia there is a quite a lot of hoops to jump through. First one needs to attend hunting course and pass the exam on it. With that one is licensed to hunt, but for hunting one needs guns. To be approved by police to acquire weapons one needs to present them beforementioned hunting license and clean bill of health. After that, they do a background check, then they check if one possesses an appropriate gun safe and in the end they check with your neighbors are they O.K. with you possessing guns. All in all, the whole process takes 3-4 months and a substantial chunk of change. All that out of way finally one can go hunting!
Once you start hunting it takes some time for goddess Diana to smile upon you. For me, it was my fourth hunt when I managed to bag my first animal. It was a pheasant cook. And then the show has begun. Hunter closest to me let me know that I bagged that cook unlawfully and that I will be, after the hunt has ended, put on trial!
Hunt ends and the trial starts. The trial is quite simple. First functions are delegated by consensus:
- venerable judge - usually older hunter with a lot of esteem in the group. His job is to take pleads from accuser and defender and to make the ruling and sentence.
- accuser - somebody from the group with good speaking skills. His job is to present the wrongdoings of accused hunter and to ask, as creatively as he can, for the maximum sentence.
- defender - again somebody with good speaking skills. His job is to defend accused hunter to best of his abilities. Usually, he doesn't agree with the proposed sentence and asks for higher!
- hunting godfather - he is chosen by the accused hunter. His job is to carry out the sentence.
The trial is done with a lot of going back and forth from accuser and defender with running commentary from the whole group. Finally, the sentence is given by the judge in the form of "hot" and "cold" lashes with a bendable stick. The designated number of lashes is applied on the hunter's backside, while kneeling, by the godfather. After the last lash is applied hunter needs to run through a gauntlet where everybody gets a swing at him. And then congratulations are in order to the new member of the club.
Godfather's stick is signed by the whole group and presented to the newest member to never forget this day. After everything is done the whole group goes for a couple of drinks to celebrate and godfather is picking up the bill because he had the best fun.
It may seem to some of you that it is a cruel custom because lashes are real and not faked but for me it was fun.
Below is a video of my christening made by my friend. It was seven years ago so I look quite different than nowadays.