Easter Monday is the time to move on after a few days of Easter feast. And how to do it? According to tradition, run around with a bucket of water.
Śmigus dyngus - word genesis
The word dyngus itself probably comes from German – from the word dingen, meaning “to buy out”. On the other hand, Zygmunt Gloger (historian, ethnographer, folklorist) drew attention to the similarity with the German word Dünnguss (splash of water, inkwell). As for the notion of “speed”, it can be associated with the Polish śmigać, or again – with the German schmackostern. Interestingly, both Śmigus and dyngus remained separate customs for a long time. The expression of their “unification” was the appearance in Stanisław Szober’s Dictionary of the Correct Polish Language of the cluster known to us as “Śmigus-Dyngus”.
Wet Monday - first apperances in sources
This Slavic custom was first mentioned by the Czech preacher Konrad Waldhauser in the 14th century. In Poland itself, the earliest information about Śmingus-dyngus comes from the 15th century, namely in one of the acts of the synod of the Poznań diocese from 1420 entitled Dingus prohibetur, warning against the following practices:
Forbid that, on the second and third Easter, men, women, and women, men should not attack for eggs and other gifts, which is commonly called jigging (…), or dragging into the water, because such frolics and harassment do not take place without sin the mortal and offenses of the divine name.
In turn, Benedykt Chmielowski, in his encyclopedia Nowe Ateny, points out that pouring water on Polish soil dates back to the times of the legendary Wanda and was created when her courtiers, regretting the Lady, poured water every year. According to Chmielowski, Wanda died around the year 750.
Other origins of this custom’s origin are presented by researchers of ancient Slavic traditions. Śmigus – associated with the end of winter and the beginning of spring, mainly consisted in pouring cold water over others and symbolically beating willow or palm trees on his legs. It was supposed to symbolize the spring cleansing of dirt and diseases, and later – of sins. At the same time, the custom of dyngusowania (dyngusowanie) was celebrated, Easter eggs could be bought from an another bucket of water. Dyngus was strongly associated with the practices of the Slavs regarding expeditions – acquaintances and random people were visited.
Moreover, the Slavic peoples perceived pouring water over each other as favoring fertility, therefore mainly unmarried women were poured on it, giving this custom a matrimonial character. Only after the merger with Christianity, in some regions, on the third day of Easter, brides and girls had the right to repay them for pouring water on them earlier.
Local śmigus - dyngus customs
People were pouring water on each other mainly in the countryside. The high importance of this custom in the old days is evidenced in some places by the preserved traditions relating to the harvest, e.g. the cult of Easter palms, the celebration of death (pouring water on the maidens at the delivery by young men on Monday in the market square in Wilamowice and Brzeszcze), dyngus cock (young men driving a live rooster around the village – a cock on a decorated, two-wheeled cart), or dziady śmigustne (or Słomiaki – a custom related to the village of Dobra near Limanowa. Every year bachelors put on handmade straw clothes and organize a parade).
Not all Easter customs have stood the test of time, but the tradition of pouring water on one another on Monday morning is still alive and willingly practiced, especially among the youngest.
Gawełek, Franciszek: Oblewanka (dyngus, śmigus), Kraków : nakł. autora, Kraków : Druk. Literacka), 1915.
Gawełek, Franciszek: Palma, jajko i śmigus – w praktykach wielkanocnych ludu polskiego, Lwów, nakładem Towarzystwa Ludoznawczego, 1911.