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The world of bacowie and mountain huts

Until the beginning of the 20th century, breeding of sheep and cattle and related herding have been a basis for the economy in the Carpathians. Sheep were grazed on pastures, cattle on clearings in forests. An interesting element of the herding culture were signalling instruments used for passing on information at long distances (pipes, shepherd’s horns and trembitas).

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The sheep grazing was a seasonal activity; people and their herds departed to the mountains after the St. Wojciech feast (23 April) and returned home after the St. Michał feast (29 September). The departure with herds to the mountains and the return i.e. spring and autumn redyk were of ceremonial nature. In particular, many magical practices and rites were connected with the beginning of the grazing season. In the past, the wandering to pastures and the return to a village were taken in stages. In the spring, when the winter was coming back to the mountains and in the autumn when it was returning to the valleys, herds were grazed on clearings situated in the lower part, so-called spodki.

During the grazing, the herd was cared for by a group of people led by baca. His tasks included managing the grazing and milk processing. He also acted as a doctor and magician protecting the animals and people against spells. Baca supervised juhasi and their helpers, boys called owczarze, honielnicy.

The base of the seasonal holding was a hut where herd supervisors lived and where sheep milk was processed. The huts were wooden, log huts. Hip roofs or more modern gable roofs were covered with dranice (type of boards torn from a treetrunk using wedges) or with shingles. The most important place in the hut was the fire burning through the entire season (watra). At night and during milking, sheep were kept in a movable enclosure called koszar.

During the entire grazing, many magical orders and prohibitions were observed and a number of practices were used to keep the herd and people healthy, guarantee abundance of milk, protect the shepherds and herds from any failures and misfortunes.

Near sheep, cattle was also grazed. It was supervised by women and girls and sometimes by the whole families which moved to shepherd‘s sheds for that period. Apart from a room for the animals, such a shed had also a section for hay and a residential section, sometimes equipped with a chimneyless stove. After drying hay, people stayed with cattle for some time, in order to return here in the late summer due to another harvest of hay – so-called potraw.

On forest clearings , situated near the village, some cows and heifers were grazed collectively. They were supervised mainly by girls who lived in sheds together with cattle and brought milk to the village everyday. On pasturages within the area of the village, cattle was grazed by children.


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