I asked my informant about her wedding that I attended, in particular a wedding dance that took place during the reception. My informant’s wedding party initiated the dance, which consisted of all the women gathering on the dance floor, surrounding the bride. Then the groom has to try and get to the bride through all of the women while they wave him away with the dinner napkins. Usually the dance is done to a polka song, which is also traditionally part of the Slovakian celebrations in the Pittsburgh area.
My informant told me that her husband and most of the wedding party was of Slovakian heritage, which is where the dance traditionally hails from. Not everyone at the wedding was Slovakian, but the wedding party easily got the majority of people to participate. I participated, even though I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing at the time. The important thing was to have as many women on the dance floor surrounding the bride as possible. This made it harder for the groom to reach the bride and it also just added to the festivities.
The significance of this dance might be the women protecting the bride and her ‘innocence’ from the groom, and the fact that they form a circle around the bride that the groom has to ‘penetrate’ is related to sexual imagery usually involved in traditional wedding activities.
At the end of the dance the groom finally makes it to the center and takes his bride away from the circle.
When my father was growing up, he was a very big fan of the classic monster and horror movies, among them Dracula (1931), and The Wolf Man (1941). Because his grandmother was born in Slovakia, he thought to ask her about other ‘eastern European’ legendary monsters that the movies portrayed such as vampires in Transylvania, etc. He was about 18 or 19 when he asked her about vampires and werewolves. He said that she told him that she did not know about vampires in Slovakia, but that she did believe in werewolves.
His grandmother was from the region near Bratislava, Slovakia. She told my father that while growing up, she had heard of a girl that had been attacked by what she claimed to be a wolf. His grandmother then said that people saw a man with a bit of the girl’s clothing caught between his teeth. The folklore of her region prompted her to believe the possibility of this man being a werewolf. She offered no charms to ward off werewolves to my father, however, just that she believed in them.
Because she believed that a human male could be a werewolf, my father’s grandmother obviously viewed werewolves as shape-shifters, which also has origins in Russia. It is also interesting to note that it was a girl who was attacked and that the significant clue to prove the existence of a werewolf was clothing in the man’s mouth. This to me sounds like a distant version of the tale of Red Riding Hood, which had an underlying lesson to teach girls the dangers of the male ‘appetite.’