Budēļi are spirits of fertility who are said to live in the grain fields. In autumn, farmers perform special rituals to catch Jumis, the god of fertility, and put him to bed for the winter. At the Meteņi celebration in February they wake him up again. The arrival at this celebration of budēļi – masked figures related to mummers who wake the fertility in the soil and people– signifies that spring is nearing. Only men dress as budēļi, because they are the ones who plough, plant and tend to the fields. At Meteņi, budēļi go from house to house, from farm to farm, from field to field, performing various rituals along the way, thereby bringing blessings and fertility to the fields, livestock and people.
The typical budēļi mask/costume is a fur coat turned inside out. They wear special cone-shaped straw hats decorated with wood shavings or strips of cloth hanging down over their faces. They carry bunches of sticks and branches decorated with colourful bits of yarn as well as large staffs or walking sticks to make noise. They hang a bell or a carrot and two onions from their belts. When entering a house, budēļi sing and comment about all of the girls and young women in the household and use their bunches of sticks (signifying fertility) to give them spankings. They also perform various games to test the vigour of the people in the household. The spankings continue until the young women buy their freedom with a pair of mittens or by tying ribbons or yarn onto the bunch of sticks. Those who receive spankings are said to enjoy health, vitality and fertility for the entire coming year – all of their work will bring fruitful results, and there is even great hope that the young women will find husbands in the autumn. People eagerly await the budēļi in their homes and offer them many tasty treats, because budēļi bring blessings to a home and fields and activate the life force. When it comes time for the budēļi to move on, the hostess gives them foods to take along. After all, an exchange of energy must take place.
Song // Metens by Auļi from album „Gadalokos“
Directed // Kaspars Bārbals
Cameras // Gatis Indrēvics and Eriks Kukutis Photography
Thanks to // Lauska, Jānis Jasjukevičs, Gunta Siliņa, Justīne Jasjukeviča, Janta Jasjukeviča, Katrīna Valtere, Miķelis Zalans, Daina Zalāne, Juris Zalāns