I write about a Slovene hunting tradition out of deep respect for a great friend (Dusan) who’s father recently passed away and whose funeral I attended. Dusan supported me through a 2 year process to be one of the first foreigners admitted into a local hunting family (Udenborst). Dusan’s father (Alojz) was a member of the same hunting family. This writing and photos published with approval of Dusan.
When the Head of the hunting family learns about the death of one of its members he visits the relatives. If the family chooses to have a hunting funeral then the Head of the hunting family calls for a meeting of the hunting family in order to plan for the funeral. At this meeting the hunters pause for a minute of silence before setting about defining the roles and responsibilities for the funeral.
At the funeral the oldest hunter will carry a shotgun of the deceased over his left forearm. The shotgun is broken and a black ribbon placed over the mechanism. All the badges of the hunter are placed on a green cushion which is carried by a hunter during the procession.
One of the hunters is given the responsibility to bring Spruce tree (Smreka) branches that should not exceed 12 cm in length. Each hunter at the funeral wears the branch on the left side of his hat together with his badges. Hunters wear their formal hunting outfit, a hat, a white shirt and a green tie with the emblem of the hunters association on it. Brown shoes and brown socks.
No hunting activities are allowed during the funeral proceedings. The final goodbye starts 30 minutes before the official funeral start with 2 members of the hunting family (must be of the same stature) standing on either side of the urn with the ashes (or the coffin). They change every 10 minutes.
The prayers and bible reading are done by a minister, supported by 2 young helpers.
Representatives from neighbouring hunting territories attend; they carry the flags of their respective hunting families. They are required to wear white gloves.
Hunters carrying the flags lead the procession to the graveyard. After the flag bearers are 3 hunters with the middle hunter carrying the wreath. They are followed by the singers carrying the hunting horns (musical instrument), and then hunters in dual file. The second last hunter carries the green cushion with the deceased badges and the last hunter is the oldest member of the family carrying the deceased shotgun over his left forearm.
After the hunters the minister and his 2 young helpers walk in front of the urn of ashes. The urn is carried by 4 hunters, followed by family members and then friends.
At the graveyard the hunters put the urn of ashes onto the grave. The minister conducts his final service.
The final speech is made by a hunting family member representative. He talks about the hunter that passed away. This speech was filled with emotions, an incredible tribute and goodbye to Alojz.
After his speech the hunter takes down his hat, places the spruce branch on the top of his hat, tilts his hat so that the spruce branch falls into the grave; then he bows in front of the grave.
At this moment the hunters play a note (tune) with approximately 3 seconds of duration to signal the last hunt in the deceased memory (never the Tishina). After this low note hunters in the close surrounds start shooting sporadically like they would on a common hunt. A maximum of 10 shots are fired. Then another series of 3 “sad” low notes are played on the horn (spaced 3-4 seconds apart). A hunters expression of sadness that the deceased is forever finished hunting.
The shooters return to the graveyard with their guns broken, they take the branches from their hats and place in the grave. During playing of the “sad” tunes the flags are lowered.
All hunters then come to the grave and place their spruce branches on the grave. The hunter with the green cushion of badges of the deceased and the hunter carrying the deceased gun stay until everyone has left; then they place their branches on the grave.
Dusan and his brother in final goodbyes. You were the heroes of your late dad. Dusan your love and support for your dad was immeasurable.
I do not have pictures of the final get together in a communal hall nearby where food and drinks are served (not excessive). At the end of the table is an empty chair, a small white candle, a green spruce branch and a half filled glass of red wine.
When the candle is burnt down the head of the hunting family tells everyone that he hopes not to meet again on such sad occasions but rather on common hunts. He thanks everyone for attending; all stand with a drink in the left hand and toast in memory of the deceased.
Alojz celebrated and was proud of Dusan’s hunting achievements in South Africa.