The tradition of “parkeljni” has never been forgotten in Podkoren. Initially it was only military recruits who would put on the devil costumes. Later, when the Podkoren Cultural Society took over the organisation of this traditional event, a girl joined the band of “parkeljni” and it is said that she did not go easy on anyone who had been naughty that year.
The children of Podkoren know very well that there are two types of “parkeljni”: horned and hornless. With 12 horns, one for each month of the year, the “parkeljni” leader, known as the Trentar, is the most noteworthy of all. He was probably named after poachers from the Trenta valley, whom the locals found quite frightening.
“Throughout the year my grandmother was prone to saying, ‘If you don’t do as you’re told, the Trentar will come and get you’,”
says Darinka Tarman, an expert in the traditions and customs of Podkoren.
2004 was a turning point for the “parkeljni” of Podkoren: their well-worn costumes were restored and their peers from the neighbouring regions of Carinthia in Austria and Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy were invited to take part in the festive event. Over the years, they have been joined by traditional monsters from other regions and countries, most recently from Croatia.
The preparations for the event take virtually the whole year. The devils – a group of perfectly likeable Podkoren guys – develop their plots and schemes for dealing with anyone naughty in a room with a very telling name: Hell. Not everyone can join their band. According to Jože Pečar jr., the chief devil of Podkoren, a true “parkelj” has to be able to scream and shout properly. “Everyone who joins the ‘parkeljni’ goes through a sort of initiation so we can test their abilities,” explained Jože with a laugh.
But even though they are the ones scaring naughty children today, they still have a fear of the monsters from their own childhood. They tell us that they would come to the venue at Pod lipca two whole hours early to wait for the “parkeljni”. But the closer it came to the time for the terrifying men to arrive, the more the children’s courage drained away.
“People would walk past on their way to get milk, their containers clattering like the devils’ bells, and it was enough to get us running in fear. There is a stream nearby – the sound of the stones rolling in the water was frightening enough to make us run, too,”
reminisced the “parkeljni” of today. Still, they could not avoid the hairy creatures. And then they were well-behaved for… Well, at least for a week, until the arrival of St. Nicholas.