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Women's moba

Moba is a custom of working together and the most common form of mutual help in rural households. It used to be convened for jobs requiring more labor or for jobs that must be carried out urgently, for some reason. The most frequent one is harvesting moba, convened  from mid July till the end of August. Prelo is also a type of moba in which women and girls help the housewife to spin wool, hemp or flax. In Potkozarje, prelo used to be organized for the processing of flax and hemp, and never for the processing of wool, since every housewife herself spun her wool whenever she had time during the summer. They were usually convened in the autumn and winter, when the days are shorter, and the nights longer and when there is less work in the field.

In spring, women were seeding flax and hemp on a ploughed and raked garden. In general, women from one family had common flax and hemp fields. Around the period of the celebration of Dormition, when the stems are ripe, they would be picked (gathered). The flax stems have on top the caps with seeds that were plucked by perljaca, and the seeds were first gathered from them. In hemp, stems from which seeds would be taken were not picked. They were left until they ripen. The handles of the picked hemp and flax were then laid out and placed in pracijep (a wooden device made of two wooden plates tightened by wire on both ends) so that the handles were squeezed with it, and lowered into the spring water to soak. In poor springs, mocila (soaking places) were dug in which the prepared pracijepi were laid.

Pracijep was hooked in the water and the stems were soaked in water for two to three weeks. Every couple of days, the women checked whether the process is completed. They should have been careful about soaking, because the fibers could get rotten if they were too much exposed in water. The soaked stems were rinsed in pure water, shaken and straw in the meadow to dry for a few days. After that, the stems were warmed in the sun and softened by the leg stamper (tamped) in order to extract pozder from them (fiber waste). This work was done mostly by two women, so that one tamped the stamper and the other shifted the stems. Trlica (swingle) was used to soften the fibers additionally. Most often, they would use it each for herself, under the moonlight, because during the day they did not have time for that. It happened that fifteen-twenty women, each with her trlica, together did this job by working every night at another host. In the breaks of this moba, for which they said that they "go to  trenje (scutching)", they were eating roasted pumpkin. The housewife would comb such prepared fibers of hemp and flax using grebeni (combs) in order that kucine fall off (worse fibers which were used for weaving  of thicker sheets) and hairs remain. The hairs would be twisted and povjesma (skein) would be made, which would be connect in desetici and then prelo was convened.

The spinners would take to prelo their distaffs and spindles. As soon as the little girl was up for manual work, a distaff was made to her. In each village there was someone skilled in their making, and mothers ordered them and bought for girls around their age of ten. They were made mostly of linden, and children's distaffs were somewhat shorter than those of adult women. Some were buying distaffs from Karavlasi, paying them sometimes in money, and sometimes in groceries.

Prelo was most often convened in a house where there were plenty of family members and there was not enough female labor. More diligent women preferred to spin by themselves because they could better take care of the quality and uniformity of the thickness of the yarns. Housewives who organized prelo agreed about the time so as not to spoil each other's business. When the housewife's need arises, most often with another woman, she would go through the village and invite to prelo. After the dark, the spinners gathered in the house in which they were spinning. The housewife would give each woman a desetic that she would wind on a distaff and spin it. The girls who did not know how to spin, would take some of their handmade work (knitwear or embroidery), and they were dealing with it. The boys would also come, but a bit later. They were playing various games, cards and teasing girls. They would sit next to the girls they liked, tickle them, tease them, take the balls and spindles. The girl would be glad to be teased by the guy she likes, while she ran from others to another place. Often it happened that the guys stole through a window the yarns from distaff, so that they finish the job „faster“, because after the end of prelo, there was a joint party and joy. The hosts most often were offering coffee, brandy and sliced bread, cooked cabbage, pie, cheese and meat, and the entire work was accompanied by joy, jokes and singing of suitable songs related to the work performed. That's why a house from which a member had died did not invite for a moba. Musicians were also invited to moba regularly. They cheered up the participants of the moba while they work, and after that they played while the people were dancing in kolo.

After the work was done, there was dance and joy, most often in the yard of the house. Mothers would often check with lanterns who was near their daughters.

Prelo was invited also by the housewife who was hurrying to prepare “ruvo” to her daughter for marriage. At such prelo, those jobs that the family did not manage to finish themselves were finished, for example they were weaving, cleaning feathers and plumage, stroza was filled with plumage or straw, the pillows were filled with feathers, pillows and headscarfs were embroidered, they knitted. It happened that these kind of moba were in the same house for three or four days, if there was a lot of work. There were no men on such a prelo, because the job was to be done urgently, and men would just distract spinners with their presence. In addition to prelo, in Potkozarje, sijelo used to be organized. Only the women from the neighborhood gathered in these kinds of moba. They were doing their embroidery singing and joking. Some of them were spinning, some knitting and some weaving. Everyone brought with her what she needed to finish. There were no men at these gatherings, although if some guy was very interested in a girl, and was brave enough, he came in front of the house where there was sijelo.

Women's moba was also organized when wheat or oat were harvested. In ten to fifteen women would do this work together, every day on the field of another host. There could also be an older man, who would tie the harvested grain. The host would bring them lunch in the field around noon, the most often beans, corn bread and polenta covered with beans. The most common drink was pivasak, a drink made from a grape pomace left from brandy and left in a clean covered barrel to be a little sour. It could happen that after lunch, women played kolo before the work continued. A shared dinner in the host house was also mandatory. These gatherings were rarely ending with a common joy, because the next day it was necessary to continue the work on the other field.

In all such gatherings, the practice of working together and solidarity towards relatives and neighbors was emphasized. Work on moba was not paid and there was no obligation to return the work. This work was simply given away. For young people, such work was attractive, because it was always accompanied by song, gig, play and joy. It was also a chance to get to know someone, getting closer, and falling in love, so it is not said by chance: "Girls are watched at prelo."


Irena Medar Tanjga, PhD

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