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A Strange Tradition: Soester Wippen Posted by on Dec 14, 2017 in Culture, Folklore, Traditions

Every country has its traditions, whether that is KrampusOktoberfestRichtfest, or MaibäumeSome regions also have their very own traditions. And one of these, I want to discuss today: The Soester Wippen.

Rocking stairs of punishment

The Soester Wippe in a 14th century illustration (Image from Commons.wikimedia.org, public domain)

The Soester Wippe is a rocker with stair steps in the city of Soest. It was used as a means of humiliating punishment from the 14th up until the 18th century for Gartendiebe (“garden thief” – somebody that stole something from a garden/crops from a field) and Felddiebe (“field thief” – somebody that stole something from a field/hunted illegally). They were pushed onto the steps, and they had to keep walking, until it would tip towards the water. The Diebe would fall into the Großer Teich (big pond) and had to get back to the Ufer (riverbank) by themselves. Not everyone could swim in those times, so it would make quite an embarrassing sight in those times!

The use of the Wippe today

Even today, the Soester Wippe still exists. It is used Tuesday after the first Saturday after Johanni or Johannistag (Nativity of Saint John the Baptist) on June 24. On that Saturday, the Bürgerschützenfest (Civilian Marksmen’s Festival) is held in Soest. The Tuesday after that, the Wippe is used for the so-called Wippen in den Großen Teich (Rocking into the Big Pond).

It is now a tradition of poking fun with each other, where well-known citizens of the city are nominated, and participate in the fun. While there is no more criminal activity required for the accused, there is a Urteil (judgment) read out. It often rhymes and tells of their alleged crime. For example, in the video above, the Kammerpresident (Chamber president) was one of the drei Malefikanten (three malicious ones) nominated by the Bürgerschützen, because he had not done enough to get tax cuts passed.

Also, as you can see in the video, the Wippe is held steady now, so that the accused can climb up the stairs and jump off, and don’t injure themselves as may happen if it rocks…

You can find many videos and reports of previous years and the events around it on a web page of the Soester Anzeiger, a local news agency.

If you were “accused”, would you jump off the Wippe? Let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator and filmmaker.