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Guild lives on in Rákoš

THE SOCIAL organisation called the Honest Mining Guild (Poctivá banská cecha) has survived in the village of Rákoš in central Slovakia to this day even though it rarely fulfils its only official task. Its current chairman, Ján Valko, told the TASR newswire that the guild’s primary task was to help families bury their loved ones. Members of the guild helped to dig graves for other members and their relatives without any kind of remuneration and in this way helped alleviate the sorrow and financial worries of the bereaved family.

THE SOCIAL organisation called the Honest Mining Guild (Poctivá banská cecha) has survived in the village of Rákoš in central Slovakia to this day even though it rarely fulfils its only official task. Its current chairman, Ján Valko, told the TASR newswire that the guild’s primary task was to help families bury their loved ones. Members of the guild helped to dig graves for other members and their relatives without any kind of remuneration and in this way helped alleviate the sorrow and financial worries of the bereaved family.

“From what I know this guild has operated since the times of the first Czechoslovak Republic. Its standing has gradually changed according to the social position of its members. During the communist regime the organisation should have been disbanded as it was not part of the National Front as every political party, association and even hobby clubs had to be in those times,” Valko told TASR.

But Valko said the regime did not bother the guild because of its social mission while noting that now “the guild is more about tradition, as the mine that connected the members no longer operates and the social status of families has changed and now when someone dies, they prefer to pay someone to dig the grave”.

The guild accepted new members only once a year during its meeting on Ash Wednesday, the day on which the guild continues to meet. “In Rákoš, we call it Krivá streda (Crooked Wednesday) and on this day we meet to pay our membership dues which we use to buy tools for digging graves – to replace any damaged ones. With the rest, we buy alcohol.”

Valko explained some other traditions of the guild.

“Before being accepted, new members were called ‘pagans’ and every potential member had to choose a ‘godfather’ first, an older member who would guarantee that the greenhorn was a decent, honest person.”

The godfather’s responsibility was to educate the newcomer about all his duties and then the members voted.

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