Uppsala University Library

Student initiation

Every new student has to undergo the student initiation rites. In the 17th century new students were dressed up in colourful clothes, horns, donkey's ears and boar's tusks and pushed with an axe in front of a mocking crowd.

View The student initiation
The Picture Collection

Ritual tools - tongs, a saw and a plane - were used to dismember the horns, ears and tusks, attributes symbolising the prospective student's still bestial and untamed nature. Finally the master of ceremonies would put salt on his tongue, pour wine on his head and proclaim him a free student. This was followed up with a year of servitude during which the student had to serve an older student. The initiation rites and year of servitude quickly got out of hand and were forbidden in 1691.

This little gouache painting, 14x8.5 cm, was made during the latter half of the 17th century by an unknown artist. 

(Research: Per Ström, Uppsala University)

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