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The ancient custom of Wipschieten in Leefdaal

“Wipschieten” is a typically Belgian type of archery. The idea is for archers to hit a perched bird (a bunch of coloured feathers). The successful archer is crowned the King of Wipschieten.

Sounds fairly straightforward, you may think, as you conjure up images of Robin Hood lookalikes taking aim and unleashing hails of arrows.

But think again. Because the target bird is actually stuck onto the end of a 27-meter pole (the wip) which is then hoisted into the air.

Fixing the target onto the wip
Fixing the target onto the wip © Johan Morris

The archers are thus not shooting horizontally, but VERTICALLY upwards into the sky!

Wipschieten in Leefdaal
The very distant target

And if your first thought – like mine – is what happens when the arrows return to earth, don’t worry, the arrows are either corked or blunted, to prevent injury. At least that’s the theory.

Wipschieten in Leefdaal
The “arrow”

Every year in Leefdaal on the first Sunday in July, the village turns out en masse to discover who is to be crowned the Wipschieten King. But in Leefdaal they don’t things by halves, they have centuries-old traditions built around wipschieten. The entire village dresses up in traditional clothing, and parades through the village to the wipschieten field in three social groups, led by the local wind band.

The Leefdaal wind band
The band leads the way

The Jefkes are the unmarried men. The Pekes are the married men. And the Mekes are the women. In the past, the event was for the Jefkes to show themselves as marriageable young men to the Mekes.

The Jefkes are the unmarried men of Leefdaal
Enter the Jefkes

Then it’s time for the Jefkes to take up their longbows, squint into the sun, carefully evaluate any cross-wind, take aim, and shoot their blunted or corked arrows at the distant target in the sky.

Wipschieten in Leefdaal
The Jefkes take aim
Wipschieten in Leefdaal
Shoot! © VRT News

Who is going to knock the bird off the wip and be crowned King?

Hitting the target
Success! But whose arrow has hit the target?

The 2024 winner of the Jefkes was Jordy Biddeloo.

But wait: Jordy is obviously a master at this sport, because he was crowned King of the Leefdaal Wipschieten Championship in 2022 and 2023.

Having won it for three years in a row, this means Jordy is more than a mere King: he is Wipschieten Emperor!

Jordy, Emperor of the Jefkes
Jordy Biddeloo, Emperor of the Jefkes (centre), with the winning Peke (Tim Van Cortenberg) and Meke (Evelyn Vander Hulst) © Johan Morris

Click on this link to watch a short video of Emperor Jordy’s winning shot and his resulting jubilation. (Scroll down to the video at the end of the report). There’s some great football-style celebrations there!

And here is a short video of the procession of the Leefdaal wind band and the Jefkes in 2022.

1938 wipschieten King in Leefdaal
It’s a solemn business: the 1938 King of the Leefdaal Wipschieten © 2024 Jefkes, Pekes en Mekes

I think it’s great that these ancient customs are maintained. Thanks to Johan Morris and his website which has a lot of interesting information (in Dutch) on this topic.

13 thoughts on “The ancient custom of Wipschieten in Leefdaal”

      1. A Catalan friend comments: “It’s not exactly the same. The sash in Pamplona and Catalonia is inspired by farmers’ wear, to support their back. The wipschieters’ sash seems decorative.”

  1. I grew up in Rotselaar, also Flemish Brabant, and we too had a Wip right outside the village center. It was an important social event .

  2. https://m.nieuwsblad.be/cnt/dmf20240708_94395514?m_bt=558944290441&journeybuilder=nopaywall&utm_campaign=namiddag_update&utm_content=meest_gelezen&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_source=nieuwsblad&utm_term=0-2

    Pasverkozen Kamerlid Kjell Vander Elst krijgt pijl op voorhoofd tijdens wipschieting: “Eedaflegging zal met pleister moeten gebeuren”
    Kjell Vander Elst moest genaaid worden en liep ook een hersenschudding op. Dat gebeurde tijdens de wipschieting van de Jefkes, waar Vander Elst vorig jaar nog tot koning werd gekroond door zijn vader en burgemeester van Bertem Joël Vander Elst. (links)
    Kjell Vander Elst moest genaaid worden en liep ook een hersenschudding op. Dat gebeurde tijdens de wipschieting van de Jefkes, waar Vander Elst vorig jaar nog tot koning werd gekroond door zijn vader en burgemeester van Bertem Joël Vander Elst. (links) — © if
    BERTEM – Pech voor het pas verkozen Kamerlid Kjell Vander Elst (Open VLD). Tijdens de traditionele wipschieting van de Jefkes in deelgemeente Leefdaal, kreeg de Bertemnaar een pijl op het voorhoofd. Vander Elst liep een lichte hersenschudding op en kreeg vijf hechtingen in het ziekenhuis.

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