When Midsummer 2017: the history of the holiday, traditions, rituals and prohibitions

Midsummer 2017


Photo: from open sources

This lovely summer holiday has never changed its date from year to year it begins the night of July 6 and ends July 7 (Nativity of St. John the Baptist).

The ancient ritual feast called the day of Ivan Kupala is an event dedicated to the day of the summer solstice and the peak of summer bloom of nature. It is celebrated in the night of 6 to 7 July. Interesting is the fact that in the cycle of the modern calendar of celebrations it is located symmetrically to the celebration of Christmas (or Christmas carols).

The history of the holiday

Scientists on-to a miscellaneous explain the origin of the holiday and its name. According to one version, “Ivan Kupala” – Slavic interpretation of the name of John the Baptist. In Greek language, “John” is interpreted as “the hammer in the water” or “one who bathes” . That is why the Slavs began to use the name “Midsummer”, meaning the ritual ablution that must be performed for the sake of purification of soul and body. There is another version of the origin of the holiday, telling one of the pagan gods.

The mention of the deity “Midsummer” scientists have found in Gustynsky chronicle, Dating from the 18th century. In this case it is the error of the chronicler – he was not too well acquainted with the traditions of the Slavs of Eastern Europe, however, heard about the “demonic games” happening on this occasion. The chronicler came to the conclusion that the games are held in honor of the pagan God by the name “Baptist.” Over time, the scribes have circulated this information and the Pantheon of pagan gods suddenly gained another resident.

The Christian religion condemned holiday traditions: in the year 692 the Trullan Council was expressed harsh condemnation of this custom. As an example, the priests led the pagan rituals that took place in the old Testament king Manasseh, when the villagers gathered on the shores of the seas and trick out one of the girls in the Bridal outfit.

The heathen furiously danced, sang and shouted, and then conducted the ceremony of divination. In a vessel with sea water, placed objects belonging to participants of the action. The girl, taking at random one of the things predicted his owner’s fate. At night, all the residents gathered armfuls of straw and firewood to light the fires, through which was supposed to jump, swiping the cleansing fire. Of course, divination was called manifestations besovstva and the machinations of evil spirits, and the patriarchs called for an end to paganism.

Still, many members of the Church oppose the interweaving of paganism and Christianity, to mention the fact that the vitality of the Midsummer customs, evidence of superstition, the incompleteness and lack the power of faith. In some regions of Russia a few years ago it was decided to ban the celebration of Ivan Kupala. However, the holiday can only be seen as a vivid celebration dedicated to nature.

Holiday rituals and traditions

The holiday of Ivan Kupala is accompanied by rituals associated with water and fire elements, spirits, and plants. The main action of the festival began after sunset, when the earth was enveloped in darkness. Especially rampaged that night the young. Fully justifying beliefs about the machinations of house, woodsman, swamp and river spirits, the boys stolen from the yards of the wood, dragged across the rooftops of the carts were driven into the marshes of the horses, the dark paint covered the window, was dragged into the forest gates and whole fences.

Ritual bathing

Before the sunset of the old people rushed to bathe in the bath or in flowing river water to protect themselves from the manifestations of evil spirits and to stock health. To Midsummer in running water without special needs did not climb, because until then it was a place for water, mermaids and other creatures, which could easily drag the person into the underwater world. Definitely stocked with running water from forest sources. It was believed that she has special magical and healing properties.

Traditions associated with fire

After fading rays of the setting sun on the hills or by the water, on the banks of rivers and lakes, made high bonfires, and in some places to make fire rely only ancient way – by using friction. The longest ancient rites observed by the Belarusians. At the beginning of last century in Belarus was a living tradition to put on this night, a tall pillar, on top of which was placed a wagon wheel, and then knocked it into the fire.

Every yard brought to the bonfire of the old things to burn them, bringing home well-being. Around Midsummer fires had dances, and after each resident of the settlement had to make a ceremonial jump. The men aimed to become luckier and bolder girls and women to improve health, to add beauty and attractiveness.

Our ancestors especially strictly followed the observance of this custom. The woman who shied away from the jump, was considered to be associated with the evil spirit, and was suspected of witchcraft. Young boys and girls be sure to jump over the bonfire holding hands. It was believed that if you jump while holding the palm of each other, the marriage will be long and happy. And if the following pair will fly sparks shot up, then the marriage will be even and rich.

After the fires fade, they dismantled for the smut, which lit home. This was a period of public shaming for those residents of the settlement who were hooligans, drunk and rowdy during the year. Above them, mocked and scolded them for breaking the moral principles.

Wedding customs of Midsummer

Among the most important customs of Midsummer day is to celebrate the rituals associated with the matchmaking and the wedding. Young men and women chose their lovers, exchanging garlands of herbs and flowers, and relatives of brides of marriageable age were propagule furrow to the gate of the yard to the two men as quickly as possible and found our way.

Girls gather herbs and flowers to weave wreaths. Every unmarried virgin be sure to let the wreath into the wild river waters, accompanying the action ritual chants. If the wreath sank, it promised a misfortune or another year on the shelf. If he floated on the river, not probivayas to the shore, it was possible to wait for matchmakers and happy life.

In some regions binding custom was guessing on wreaths. The young girl picked one of her friends decorated it with flowers and garlands from the branches, were blindfolded and began to drive around her dance. The girl gave her friends prepared the wreaths. If you come across a wreath of wilted flowers, it promised a stagnation and a failed marriage, and the fresh flowers promised its owner wealth and a happy marriage.

Beliefs and traditions related to herbs

The main attribute of all the Midsummer fun was the wreath. Usually herbs and flowers he had collected before the day of the celebration. The round shape of the wreath was for our ancestors to special sacred meaning – he identified the Sun and the annual cycle of events. For the weaving of the wreath was going, not all herbs. You have to weave it flowers periwinkle, Basil leaf, young shoots of oak and birch.

In Midsummer women collected medicinal herbs and plants, which are purchased on this day a special force to protect from the evil eye and ailments, of the wiles of the evil forces and natural disasters. For the collection of each plant was designed a special hour and a special prayer.

Without a doubt, the most mysterious and mystical custom of this festival was the search for a blooming fern. Not every brave dared to go into the woods to find the sacred flower. According to the beliefs of the Slavs, he opened to its owner miraculous powers: color fern taught to understand the speech of all beasts and birds, to open all the locks, finding treasure, to command spirits, and become invisible.

However, there are no sources that would indicate that someone managed to find this mysterious color. It is no wonder – lore, fern blooms for just one hour, and the evil spirits makes every effort to confuse but to intimidate the brave. Of course, this fact can be explained, and easier – modern science knows that ferns do not bloom.

Midsummer put special protection from witches who, according to legend, could deprive cows of milk. Special amulet was made by the sprig of willow, placed at the pastures and barns. On the thresholds of houses laid out an armful of nettle or sage, that evil does not crept into a dwelling.

The prohibitions in the day of Ivan Kupala

The holiday of Ivan Kupala is related to a multitude of prohibitions which should be observed.

The Slavs living in the East and the West, until the day of Ivan Kupala women did not eat any berries, so as not to cause the death of young children;

To this day no one went to bed, as the house and animals should be protected from all kinds of impure machinations: brownies, goblins and mermaids came out of the shadows and could steal a horse or steal a cow;

To not fall into stagnation, it was impossible to do in the day trade, make purchases or borrow money;

In any case it was impossible to beat or drive with sticks cow as the udder could dry up;

All found on the road thing had to be ignored to the finder. If a person were raised by the discovery, could become a victim of the spirit of perelesnik, taking the form of a loved one.

Midsummer in our days

Now the day has lost its mysticism, however, has not ceased to be beautiful and colorful celebration in which happy to involve many of the inhabitants of the countries of Eastern Europe. In Ukraine, Russia and Belarus to this day there are atmospheric festivals, where everyone can weave Kupala wreath, to participate in the ritual of lighting the fire, to sing and dance and learn songs.

This day is for our ancestors served as the beginning of the mowing, so that everyone can learn the skills to mow the lush grass of the July. Massively organize exhibitions and fairs of ancient crafts, where you can take part in master classes on clay modelling, firing pots, making toys and ritual dolls.

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