Few words to Slavonic Midsummer holiday and its reconstruction among modern pagans in Russia.
Since ancient ages most of European nations paid much attention to astronomic and solar calculations to spot annual cycles. Such approach used to be an accurate calendar for those years of 8-10 c. more or less, forasmuch as solar and star space/shy map showed constant statements around Sun and Moon. And if the Moon could serve as a monthly ‘splitter’ to detect one month from another, a year had to be observed during the seasons with Solar colculations. Thus first ancient astronomers found out that the Sun goes across the sky and its path is not same in winter and in summer time. They opened natural phenomenons of solstices and equinoxes which occurred each year with an enviable constancy. That’s why they used Solar calendar to follow annual seasons, plus that was a convenience to define harvest time.
There it goes still here in Russia. One of the most famous holidays in a year, which has to be celebrated broad, is the Midsummer time. Since ancient ages this holiday still falls on astronomical summer solstice in the 20-22 of June every year (date dispersion depends on leap year conditions). We call it ”Kupalo” (rys. Купало) or more familiar to European ears – Kupalofest.
Historically this fest was dedicated to young people, their romantic and sexual relations. Our ancestors paid special attention to the proper heterosexual education of young people and that’s why this festival was used just for this purpose. The summer solstice falls in line with the summer season peak, maybe that served as a reason to set the holiday as youth love celebrations. It is necessary to supplement few words that this holiday officially de-jure hadn’t ever disappeared in centuries. Christians have not been able to completely destroy the tradition of celebrating this holiday, afterwards they simply had mixed pagan and Christian traditions. In the issue almost the same pagan holiday ”Ivan Kupala” appeared in the official christian traditions, one often was exposed to fanatical critics by Russian Church clergy because simple people prefered to celebrate it with straight pagan traditions like to burn big fire places, Horovod-dances, fortune-tellings, having extramarital sex before official wedding ceremony in churches and so on. Anyway Ivan Kupala in christian tradition was dedicated to christian St. John the Baptist, that’s why the holiday was named this way – Ivan (”John” in Russian language) Kupala (”kupal” – common slavic word root means ”to bathe”, ”to dip into the water”). An interesting fact it is that Slavs really loved to swim naked in rivers or in lakes that time of Kupalofest long before the Christianity came in Russia.
Also Kupala is name of a traditional goddess in Slavic mythology. German philologist Jacob Grimm noted that Russians used the word kupala to describe the bonfires they lit at the summer solstice, and recorded that some people explained the word as the name Kupulo, a harvest god. These differences could be due to the geographical location of the various Slavic tribes again as I wrote before.
At present time our organization celebrates this holiday and makes efforts to promulgate these celebrations among our friends, schools and mass-media as others in pagan traditions too. Kupalofest 2015 fell on the 21st of June, and we declared the gathering for celebrating on our private area in Kaluga Oblast. Usually it’s over than 2000 people who visit this celebration and participate in our rituals, dances and just simple games. Following official Russian laws we perform all the actions clear with no opened sexual overtones because lots of children visit our celebrations with their parents too. But it can’t somehow belittle the topicality of the holiday and officialy we perform rituals for young people like jumping through the big bonfires to strengthen their relationships. The mystical sense is that the fire ‘purifies’ the mind and soul of people before they are ready to make a step forward to domesticity life like husband and his wife.
Main part of the celebration goes at night time when the Sun had set behind the horizon. This one of the most mysterious nights in a year. Those who passed through the entire Kupalo rituals are able to do what they want to do together, Gods blessed their intentions to conceive a child if they want to. Those who got no ‘second half’ (due to various circumstances) might try their luck in searching of the mysterious fern flower in the forest full of spirits this night. One who found this flower will be lucky all the year after til the next Kupalofest. Young unmarried girls can weave a special circle of grass. They throw these circles in the river with hope to some young boy found that, which means they will meet together next year.
We’re all opened for our foreign brothers and sisters in faith from any European country and welcome to meet them in our pagans celebrations. Since 2010 we had guests from Germany, Italy, France, USA, Greece, Finland, Japan and Poland. German brothers had written some articles about their first Russian celebration experience in their own local newspapers.
… to be continued.
Ulv från Gårdarike.
P.S. I sent some photos to post them in your blog.