Slavic traditions on the night of Kupala - summer solstice
Slavic traditions on the night of Kupala - summer solstice

June 21 is the day of the summer solstice (Kupala Day, summer swing) - the great holiday of our Slavic ancestors. Our ancestors believed that on this day the mighty sun-husband Kupala (Kupaila) comes to replace the sun-youth Yarila, thus it was believed that summer finally comes into its own.

Since the time of the Midsummer Day almost coincides with the Christian holiday of the Nativity of John the Baptist or John the Baptist, which falls on June 24 (July 7 in a new style), over time the ancient Slavic holiday gradually "moved" to July 7, preserved and celebrated in the folk tradition until now as the day of Ivan Kupala.

Let's repeat that Day of Kupala was celebrated by our ancestors on the Day of the summer solstice… In 2017, this day according to the astronomical calendar is June 21.

The night before the holidayin its ritual content it surpasses the Day of Kupala itself. It is filled with rituals associated with water, fire and herbs … Kupala was celebrated in the forest, in a meadow, on the banks of reservoirs. The main part of the Kupala rituals takes place precisely at night.

The Slavs considered it obligatory on the eve of the holiday to swim in rivers and lakes before sunset. They believed that from that day on, all evil spirits came out of the rivers, so they could swim without any fear. As a rule, bathing was massive. If there was no opportunity to swim in natural reservoirs, then they washed in the baths. It was believed that the water of the Day of Kupala is life-giving and has magical properties.

On this holiday, according to popular beliefs, water can “be friends” with fire. The symbol of such a connection was the bonfires that were lit on the night of Kupala along the banks of the rivers.

Cleansing bonfires - one of the main features of the Kupala night. Young people pulled off a huge amount of brushwood from all over the village and arranged a high pyramid, in the center of which a pole rose. A wheel, a tar barrel, a horse's or a cow's skull were put on it.

Bonfires were kindled in the late evening and burned most often until the morning. In different traditions, there is evidence of the requirement to kindle the Kupala bonfire by all means with "living fire" obtained by friction; in some places the fire from this fire was carried home and a new fire was made in the hearth. All the women in the village were supposed to go out to the fire, since the one who did not come was suspected of witchcraft. Round dances were performed around the fire, danced, sang Kupala songs, jumped over it: whoever jumps more successfully and higher will be happier. Girls jump through the fire, "to cleanse themselves and protect themselves from sickness, corruption, conspiracies," and so that "mermaids do not attack or come for a year." The girl who did not jump over the fire was called a witch; it was poured over with water, whipped with nettles, as if it had not passed the "purification" of the Kupala fire. In addition to bonfires, in some places on the Kupala night, wheels and tar barrels were set on fire, which were then rolled down from the mountains or carried on poles, which is clearly connected with the symbolism of the solstice.

Kupala night is simultaneously shrouded in mystery, obscurity and the presence of another world … It was believed that on the night of Kupala, all evil spirits come to life and pranks, one must beware of "leprosy of the undead - brownies, water, goblin, mermaids."

On the Kupala night, the Eastern Slavs also stuck scythes, pitchforks, knives, and branches of certain trees outside the windows and doors of houses and sheds, protecting "their" space from the penetration of evil spirits.

It was believed that in order to protect yourself from the attacks of witches, you should put nettles on the doorstep and on the windowsills. The girls were sure to tear the wormwood, as they believed that witches and mermaids were afraid of it.

On the night of Kupala, the "betrothed" were chosen and marriage ceremonies were performed: jumping over a fire holding hands, exchanging wreaths (a wreath is a symbol of girlhood), searching for a fern flower and swimming in the morning dew.On this day, “rural roads were plowed so that“matchmakers would come as soon as possible,”or they made a furrow to the guy’s house so that he would get married faster”. In addition, on the Kupala night, fortune-telling was often made with the help of wreaths lowered into the river: if the wreath floats, it promised happiness and a long life or marriage.

Kupala wreath was an obligatory attribute of the merrymaking. It was made from wild herbs and flowers before the holiday. The ritual use of the Kupala wreath is also associated with the magical interpretation of its shape, which brings the wreath closer to other round and holes with holes (ring, hoop, roll, etc.). On these signs of a wreath are based the customs of milking or filtering milk through it, crawling and pulling something through the wreath, looking, pouring, drinking, washing through it.

It was believed that each plant gives the wreath its own special properties, and the way it is made - twisting, weaving, adds special strength. For the wreath, periwinkle, basil, geranium, fern, rose, blackberry, oak and birch branches, etc. were often used.

During the holiday, the wreath was most often destroyed: thrown into the water, burned in a fire, thrown on a tree or on the roof of a house, and taken to a cemetery. Some wreaths were kept to be used for treatment, to protect fields from hail, and vegetable gardens from "worms".

On the Kupala night, as well as on one of the nights on Christmastide, the Slavs often committed "ritual atrocities" among the youth: they stole firewood, carts, gates, dragged them onto roofs, propped up the doors of houses, covered up windows, etc. Such actions should be taken categorized as protective and cleansing rites. Thus, the young people showed the evil spirits that the riots had already been committed and the goblin, mermaids, etc. should go to rampage to other places, far from this village.

Special Kupala legends were associated with fern … The Slavs had a belief that only once a year - on the night of Kupala - fern blooms (Perunov color) … A mythical flower that does not exist in nature gave the person who picked it and kept it with him wonderful opportunities. According to legend, the owner of a flower becomes discerning, can understand the language of animals, see all the treasures, no matter how deep in the ground they are, and also enter the treasuries without hindrance, attaching the flower to the locks and locks (they must crumble in front of him), own unclean spirits, to command the land and water, become invisible and take any form. In reality, the fern never blooms - it reproduces by spores.

The Day of Kupala is characterized by numerous customs and legends associated with the flora. … Greens were used as a universal amulet: it was believed that it protects against diseases and epidemics, the evil eye and damage; from sorcerers and witches, evil spirits, "walking" dead; from lightning, hurricane, fire; from snakes and predatory animals, insect pests, worms. Along with this, contact with fresh herbs was also interpreted as a magical means ensuring fertility and successful breeding of livestock, poultry, and the productivity of cereals and garden crops.

It was believed that this day is the best collect medicinal herbs because plants receive the greatest strength from the Sun and the Earth. Some herbs were harvested at night, others in the afternoon before lunchtime, and some in the morning dew. When collecting medicinal herbs, they read special conspiracies.

According to legend, the Kupala herbs are most curative if they are collected by "old and small", that is, old people and children, as the most "pure".

The Slavs did not forget about offering to ancestors … These were the first ripe fruits and berries (apples, cherries, strawberries). In some Russian localities, they cooked "votive porridge". In the daytime, the beggars were treated to this porridge, and in the evening it, flavored with butter, was consumed by everyone.

For the ancestors of modern Belarusians, for example, the memorial meal consisted of cottage cheese (dumplings), cheese, flour porridge (kulagi), unleavened flat cakes (grandmas) with crushed hemp seeds, onions, garlic, kvass (cold drink), scrambled eggs on bacon (vereshchagi).

According to a tradition rooted far back centuries, a day or two after the Day of Kupala, the most important agricultural suffering began among the Slavs - haymaking.

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