Today Russian church celebrates one more interesting holiday that originates in paganisme – Ivan Kupala holiday.
In the old time the Slavs attributed this holiday to summer solstice 20-21 of June by old calendar. As soon as the christianity was accepted, the people didn’t reject and forget this holiday and the church attributed it to the Day of John the Baptist, which falls on the 24 of June by old calendar or 7th of July by new calendar.
The holiday of Kupala (i.e. bathing holiday) was very respected by east Slavs and its pagan character is conserved through many centuries.
It was time of the highest flowering of nature: the sun in zenith, the plants in full flowering, the fruit start ripening. Thus the magical force of fire, water, earth and plants was so big, that they had medicinal and protective properties. The participation in the rituals ensured good fortune for the whole year.
At night people used to make many rituals, games and fortune-tellings. So the most important forces in the night of Ivan Kupala were water, fire and plants. People gathered medicinal herbs and made wreaths, burnt big fires, jumped over them in order to drive the sickness away, burnt out the old clothes in order to be cleansed, bathed in rivers and lakes or went to banya if there was no river by side.
In the morning the Slavs used to wash with dew that also had its magical properties to heal.
One of the most popular rituals was the fortune-telling by means of a wreath made from medicinal herbs. They put a candle into a wreath and launched in water. Everyone attentively looked at his wreath:
- If it goes too fast, it means happy life
- If the candle doesn’t die out, it means very long life
- If the wreath sank, the young woman won’t get married this year
The main flower that nignt was a fern flower. By legend if to find this bright and rare flower which appears only at Kupala night and blossoms only during some hours, it will bring much happiness and indicate the way to find a treasure.
This great holiday full of magic, mystics and revealing strong and wise character of our ancestors, is not forgotten nowadays and is celebrated in many Slav countries. In Russia we organize games, festivals and bathing in rivers and lakes especially for children. Of course it is not apprehended so seriously as before but more just to have fun and conserve the traditions.