Kupala Night and Ivan Kupala Day is celebrated in Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and Russia from the night of July 6 to the day of July 7 on the Gregorian calendar. This corresponds to June 23 to 24 on the traditional Julian calendar.
The celebration is linked with the summer solstice when nights are the shortest and includes a number of Slavic rituals. This holiday symbolizes the birth of the summer sun – Kupalo.
In the fourth century AD, this day was Christianized and proclaimed the holiday of the birth of John the Baptist. As a result, the pagan feast day “Kupala” was connected with the Christian “Ivan” (Russian for John) which is why the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian name of this holiday combines “Ivan” and Kupala which is derived from the Slavic word for bathing.
The two feasts could be connected by reinterpreting John’s baptizing people through full immersion in water. However, the tradition of Kupala predates Christianity. The pagan celebration was adapted and reestablished as one of the native Christian traditions intertwined with local folklore.
And Then It Was Banned
In the XVIII century, there were a number of documents testifying to the fierce struggle of the Church and secular authorities with the Kupala rite.
For example, in 1719 Hetman of Zaporizhzhia Army, Chairman of the Cossack state of the left bank of Ukraine, Ivan Skoropadskyi issued a decree “On parties, fisticuffs, gatherings on the holiday of Ivan Kupala etc.”, which granted the right to physically punish (tie up and beat with sticks) and excommunicate from the Church all participants of Kupala games.
In 1723, Przemysl Cathedral in Bereziv banned dancing and entertainment near the Kupala fire. In 1769, Catherine II issued a decree banning the holiday. And despite all the prohibitions, the pagan nature of folk rituals was strong. The church did not ban the holiday, but it did try to fill it with Christian content.
It is the pagan essence, mysticism, marriage-erotic motifs of Kupala rite that attracted the attention of many researchers and artists. Thanks to public ritual such art masterpieces as the Opera “Ivana Kupala” by S. Pysarevskyi; folklore work of L. Ukrainka “Kupala in Volyn”; the story of M. Gogol “Night of Ivan Kupala”; the film of Yurii Ilienko “Night on Ivan Kupala”; the Folk Opera of Y. Sankovych “When the fern blooms.” The latter during 40 years was banned and only in 2017 its world premiere took place on the stage of the Lviv Opera.
At the beginning of the twentieth century Kupala rite gradually began to disappear. Today it exists in the “revived”, or rather “introduced” in Soviet times (during the anti-religious struggle) form of staged ceremony.
Although the magical meaning of rituals was leveled, and the celebration gained artistic value, the main pagan ritual actions have reached us – weaving of wreaths by girls and letting them into the water; honoring Kupala tree with dances; kindling the fire and jumping over the fire; ritual bathing; burning or sinking of trees; the burning of sacks of straw or stuffed dolls; the ceremonial dinner.
It is interesting that the name of the holiday, and the ritual fire, and decorated tree are called “Kupalo”, “Kupailo” or “Kupailytsia”. These are also the main elements of the rituals, which are based on the cult of fire, water and vegetation. Rituals symbolize the union of male (fire) and feminine (water) elements, were carried out with the aim of ensuring productivity, health, procreation.
On the territory of Ukraine for many centuries Kupala customs changed and they were not everywhere equally preserved. The majority were saved in Polissia as one of the more archaic zones of the Slavic world.
The holiday is still enthusiastically celebrated by the younger people of Eastern Europe. The night preceding the holiday (Tvorila night) is considered the night for “good humor” mischiefs (which sometimes would raise the concern of law enforcement agencies).
On Ivan Kupala day itself, children engage in water fights and perform pranks, mostly involving pouring water over people. Many of the rites related to this holiday are connected with the role of water in fertility and ritual purification.
According to ancient traditions, Ivan Kupala is the festival of the sun, and the most important role in mystical rites belongs to the power of fire. Our ancestors believed that the fire is the sun-embryo in the womb. Therefore, in the Kupala night taken to jump over the fire.
On Kupala day, young people jump over the flames of bonfires in a ritual test of bravery and faith. First, the oldest of the young men jumped over the fire.
For the highest jumpers it predicted a good harvest and prosperity for his family. Then pairs would jump, traditionally it would be a boy and a girl, but I assume that in some areas it’s permissible for pairs of any kind to take the jump together. If the couple is successful in their jump over the fire – they will certainly marry. The failure of a couple in love to complete the jump, while holding hands, is a sign of their destined separation. And anyone entering the flames during their jump can expect trouble
On the evening of July 6, unmarried girls take wreaths they have woven and throw them into the water. Unmarried men then try to grab the one belonging to the girl they are interested in. If you snag a wreath, the girl who made it will be expected to kiss you and the two of you will be paired up for the evening.
Girls may also float wreaths of flowers (often lit with candles) on rivers, in an attempt to gain foresight into their romantic relationships based from the flow patterns of the flowers on the river.
When the fun subsides, many people light candles from the hearth on pre-prepared wreath baskets and go to the river to put them on the water and thus honor their ancestors.
There is an ancient Kupala belief that the eve of Ivan Kupala is the only time of the year when ferns bloom. Prosperity, luck, discernment, and power befall whom ever finds a fern flower. Therefore, on that night, village folk roam through the forests in search of magical herbs, and especially, the elusive fern flower.
Traditionally, unmarried women, signified by the garlands in their hair, are the first to enter the forest. They are followed by young men. Therefore, the quest to find herbs and the fern flower may lead to the blooming of relationships between pairs within the forest.
It is to be noted, however, that ferns are not angiosperms (flowering plants), and instead reproduce by spores; they cannot flower.
In Gogol’s story The Eve of Ivan Kupala a young man finds the fantastical fern-flower, but is cursed by it. Gogol’s tale may have been the stimulus for Modest Mussorgsky to compose his tone poem Night on Bald Mountain, adapted by Yuri Ilyenko into a film of the same name.
The eighth lunar day is generally counted as the eighth day from the new moon. More information on the Lunar Days can be found here: The Thirty Lunar Days
It is a great day for taking long trips or traveling elsewhere for business related agendas. According to Vedic tradition the eighth Moon Day is ideal for taking part in art or physical related activities as well as dealings connected to property. This day also marks new beginnings but woe may befall those who have been afflicted with diseases.
- Symbol: Phoenix, Peacocks, Treasure, Fire.
- Other Symbols: Prosperpine, associated with the Twins.
- Color: Red-Black (the color of a dying flame).
- Stones and Minerals: Red granite, Chrysolite, Smoky Quartz (morion), Agate.
- Aromatherapy: Rose
- Chakra Activation: During the 8th lunar day the Muladhara chakra is active.
- Part of the Body: Stomach
- Theme: Burning and transformation.
This is a day of transformation. This is an active day. Unforeseen events are possible. You should think over your life, and if necessary, change your tactics and behaviors.
This lunar day can be called a day of purification, repentance, absolution of sins and alchemy. At this time, it is also good to starve and clean the intestines, as well as to make medicines for all diseases. Under no circumstances can one be selfish and dissolute.
This period is difficult, because there are still unsolved problems, but the old goals and plans will require spending much more time on them.
A haircut on the 8th lunar day will help strengthen the body’s defenses, allow itself to assert itself and grow in the eyes of others, to acquire longevity. A day for relaxation.
It is recommended to:
- Find a creative solution for old projects.
- Solve only the smaller, insignificant financial matters.
- Seek out new business partners.
- Give more attention to working alone rather than in a team.
It is not recommended to:
- Overestimate your abilities.
- Overload yourself.
- Drink alcohol.
While bathing is not recommended, if a bath is called for, light one or more candles and burn some incense.
Influence on Health
Stomach cleaning and fasting is recommended. One should soften their system for liver cleaning. Today the stomach can get sick, especially if you have become enraged and/or committed a bad deed.
- Nutrition tips: A vegetarian diet is recommended. If you are not vegetarian, eat delicate food, cereals and fish.
It is good today to prepare medicines. Do not take alcohol. This is an excellent opportunity for cleansing and rejuvenating the body.
On the eighth lunar day dreams point to your worthy abilities you haven’t yet realized. Dreams can be prophetic, what you see in a dream, may come true, so pay attention. Dreams can even have a hint of our true destiny, the tasks and solutions that life expects from us.
You may see an indication of the problems from which you turned away in the past and forgot about, but still need to be resolved. You may see tasks for which you have the power to solve, do not turn away from them. Try to use this power to settle the assigned tasks, do not waste your energy on inconsequential matters.
Dream images today show your ability for change and transformation; so, if you saw confined spaces, obstacles or dead ends, it means you are not changing. If, on the contrary, you saw open spaces, fields, mountains, sea or beautiful and bright rooms, it means you are putting in effort and heading in the right direction towards your transformation.
Thus, the main function of dreams on this day is to show your current life’s purpose; sometimes they are elaborate and difficult to figure out, but their message might also be obvious if you look carefully.
If you make preparations before going to sleep to receive this message you’ll find it easier to discover your mission. Upon waking up analyze your dream, keep in mind that life doesn’t just give us grandiose purposes, your mission may seem insignificant from your point of view, but if completed it could well be of great value to you.
You will see the tasks for which you have strength, do not turn away from them, try to apply yourself to the indicated tasks or work.
The scent of Roses transforms negative energy into a positive, filling with a sense of well-being and joy. It also eliminates the symptoms of fatigue and stops reactions to stress.
- Relieves feelings of resentment and irritation.
- Eliminates the inferiority complex.
- Enriches emotions.
- Refreshes and clarifies the mind, increases efficiency.
- It stimulates creative and intellectual growth.
- Heals a broken heart.
The fragrance of Roses creates a cozy and joyful atmosphere.
On this lunar day it is not suggested to mop, do laundry or wipe your surfaces with a damp rag; better to make contact with water as little as possible. This is a day of fire transformation.
Astrologists often advise against working with fire over this period as it can get out of control. Don’t build campfires and be cautious with electric appliances as well. Lastly, the 8th Lunar Day is unfavorable for working with the earth or soil.
Housework today is suitable exclusively for the smallest and smallest household chores. A very good day for alterations, repairs and alterations of old clothes. It is also helpful and useful to burn incense or potpourri.
Weddings and Relationships
Marriages scheduled on the eighth lunar day, are successful only if the couple is constantly looking for something new, are always open to change and often travel. For everyone else, a family created at this time will become a place of constant conflict and long periods of financial instability.
People are open-hearted this day. Therefore, even during the first date you can open up and allow yourself to be vulnerable. .
If your partner feels guilty he may suddenly apologize. If not, try to understand and forgive. Avoid sarcasm and malevolence this day. Show compassion and understanding.
In general, the eighth lunar day is favorable for visits with family and friends, but remember that today is the day of forgiveness. Be lenient if your loved one is confesses to any of their sins.
On the eighth lunar day, people are frank. So even on the first date you can accidentally put out too much information, which others do not need to know at all. On this day it is better to refrain from sexual contacts, including marital ones.
Conception of a Child
A child conceived on the 8th lunar day is on the verge of a bright, busy life. Although it will not be easy. This person is endowed with enough strength to cope with many difficulties. He or she is a person of extremes, and can be very principled and even stubborn.
Therefore, in life, everything will be experienced with a certain intensity. In happiness he loses his head, in desperation he experiences utter despair. But only for a while, because his will conquers any disaster, and his spirit will only grow stronger in trials. Moreover, the willpower of such people is enormous. They need to remember that a person is not given tests that he can not stand.
Born on this Day
If you were born on the eighth lunar day, you are extremely attractive for your internal qualities. You are smart, smart, decent, hardworking and friendly. You may be distinguished by an extraordinary vision of life, ingenuity. Successful professions include: chemistry, medicine, the healing arts.
- Advice: Practice self-improvement, and you will be able to achieve much in life, to bring great benefits to others.
A person born on this day is interesting in communication, capable of unexpected, extravagant deeds, broad gestures, not afraid of change and always ready for what life has to offer.
These people have a strong character, they are endowed with the ability to survive and recover. People of this day have good intuition and often have the gift of foresight. The main danger is the loss of self-control. This leads to constantly recurring errors. Therefore, you need to constantly monitor the course of events, and be able to keep yourself in hand.
Business and Money
Today all incomplete tasks are extra obvious and especially important. An unexpected turn of events, conflicts or emergency situations may occur. Be aware that any plans will be carried out more slowly than you expected.
It is necessary to try to attract new employees and partners. A very favorable day for finding new partners who will accept your ideas and help to realize them.
At this time, working relationships can change, so you need to be discreet and prudent. Also, this period of time is characterized by the transition to the new stage of development, which means that it will be necessary to change tactics with regard to time in behavior.
Do not overwork at work. On this day you can only solve small business finances. This applies to work, money, and all plans. Possible unexpected turns of events, conflicts, emergencies. Good luck will bring the business and business trips on this lunar day.
In the eighth lunar day, it is worth buying only antiques or things that were in use. All other purchases will not bring joy, on the contrary, entail a heap of various small problems.
Moon Day Eight Meditation
This is a day for transformation and purification.
- Purification with fire.
If possible, sit by a woodfire in the evening. Prepare yourself for complete interaction with the fire, concentrating on the flames and slipping into its energy field. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the center of the fire. Feel how it burns out all your negative emotions and clears your energy channels.
When you feel it’s enough, imagine yourself stepping out of the fire and deeply breathe in the clear fresh air. Your channels are now filled with pure new energy, your aura is light and transparent. Realize that your aura and body have just experienced some new chemical reactions, which renewed your life.
Give thanks to the fire for your purification. If making wood-fire is impossible, practice the same meditation with candles.
Magick For Moon Day Eight
Clean and clear your home with a candle by walking clockwise three times around. Chant a prayer or mantra. After cleaning you may use pleasing incense to create a new space.
A good day for the consecration of magickal tools and spaces, and for spellwork that utilizes the power of the waxing moon. It’s also a good day to burn resin or incense with specific intentions. If you are not sure what to use, Magickal Ingredients has a bunch of information.
Divinations should include only those questions that require a call to the past, to past events, whose consequences are directly related to the present. Also on this lunar day, you can clarify all the issues related to karmic issues and interpret the prophecies obtained in past predictions.
In Tabayama Village of Kitatsuru District, Yamanashi Prefecture, a (a Fire Festival dedicated to the Dōsojin or the deity of pathways and roads practiced throughout Eastern Japan. The festivity called Dondoyaki, and is celebrated between 14th and 15th January.
In this festivity, the villagers gather their Mayudama Dumplings, decorative rice dumplings made for the Japanese New Year and suspended from lines or tree tweeds. These are cooked over a bonfire and then eaten. Eating those dumplings is believed to prevent cavities, while the heat from the bonfire makes the person healthy for the rest of the year. Ashes from the fire can be used as snake and disease repellent as well as fire hazard preventative.
Alternatively known as ‘Tondo Matsuri’, ‘Sai No Kami’, ‘Sagicho’’ and Dondo Yaki’, Dōsojin Matsuri are special New Year Fire Festivals. They are held in shrines and public spaces to bless and then burn the previous year’s New Year’s decorations on a huge bonfire constructed of a wigwam of bamboo.
Shimekazari (sacred New Year decoration made from braided rice straw and good luck charms) and other New Year ornaments are taken down from homes and ceremoniously burned on the fire to secure good health and a fruitful harvest the following year. The calligraphic wishes or prayers of young children (called kakizome) are also placed onto the bonfire. As the children’s’ prayers are burnt, they are lifted up into the air towards the gods, bringing success to the children in the new year.
The loud crackling and popping sounds made by the burning bamboo is believed to tell listeners whether or not they will receive good fortune in the year to come.
Dōsojin is also the name for the Shinto guardian deities, which are closely associated with fertility in crops and people. At Dōsojin Matsuri, prayers are made to Dōsojin statues for successful births and bountiful harvests. One of the largest celebrations of Dōsojin Matsuri takes place at Nozowa Onsen in Nagana Prefecture.
Fire and snow always go well and the Nozawa Onsen Fire Festival, Nozawa Onsen Dosojin Matsuri exemplifies this as one of the three great fire festivals in Japan.
Taking place on January 15th every year, the festival is staged to celebrate the birth of a family’s first child, to dispel evil spirits and also to pray for happy marriage.
Each year crowds gather for the famous Dōsojin Matsuri, a kind of cleansing ritual for men aged 25 and 42 years, the so-called ‘unlucky ages’ in Japan. The 42-year-olds’ task is to defend a purpose-built two-story shrine, which they sit upon as it is besieged by fire at the hands of the 25-year-olds and onlookers.
It takes roughly one hundred villagers to build the shrine for the Nozawa Fire Festival. The trees are cut down in October and brought down from the mountain and through the village on January 13th prior to being made into a huge wooden structure or shaden. After the shaden has been constructed, the priest from Kosuge shrine performs a ceremony endowing it with a dosojin.
The highlight on January 15th is a “fire-setting battle” which ends up with the setting fire of the shaden with blazing torches by the offensive team and the offering of torches to the deity, making the festival truly spectacular and exciting.
The main spectacle involves a small group of 25 year old villagers guarding the base of the three story structure, and another group of very inebriated 25 year old men sitting atop the structure drinking and cheering on their teammates. Directly across from the structure, a massive bonfire is lit, which is flanked on both sides by excited visitors.
The villagers light their bamboo bundles on fire and walk in groups as large as 10 to the structure to do battle with the guards. The men at the base form human shields and use tree branches to extinguish the flames. The entire battle can last for over 2 hours and became very intense and violent at times with men shoving, jumping, slapping, and hitting each other with lit bundles of bamboo.
The entire festival is quite lengthy and can take up to four hours from the beginning to the end. Some observers gather just for the main attraction which is the battle between the guards and the torch bearing villagers. Add liberal servings of saké to all of the above and you’re sure to go home buzzing after seeing quite a spectacle – and maybe a bit scorched from the flames (don’t wear your new down jacket).
This famous Japanese festival is nationally designated as an important intangible folk cultural property. It originally began as an invocation for a good harvest, health and good fortune in the coming year, but has been expanded to include a good ski season as well.
Burning the Devil or La Quema del Diablo is a tradition held every December 7, at 6:00 in the evening sharp, families build bonfires outside their homes and burn effigy of Satan. It is a tradition that many Guatemalans take part as a way to cleanse their home from devils that lurk in their home, creeping behind the furniture or hiding under the bed.
La quema del diablo can be traced to colonial time, a tradition that started since the 18th century. Held on the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and as a prelude to holiday season, those who could afford it adorns the fronts of their houses with lanterns, but for those who have lesser means builds a bonfires from their trash to celebrate the occasion.
A symbolical tradition with a belief that the fire burns the devil serves as purifying element, as the Virgin Mary was the blessed one to conceive baby Jesus must be free from any form of evil, therefore the event serves as “burning the devil” to clear the way for Mary’s feast.
Though the celebration may sound fun, it is controversial especially for the environmentalist groups. Back in the days, mostly paper were burned for the “cleansing ritual”, but now, piles of rubbish are mostly made of plastic and rubber that causes air pollution.
Over time the tradition evolved, from burning piles of garbage and pieces of furniture to being replaced by the effigy of Satan in a form of piñatas.
The tradition has special significance in Guatemala City because of its anticipation of Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the patron saint of the city. Along the street of Zona 1, the historic city center, many vendors pile the street selling stuffs associated with La Quema del Diablo, from firecrackers to simple and intricate devil piñatas. In different parts of the city, people celebrate and burn their own devil piñatas.
The tradition continues, as the idea is to burn all the bad from the previous year and to start anew from the ashes. It is widely observed throughout the country, The Devil is burned at the stroke of six. In Antigua, the former capital of the country, a devil three stories tall is constructed and burned in the city square.
A variation of this tradition is held in San Antonio Palopo. In this very unique celebration, they carry a statue of Maximón around town with a noose around his neck, they locals then hang Maximón by his neck in front of Catholic church, douse him with gasoline, and set him on fire. This is the local way of showing respect to the Christian god.
Setting people on fire has been a way of ridding the town of evil doers for many centuries. As soon as the Spaniards settled in Guatemala they brought with them the Christian religion. The Christian religion frowned on bloodshed. So instead they burned evil doers alive to kill them. This way they did not shed blood and therefor committed no sin.
Most of the inhabitants still pray to both the Christian and Mayan gods and deities such as Maximón or ancestors. They often ask for healing, wealth, help with love and sexual fertility.
The locals say they pray to both just in case one god does not grant their wishes the other might. This happens with both evangelical and Catholic believers. ( Not all, but the majority) This is kept secret for fear of discrimination from others.
While the many of the locals pray to both god and deities they publicly denounce Maximón shortly before Christmas by dragging him around the village then hang him with a noose and set him on fire.
The political version of this festival:
Guatemalans burn traditional devil puppets to start their Christmas celebrations. The ceremonial burning of devils started in the 16th century and is meant to chase away bad spirits. And in 2016, US president-elect Donald Trump was a big hit. But not in a good way.
Revelers in Guatemala set ablaze cardboard piñata of Trump wearing devil horns. In fact, piñata makers said Trump is far and away the best-seller. Trump’s hardline stance on immigration during his election campaign, including a promise to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, has drawn anger from Latin Americans in the US and around the world.
So this is a way to vent out the anger? It can be. Guatemalans believe the practice of torching the devil helps banish bad spirits from their homes and neighborhoods.
“If the Saint calls you, if you have an open road, then you don’t feel the fire as if it were your enemy,”
Dating back to Pagan times, the Anastenaria is a traditional ritual ritual of fire-walking celebrated in a few places in Northern Greece and in southern Bulgaria, where Greek descendants from Thrace settled in 1923. Every year the Bulgarian and Greek villages if Aghia Eleni near Serres, Langada near Thessaloniki, Kerkini near Serres, some villages on the coast of Evros River and a singular small village near the city of Drama perform this unique annual ritual.
The central figures of the tradition are Saint Constantine and Saint Helen, but all the significant days in this cycle coincide with important days in the Greek Orthodox calendar and are related to various Christian saints.
Along with the fire-walking ritual, the 3-day festival has various processions, music, dancing and an animal sacrifice. On the eve of the feasts of Saints Constantine and Helen, while trance like rhythms of beating drums sound in the background, the Anastenarides take part in dances during which they believe that they are “seized” by the saints, and enter a state of trance. During this trance, they carry the icons of saints Constantine and Helen and dance ecstatically for hours before walking barefoot across hot coals that can reach as hot as 535 degrees Celsius.
The roots of this tradition are seeped in mystery and a bit of controversy as well. The Anastenarides say that the origin of the ritual lies in a fire which took place at Kosti, near the Black Sea in the thirteenth century which set ablaze the church of Saint Constantine. As the empty church burned, the villagers claimed to hear cries coming from the flames and believed that they were the voices of the saints calling out for help. The villagers who braved the flames to rescue them were unharmed, being protected by the saints. Neither the human protectors nor the icons were burned or hurt in any way. This occurrence prompted the annual celebration which the Anastenaria holds to honor their safe delivery.
However, many scholars do not believe this to be the true origin of the Anastenaria rituals. It is largely believed that the ceremony is the survival of an ancient Thracian Dionysian ritual which was later given a superficial Christian interpretation to help receive a better reception from the Greek Orthodox church, which does not support the rituals as they are viewed as pagan. This hasn’t stopped the Anastenarides from celebrating their age old tradition.
The two major events in this cycle are two big festivals, one in January and particularly one in May, dedicated to these two saints. Each of the festivals lasts for 3 days and involves various processions, music and dancing, and an animal sacrifice. The festival culminates with a firewalking ritual, where the participants, carrying the icons of saints Constantine and Helen, dance ecstatically for hours before entering the fire and walking barefoot over the glowing-red coals, unharmed by the fire.
Each village community of Anastenarides is headed by a “group of twelve” who, on the eve of the saints’ day, May 20 Saint Constantine and Saint Helen, gather in the “konaki”, where their holy icons are placed, as well as the “signs” of the saints (semadia), and votive offerings. These are draped with large red kerchiefs (simadia), which are believed to possess the power of the icons.
On the morning of the Saints’ day, May 21, the gather at the konaki and proceed to a well to be blessed with holy water, and sacrifice animals. The rules about the nature of the beasts to be slain are precise, but differ from village to village.
In the konaki they work themselves into a trance-like state through hours of devotional dancing to the music of the Thracian lyre and drum. The main aspect of this festival is at night, when they firewalk. In the evening a fire is lit in an open space, and after dancing for some time in the konaki, the “anastenarides” go to it carrying their ikons. After dancing around it in a circle, individual anastenarides dance over the hot coals as the saint moves them.
They make a huge fire, and when it is down to extremely hot coals, some of them (only some people are “called” to do this) walk and dance on the fire. They believe that during the dance they are “seized” by the saints.
The next day, a ritualistic sacrifice of animals takes place. After lunch the Anastenarides gather again and resume their dancing. A candle is lit from one of the oil lamps in front of the icons, and is used to light a bonfire. When the wood burns, coal is spread down.
Here is a personal account of the experience:
It’s dark outside. The moon hangs in the sky and the soft smell of smoke permeates the warm air as it stings your eyes. Looking down, you notice the glow from burning coals, as hot as 535 degrees C, scattered on the ground below. The trancelike rhythm from the beating drums fills your ears as the Patron Saints Constantine and Helen are honored in the town of Agia Eleni in Northern Greece.
he whole village surrounds you and they share in your moment, as the richness of the surrounding imagery and importance of the ritual consumes the senses. You are in a sublime state of ecstasy as the glowing coals lay before you. But, will you walk across? When Saint Constantine calls you to become a firewalker – you answer – at least if you are one of the Anastenaria.
Initially the Anastenarides dance barefoot around the hot ashes, but when the saints moves them, individuals run across the burning coals. Sometimes devotees kneel down beside the fire and pound the ashes with the palms of their hands. This continues until the ashes are cool.
During the next two days, the Anastenarides proceed around the village visiting each house. On 23 May they conclude with a second dance over the fire, although this one is in private and not for tourists.
The ritual is also performed in January, during the festival of Saint Athanasius, and fire-walking is done indoors.
The “L’Hom Strom” festival takes place on the first Saturday in February every year the small community of Scuol in canton Graubünden, (in Switzerland close to the borders of both Austria and Italy). The “hom strom” is the famous “Straw Man of Scuol,” a large dummy.that is set alight.
On the first Saturday in February, young men crack whips to assemble the population, and the youths of Scuol, then go from farm to farm collecting straw which has been hand-threshed and especially prepared for this purpose. The straw is taken down to the village square where the thick strands of rye are then twined around a telephone pole which is almost eight meters (24 ft) long. The work must be done by noon, at which time the bundle should have reached a diameter of approximately two meters.
In the afternoon, a group of adults take the “l’hom strom” to Gurlaina and place the Hom Strom in a specially prepared hole in a field, and there set up ready for burning. The enormous effigy is carefully guarded to protect him so that pranksters – specifically the boys from the next village – cannot light him before his time!
At dusk, the people of Scuol parade through the village streets singing songs on the way to Gurlaina. As night falls, the dummy is burned, accompanied by songs to drive away the winter.When the tower clock strikes eight, the oldest boys throw balls of fire, which are rags drenched in petroleum and which have up to now illuminated the grounds, at the Hom Strom and set him aflame.
At the end of the burning ceremony attending locals sing the fourth stanza of the song Hom Strom written in the 50’s by Men Rauch, born and raised in Scuol, where a Christian adaptation is easily recognizable:
Las flommas van in ot,
portond al Segner lod,
chi’ns dosta dal malom,
eviva nos Hom Strom!!
The flames that burn up into the sky,
give praise to the Lord,
who, in turn, protects us from evil,
long live our straw man!!…
The children and adults sing the Hom Strom song, written by a native poet. Half an hour later, the spirit of winter is consumed and everyone walks back to the village. This death by fire symbolizes the rapidly approaching end of winter.
~Info from various sources
On the winter solstice, on the longest night of the year, people would place and set afire an entire tree, that was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room! The log would be lit from the remains of the previous year’s log which had been carefully stored away and slowly fed into the fire through the Twelve Days of Christmas.
It was considered important that the re-lighting process was carried out by someone with clean hands.
Tradition has it that the burning of the Yule log was performed to honor the Great Mother Goddess. The log would be lit on the eve of the solstice using the remains of the log from the previous year and would be burned for twelve hours for good luck and protection.
As the fire began all other lights would be extinguished and the people would gather round the fire. In thanksgiving and appreciation for the events of the past year and in bidding the year farewell each person would toss dried holly twigs into the fire.
The next phase of the burning of the Yule log commenced with people tossing oak twigs and acorns into the fire and they would shout out their hopes and resolutions for the coming New Year and sing Yuletide carols. The celebration of the Yule log fire ended with unburned pieces of the Yule log saved to start the fire of next winter’s solstice Yule log.
The custom of the Yule Log spread all over Europe and different kids of wood are used in different countries. In England, Oak is traditional. The “mighty oak” was the most sacred tree of Europe, representing the waxing sun, symbolized endurance, strength, protection, and good luck to people in the coming year. In Scotland, it is Birch; while in France, it’s Cherry. Also, in France, the log is sprinkled with wine, before it is burnt, so that it smells nice when it is lit.
The earliest Yule Log in France can be traced back to Celtic Brittany. When the Catholic Church stamped out the Pagan tradition, it adapted. In the 12th century, the ceremony became more elaborate.
Families would haul home enormous logs and in some regions, the youngest child was allowed to ride the log home. As families dragged their logs home, passers by would raise their hats because they knew the log was full of good promises and its flame would burn out old wrongs.
For the Vikings, the yule log was an integral part of their celebration of the solstice, the julfest; on the log, they would carve runes representing unwanted traits (such as ill fortune or poor honor) that they wanted the gods to take from them.
People would also use the log as a way to predict events in the upcoming year. They would hit the burning log with tongs and the embers emitted would tell them what the harvest would be like. The more embers, the more corn. The fire was read and predictions were made for the coming year based on the sparks and flames they saw, like how many chickens or calves would be born, marriages in the family, health, wealth, etc. If the fire cast shadows on the wall, there would be a death in the family that year.
The remaining cinders would be placed in the soil so they would prevent grain diseases and produce a good harvest. They’d be spread around chicken coops to keep away foxes and in the barns and lofts where corn was stored to keep rats and weevils away. During a storm, throwing a handful into the fire would keep the house safe from lightening.
The ashes of the Yule Log were believed to hold magical and medicinal powers that would ward off evil spirits for the coming year. Ashes from the Yule log are very beneficial to garden plants, however, it is considered very unlucky to throw out the ashes of the Yule log on Christmas day.
Various chemicals can be sprinkled on the log like wine to make the log burn with different colored flames! Here’s a short list. Be sure to follow safety precautions if you plan on using them!!
- Potassium Nitrate = Violet
- Barium Nitrate = Apple Green
- Borax = Vivid Green
- Copper Sulphate = Blue
- Table Salt = Bright Yellow
In Germany, Walpurgisnacht (or Hexennacht, meaning witches´ night), the night from April 30 (May eve), is the night when allegedly the witches hold a large celebration on the Blocksberg (the highest of the Harz Mountains of north central Germany) hold revels with their Gods, and await the arrival of Spring.
In some parts of northern coastal regions of Germany, the custom of lighting huge Beltane fires is still kept alive, to celebrate the coming of May, while most parts of Germany have a derived christianized custom around Easter called “Easter fires”.
In rural parts of southern Germany it is part of popular youth culture to go out on Walburgisnacht to play pranks on other people, like messing up someone’s garden, hiding stuff or spraying messages on other people’s property. Sometimes these pranks go too far and may result in serious willful damage to property or bodily injury.
Walpurgis (sw: Valborg) is one of the main holidays during the year in both Sweden and Finland, alongside Christmas and Midsummer. The forms of celebration in Sweden vary in different parts of the country and between different cities. One of the main traditions in Sweden is to light large bonfires, a custom which is most firmly established in Svealand, and which began in Uppland during the 18th century. An older tradition from Southern Sweden was for the younger people to collect greenery and branches from the woods at twilight, which were used to adorn the houses of the village. The expected reward for this task is to be paid in eggs.
Today in Finland, Walpurgis Night (Vapunaatto) is, along with New Year’s Eve, the biggest carnival-style festivity that takes place in the streets of Finland’s towns and cities. The celebration is typically centered on plentiful use of sparkling wine and other alcoholic beverages. The student traditions are also one of the main characteristics of “Vappu“. From the end of the 19th century, “Fin de Siècle“, and onwards, this traditional upper class feast has been co-opted by students attending university, already having received their student cap. Many people who have graduated from lukio wear the cap.
One tradition is drinking sima, whose alcohol content varies. Fixtures include the capping of the Havis Amanda, a nude female statue in Helsinki, and the biannually alternating publications of ribald matter called Äpy and Julkku. Both are sophomoric; but while Julkku is a standard magazine, Äpy is always a gimmick. Classic forms have included an Äpy printed on toilet paper and a bedsheet. Often the magazine has been stuffed inside standard industrial packages such as sardine-cans and milk cartons. The festivities also include a picnic on May 1st, which is sometimes prepared in a lavish manner.
The Finnish tradition is also a shadowing of the Soviet Era May Day parade. Starting with the parties of the left, the whole of the Finnish political scene has nominated Vappu as the day to go out on stumps and agitate. This does not only include right-wing parties, but also others like the church have followed suit, marching and making speeches.
In Sweden it is only the labor and socialist parties which use May 1 for political activities, while others observe the traditional festivities. The laborers who were active in the 1970’s still party on the first of May. They arrange carnivals and the radio plays their old songs that workers liked to listen to. The labor spirit lies most in the capital of Finland, Helsinki.
The First of May is also a day for everything fun and crazy: children and families gather in market places to celebrate the first day of the spring and the coming summer. There are balloons and joy, people drink their first beers outside, there are clowns and masks and a lot of fun. The first of May includes colorful streamers, funny and silly things and sun. The first of May means the beginning of the spring for many people in Finland.
Traditionally May 1st is celebrated by a picnic in a park (Kaivopuisto in the case of Helsinki). For most, the picnic is enjoyed with friends on a blanket with good food and sparkling wine. Some people, however, arrange extremely lavish picnics with pavilions, white table cloths, silver candelabras, classical music and lavish food. The picnic usually starts early in the morning, and some hard-core party goers continue the celebrations of the previous evening without sleeping in between. Some Student organisations have traditional areas where they camp every year and they usually send someone to reserve the spot early on. As with other Vappu traditions, the picnic includes student caps, sima, streamers and balloons
The tradition which is most widespread throughout the country is probably singing songs of spring. Most of the songs are from the 19th century and were spread by students’ spring festivities. The strongest and most traditional spring festivities are also found in the old university cities, like Uppsala and Lund where both current and graduated students gather at events that take up most of the day from early morning to late night on April 30, or “sista April” (“The last day of April”) as many people call it. There are also newer student traditions like the carnival parade, The Cortège, which has been held since 1909 by the students at Chalmers in Gothenburg. In Sweden, Valborg is especially notorious because of the excessive amounts of alcohol people consume on that day.
Found at: Nation Master
Here’s how they celebrate Beltane in Edinburgh!
First organized in the 1980’s, the Beltane Fire Festival has become a popular festival in Edinburgh. Here we have photos of the Beltane Fire Society celebrating Spring and the coming of summer. This lively procession celebrates the ending of winter and is a revival of the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane which is the Gaelic name for the month of May. More about Beltane can be found here: Beltane
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