Friday, June 21, 2019

Pagan Festival Shout Out: Old Slavic Kupala

Kupala Night is a Slavic celebration of ancient pagan origin marking the end of the summer solstice and the beginning of the harvest (midsummer). In the western Ukrainian Lemko region and PreŇ°ov region it was called Sobitka.

Kupalo was believed to be the god of love and of the harvest and the personification of the earth’s fertility. According to popular belief, ‘Kupalo eve’ (‘Ivan’s eve’) was the only time of the year when the earth revealed its secrets and made ferns bloom to mark places where its treasures were buried, and the only time when trees spoke and even moved and when witches gathered. It was also the only time of the year when free love received popular sanction.

Young men and women gathered outside the village in the forest or near a stream or pond. There they built ‘Kupalo fires’—a relic of the pagan custom of bringing sacrifice—around which they performed ritual dances and sang ritual songs, often erotic. They leaped over the fires, bathed in the water (an act of purification), and played physical games with obviously sexual connotations.

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