Ivan Kupala is one of the main holidays of the ritual calendar of the Russian people. It begins to be celebrated on the night of July 7, and currently it coincides with the Orthodox holiday – the Nativity of John the Baptist.
Ivan Kupala (or Kupaila) was known among the Slavs as a holiday of the Sun, the maturity of summer and green mowing, and was performed during pagan times in honor of the God of the Sun, whose wife was the luminiferous Charge, the red maiden. True, this ancient ritual holiday was called Kupalle (in honor of the deity Kupalo), and was timed to coincide with the summer solstice – the period of the highest flowering of the life-giving forces of the earth, summer fertility. And it was always celebrated wildly and cheerfully, with dances and songs, legends and rituals.
After the spread of Christianity in Russia, the church, struggling with pagan rituals, dated this holiday to the day of John the Baptist. Gradually, by merging Christian and pagan traditions, the feast of Ivan Kupala was formed, which was celebrated on the night of June 23-24 (according to the old style). But this did not prevent him from maintaining his mystical appeal and the scope of folk festivals.
In general, the Kupala rites performed on the eve of the holiday (“the night before Ivan Kupala”) constitute a complex ritual complex associated with fire, water, herbs and magic. People girded themselves with bandages of flowers, put wreaths of herbs on their heads. They led round dances, sang songs, decorated buildings with greenery. It was also customary to guess, hunt down witches, arrange nightly excesses. And in the morning it was necessary to get up early and walk barefoot through the healing Kupala dew in order to “recharge with health” for the whole year. Even the people believed that all the miraculous and healing herbs bloom just on the night of Ivan Kupala. Therefore, there was a massive collection of medicinal herbs and medicinal roots.
An indispensable component of the Kupala rituals is the Kupala bonfire, in the middle of which they put a pole with a burning wheel fixed on it – a symbol of the sun. It was he who was the center of youth festivities on Ivanov’s night. In general, many large bonfires were lit that night, people danced and danced around them. They jumped over these bonfires, it was believed that whoever jumped higher would receive the most happiness. In such healing bonfires, mothers burned children’s things so that the illnesses of children would go with them.
Another famous belief associated with the holiday of Ivan Kupala is that on this night a fern blooms, blooming with a wonderful fiery flower that can indicate to the lucky one who found it the location of all treasures, even the most hidden ones. However, it was believed that the path to the flower was protected by an evil spirit, which also became especially active that night and tried to harm people. Therefore, it was impossible to sleep on the night of Kupala. So the holiday was held in mass fun, rampant rituals, fortune-telling and other pleasures…
Today, these traditions continue to live on Russian soil. In different regions of Russia, on the night of Ivan Kupala, it is customary to gather on the banks of rivers, lakes and other bodies of water. Russian folk groups and other creative groups perform at the holidays. People burn big bonfires, jump over them, dance, weave wreaths of herbs and flowers, sing songs and just have fun. And someone is looking for a fern flower…