In ancient Slavic and Baltic traditions Summer Solstice, just like in the Sumerian and Babylonian cultures, is the most important ritual within the Alchemical Wheel of the Year. We welcome Solstice with a large bonfire, jump through it and dance around it, letting the fire burn through what needs to be released and cleansed. We also make Solstice wreaths and throw them on the waters of rivers, lakes, streams making intentions and sending our prayers to the Goddess of Water, Kupala also known as Mokosh which has roots in ancient Vedic texts as Moksha, enlightenment.
In my art practice I follow the cycles of nature and the cosmic events such as planetary alignments that heighten our ability to connect with the Universal Wisdom, with The Queen of Heavens, with SheUniverse. For many years I have focused on creating a ritual, a performance art piece, or a gathering to honour the Summer Solstice following the Slavic and Baltic traditional beliefs. In the ancient pagan culture Summer Solstice was the most important of all the annual ceremonies. As in the past, also nowadays the Solstice occurs at the same time all over the world, when the Sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer. The first day of summer can be on June 20, 21 or 22… Even though most people consider June 21 as the date of the June Solstice, it can happen anytime between June 20 and June 22 (very rare – the next one in 2203!).
During the pagan times the celebrations lasted for at least 3 days during which the people would give their prayers and ask for prosperity to the female deity of Water known as Kupala or Moksha depending on the Slavic tribe. Girls would dress in white, and throw wreaths made of flowers into lakes or rivers at the sunset making their wishes and intentions.
Historical background of Slavic &Baltic traditions of Summer Solstice
Solstice night is celebrated in a very similar way in Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Mazury Lake District of Poland where I was born. In all of these countries the rituals of Midsummer night have very strong folkloric roots.
One of the strongest tradition that is cultivated to these days in all of the Slavic and Baltic countries is Summer Solstice wreath making. Young girls, dressed in white float flower wreaths on the water of rivers, streams, lakes, or even the Baltic sea.
The best-known ritual is the lighting of the bonfire and jumping over it. This is seen as a way of guaranteeing prosperity and avoiding bad luck. Likewise, to not light the fire is to invite the destruction of your house by fire. The fire also frightened away mischievous spirits who avoided it at all costs, thus ensuring a good harvest. So, the bigger the fire, the further the mischievous spirits stayed away. The purpose of jumping over the fire is partly to purify, partly because they believed that those whose jump is very successful will get married during the following carnival.
The other traditions include singing songs and dancing until the sun sets, telling tales, searching to find the magic fern blossom at midnight, greeting the rising midsummer sun and washing the face with a morning dew. These are customs brought from pagan culture and beliefs. The latter Christian tradition is based on the reverence of Saint John. Poles, Latvians, and Lithuanians with the names Jana, Janina, Jan, Jonas and Jonė receive many greetings from their family, relatives and friends as this is also their Name Day which is a Slavic tradition stronger than an actual birthday.
The celebrations of Midsummer in Poland vary depending on the region. In Mazury Lake District in northern Poland it is called Noc Świętojańska which means St. John’s Night – the Eastern Pomeranian and Kashubian regions – midsummer is celebrated on June 23. People dress in traditional Polka dress, and girls throw wreaths made of flowers into the Baltic Sea, and into lakes or rivers. In many parts of Poland the Summer solstice is celebrated as Kupala Night. In the Mazury Lake District – North East of Poland the celebrations are more similar to those in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and are based on folk ritual of setting the bonfires.
Summer Solstice marks a change in the farming year, specifically the break between the completion of spring sowing and the hard work of summer hay-making.
JADEIVE, Self Proclaimed Goddess, is one of Jana Astanov’s performance personas. Jadeive, is the name derived from Polish and Lithuanian and referring to an ancient Baltic tribe Yatvingians that lived in the current Mazury Lake District where Astanov was born, a region known for its magnificent nature and the oldest European forest, also known as the Country of Thousands Lakes. Jadeive, a mix of Polish (Slavic language) “JA” meaning “SELF” and Lithuanian “DEIVE” meaning “GODDESS”, etymologically derived from Sanskrit: devi – the feminine form, and deva – the masculine form, meaning “heavenly, divine, anything of excellence”.