Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Івана Купала (Ivana Kupala)

Ivana Kupala

Yesterday, July 7th, was Ivana Kupala. It's a festival originating from Pre-Christian Ukraine that combines a celebration of John the Baptist with pagan fertility practices. On this day, young girls gather near rivers and ponds wearing flower wreaths on their heads that they will toss into the water. It is believed that depending on how the wreath floats, a girl can learn about her future prosperity. After dark, large bonfires are lit and as they burn down, individuals and couples will jump over the burning embers. Of course all of this gets started on the eve of Ivana Kupala, but more people turn out on the actual day and night.

On the Bridge Over the River Ros

A Little Girl With Her Ivana Kupala Wreath and Her Mother

Edna and I walked down to the bridge over the river along with Maxime and Joshua to watch the festivities. Ivana Kupala also signifies the start of the swimming season, so Maxime couldn't resist stripping down to his underwear with everyone else and swimming amongst all the flower wreaths. He had a chance to dry off by the bonfire before we called it a night. We were pretty worn out from a long day in Kyiv. We had spent the morning there where Edna had tests done to try and determine the source of pain she has been having in her kidneys. (Please pray for her healing and resolution to this problem.) We spent the rest of the afternoon in Kyiv visiting with our friend Cara Denney before returning home to Bila Tserkva.

A Babucsya Selling Flower Wreaths for Ivana Kupala
If you forgot to bring a flower wreath, no worries, this little babusya will sell you one.

Ivana Kupala Bonfires along the River Ros
This was the view from our apartment of some of the huge bonfires along the river.

It is said that the most adventurous go into the forest in search of the tsvit paporoti - the magic flower (fern flower), which blooms only on this night. If found, the finder gets untold riches and happiness. But beware! On this magic night the forest is full of demons and other scary beings (nechysta syla), which are out to get the unwary. In particular, there are Rusalky, the water nymphs, who are the souls of those drowned. They try to entice you into the water, so that you can join them in death. But around the bonfire all is merriment and joy.

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