Welcome to everybody, who has had the will to read this piece. I am hereby to describe a little bit of the merriest time I had last weekend during the Pagan-Christian feast of St. John’s Night. So – I invite you in to read on and indulge yourself in this tale about lights on the lake…
Well – what is St. John’s Night?
The Midsummer Night, which Shakespeare wrote about, the night of summer solstice, which marks change of seasons – in various cultural circles – has been considered a magical or occult time.
In my country that holiday is most referred to us St. John’s Night, but also called “The Saturdays” – as the celebrations happen on that particular day of the week, or “The Night of Kupala”, an old Slavic deity, and distinctively enough for ages was viewed the most important Feast of Love.
Now, the Slavic holiday was usually connected to the shortest night of the year, the accurate solstice time – but later moved to St. John’s Night, which is 23/24 of June. But as it is “The Saturdays”, its celebration was customarily held on Saturday 25th June.
Like in Andrea Bocelli’s love song, this night was always the Notte Illiminata, Night of Light. Common Slavic custom was to lit huge bonfires that night, so that all the air would be shimmering from incandesce.
Burning of the fire was supposed to bring good health and fortune, fertility and love. Jumping over the fire was a challenge for young men to prove their capability and bravery, whilst couple jumping – sometimes with the figure of Kupala, the love deity in their hands -was to grant a happy union. Contemporarly bonfires have been widely replaced with a spectacle of fireworks, yet there still are huge bonfires organized. The St. John’s Night is yet still the Night of Light.
One lucky charm was to jump over the fire, but the Solstice has been famous for celebrations of the wreaths – which is the reason why it has involved water and taken place on the shores of lakes, rivers or brooks. Celebrations held on the sea cost during summer nights are incredibly beautiful, but those on lakes are alluring as well – in past times young maidens would set their wreaths on the water with a candle placed inside. If such a wreath was picked up by a man, it was believed they would wed.
Of course, believes like that are long gone, but there are still boats full of flowers and herbs are floating on the water in an act of esteem towards tradition.
So I shall let you imagine it …
Imagine … the light
Stand still. Close your eyes. Relax for a while. Imagine a lake in a sweet, flower-scented summer night, in a place where the day’s quasi-tropical heat ceases after dusk and instead there appears the unmistakable fragrance of twilight chill, dump grass and ground, and cold water, mingling with the fresh, reviving smell of the surrounding trees.
Imagine now, a lake at that time of a day, when clouds change slowly their colors from lilac pink and misty grey into dark, intense navy bleu. Imagine yourself standing there on a bridge with two friends, watching the spectacle of a fountain, changing shape and colors springing out of the lake water all night through.
Embrace… the fun
And then … turn around, come back t the beach and embrace the fun … :)! The sandy beach, the dancing to local band, watching performances of some underaged cheerios, grilled chickens, nice cold bitter beer available to drink outside on this very night… Fireworks at midnight, mirrored in the ink -black, velveteen water… By the way, it took some effort to see the fireworks as I was sitting in the bush, while they started, 15 minutes before the fixed hour – I was sitting in the bush because I made my friend look for a tiny, intimate bridge she knew before. We didn’t find it, but we did find a great, cosy spot deep in the trees and bushes surrounding the water and we slid there in this natural darkness. We sprang out of the bush like insane persons when we spotted the first lights on the sky.Afterwards, with some new drinks we headed for the bushes and stayed there almost all night through – talking… The event ended at 4 in the morning and so we went home, in unbelievable morning cold, without sandals sliding too deep into thick, wild grass, covered with dew.