Midsummer day

FEAST of ST.JOHN – June 24th [ a.k.a. JONINËS]
From ancient times people marked the time of the return of the sun, the shortest and longest night. In olden times it was called the Feast of the DEWS, [ a.k.a. RASOS ]. When Christianity was established in Lithuania, the name was changed to Feast of St. John, according to agrarian folk calendar, the start of haying.
The rituals of the longest day were closely related to agrarian ideas and notions. The main aiim was to protect the harvest from natural calamities, evil souls, witches and mid summer visitors like draught, hail, downpours of rain and thunder. The ancients worshipped the great Goddess Lada and God of Thunder, the ruler of thunder and lightning. From May 25th till June 25th men visited taverns while women and girls danced in the fields holding hands, sang and sacrificed white hens.
N.Vëlius wrote that the feast of the “Dews” binds with the feast of God of Thhunder honoring the embodiments of all kinds of powers. Men’s wrestling, a demonstration of their strength can be linked to the feast of God of Thunder. On the longest day of summer, bread must be baked and eaten before sunrise, sa

aying the following words, ” in the name of the sun and thunder, I order you, fever, and chase you away from people”.
The sun is the first to be addressed, because at this time of year she is most active and most rites are carried out in her honor. This is a holiday allotted to the Gods of Heaven.
Daukantas calls the Feast of St. John the “Wreath Feast”, and asserts that in ancient times it was celebrated during fourteen days.
In the 15th century, visitors to Lithuania wrote that in Vilnius, the celebrations took place in the eastern section of the city, the place of the present day “Rasos” cemetery. Fires were lit on hills and in dales. People daanced, sang, ate and drank. On the Feast of St John a special role was granted to the sun. The sun is constantly mentioned in songs sung on the longest day of the year.
On this ritual day, farmers paid special attention to water’s special powers in reviving soil and making it productive. Witchings on this day were carried out near and with water, people washed themselves and their animals. Special attention was paid to the dew because it revives pl
lants at night. At sunrise farmers made their way around the fields, pulling a branch which brushed the dew to fall into the soil and cause a good harvest. Maidens tried to get up before sunrise, collect the dew and wash their faces with it to make them bright and beautiful. They would also get up at night, go outside to wet their faces in the dew and returned to bed without wiping their faces dry. If that night they dreamt of a young man bringing them a towel, they hoped that he would be the one they would marry. Country sorceresses, during that night dragged a towel over dewy grasses, collected the dew, and watered the cows with it in order to increase their milk production.
Flourishing plants were worshipped because it was believed that plants collected on the eve of the Feast of St. John posses magic powers to heal, bring luck and foretell the future. This is an ancient ritual practiced mainly by women. Roses, common daisies, especially the herb St. John’s worth and numerous grasses were some of the main plants collected at this time.
P.Dundulienë asserts that nine plants with healing powers were called “Kupolës”, pl
lants of the Feast of St. John. A festival pole, decorated with flowers and greenery was also called “Kupolë”. Folklore shows that “Kupolë” was the Goddess of plants, living in aromatic plants, blossoms or in buds in summer and in snowdrifts in winter.
In Lithuania Minor, even in winter before the Feast of St. John, women made haste to collect medicinal herbs, with the belief that after June 24th all herbs lose their healing powers.
Girls returned to the village after picking flowers and singing, wreathed the festival post, “Kupolë”, added colorful fluttering ribbons to it. This festival post was set at the far end of the village, near the grain fields. It had to be defended during two days and nights from young men who tried to steel it. After saving the post, the girls removed the decorative herbs and grasses and divided them amongst themselves because these herbs had special protective powers against evil spirits and illnesses.
In some regions bunches containing nine plants were gathered by women on the eve of the Feast of St. John . Some of the plants were fed to animals before midnight, so they would be protected from evil eyes. Bunches of St. Jo
ohn’s worth were placed behind pictures of saints. If this bunch did not wilt fast, it was believed that it will be a lucky year. Other herb bunches were kept till Christmas, the winter return of the sun, then fed to cows so that they would be healthy and good milkers. Cows’ udders were washed with a decoction made with St. John’s worth. Bunches of nine herbs were kept in barns through Christmas. Other bunches of dried herbs were used to smoke sick people and animals.
It was believed that wreaths concentrate perpetual life’s forces and are symbols of immortality and life. There were many rites and witchings associated with wreaths during this longest summer’s night.
Walk around three fields and gather bunches of nine flowers, twine a wreath and place it under your pillow. You will marry the man, who in your dream comes to take away the wreath. At midnight, twelve wreaths were dropped into a river and observed if they were pairing off. If no pairing off occurred, there was to be no marriage that year. Near the river Nemunas, wreaths were dropped in the water, only when the river was calm and observed to which direction they drifted. Matchmakers would come from that direction. Releasing the wreath with the current, it will be caught by a young man, the maiden will be his. Should the wreath float away without being caught, the maiden will keep that wreath all year in her dowry chest, as a symbol of luck and health.
In the seacoast region, all during the night, young men and women twined wreaths from ferns, placed candles and set them in streams. Should both their wreaths swim together, they believed that they would marry that year.
In some regions wreaths twined during the night of the Feast of St. John were placed at crossroads with the belief that ones future will be seen in a dream.
Seacoast fishermen did not go out to fish on the day of the Feast of St. John or even several days after it. According to them, the sea lurks for sacrificial lambs on these days.
The rites of this day continued till sunrise around bonfires. The site selected for ritual bonfires was always in the most beautiful area, on hills, on river shores and near lakes. In some regions bonfires were lit on future grain fields and under linden trees.
Those who are not fond of socializing on the eve, hurry and gather along lake shores, light bonfires, place burning poles, covered with tar into trees, so that there would be light all night long until sunrise. Special decorated wheels were lit and were rolled down hillsides, this symbolized the sun’s moving away from the earth and at the same time a request for her return.
In ancient times, the ritual fires were lit by senior priests, ” vaidilos”. That fire was started with sparks coming from rubbing dried roots of medicinal herbs or from flying sparks when striking flint stones. Such fires would protect from epidemics, illnesses, poor harvests, hail and lightning.
Eggs were thrown into the fires and animals sacrificed. Later straw dolls were sacrificed in place of animals.
The ritual fires were built up to throw their light over a large area of fields, to assure a big autumn harvest. On the eve of this feast day, home fires were put out and new fires were lit using glowing coals from the ritual fires of that day. It was believed that these ritual fires had special powers, which would protect from misfortunes, bring health and harmony to the family. It was important for newlyweds to light the fire in their hearth with the coals of the miraculous ritual fire. Such a family would be blessed, live well and in total harmony.
P. Dundulienë in her book ” Fire in Lithuanian Folk Culture”, writes that jumping over fires or around it had magic meaning. Ritual bonfires cleansed both physically and psychologically. Sick adults and children were brought to the ritual fires and were pulled through the fire, with the belief that they would be healed. Jumping over the fire was carried out with the belief of making better health, increasing body strength for hard summer labors and assuring better growth of grain and flax. Ritual fires’ ashes, smoldering coals had special powers to increase the harvest and protect it from natural calamities. The coals were dug under in fields, ashes were sprinkled on crops to assure good crop yields. To keep weeds from growing in grain fields, ritual fires’ wood splinter remains , were tied to the plough share when ploughing the fields.
In East Prussia, the common tradition was to throw herbs and flower wreaths into the ritual fires. Weeds were also thrown into the ritual fires with the belief that there would be fewer of them next year.
The most archaic tradition of this day is tall poles with wheels at their top, set on fire. The wheel symbolized the primitive farmers’ attitudes to the sun or her travel cart. This tradition is related to myths about the sun’s travels by cart or by boat. The tradition of boating on lakes and rivers in flower and wreath decorated boats, in which a fire was lit, symbolized the floating sun and was widespread throughout Lithuania.
The feast of St. John is connected with summer weddings and their rituals which were bound to affect family living and population increases. Should a pair become friends this night, there will definitely be a wedding.
The night of June 24th is the shortest night of the year, filled with bird sounds and luxuriant vegetation. Darkness substitutes light unnoticeably, night is full of miracles due to fire reflections and shadows. It was believed that activity during this night of supernatural creatures or female witches was ill disposed towards men, animals and plants. To keep animals from their malevolent actions, animals were put in barns before sunset and were fed bread with salt for protection. Mountain ash branches and wheat sprays were hung on door posts for protection against evil spirits
In some regions clogs were placed in front of a mirror. Witches would step into the clogs and run away upset by their frightful image in the mirror.
In Samogitija, “Šatrija” was the most famous witches’ hill, where during the night of the Feast of St. John, witches party and rage all night and invent all kinds of enchantings. This is why one could not do without ” witches burnings”. Young people tied a barrel filled with tar and sawdust to
a high pole, sprinkled it with salt so that the witches would crackle. The barrel was set on fire while the young people sang and danced merrily. Next morning the cow herd was driven through the remaining ashes , with the belief that witchings will no longer be harmful.
During the night of the Feast of St. John, the miraculous fern bursts into bloom. It is difficult to catch sight of this bloom, however this difficulty can be overcome by going to the forest the day before, cutting down a mountain ash, pruning the branches and cutting off the top. Then pulling the tree backwards, walk about one hundred steps without looking back, toward the side to which the cut tree fell. Look back after the hundred steps and then you will see the devil sitting stuck in the ash tree. The devil will ask for your help to get off the tree and for your help will tell you where to find the blooming fern. When you locate the blooming fern, ghosts will attack with butting horns whirlwinds will howl and cats will cry. Then take a cane made of mountain ash, draw a circle around you with it, spread a linen cloth and stop being afraid. The fern blossom will fall on the cloth. Some say that the fern bloom is like birch dust, others describe it as round and white like carp’s scale.

Joninės (Rasos)
Kasmet apie birželio 22 – 24 d. Lietuvoje būna ilgiausia diena ir trumpiausia naktis. Trumpiausia naktis nuo seno sureikšminta, sumistifikuota. Manyta, kad ji stebuklinga. Lietuviai šią naktį švęsdavo Rasų šventę. Vėliau, į Lietuvą atėjus krikščionybei, šventė sutapatinta su Šv. Jono varduvėmis.
Birželio 24 d. išvakarėse moterys nuo seno rinkdavo įvairiausias gydančias žoleles, nes tikėta, kad šios dienos vakarą surinktos žolelės įgyja ypatingų gydymo galių. Vėliau iš žolelių verdama arbata, jomis apkaišomos palubės, įmetama į tvartus, kad gyvuliai būtų sveiki. Šis moterų veiksmas vadintas kupoliavimu.
Netekėjusios merginos šį vakarą apsivilkdavo baltais lino drabužiais ir dainuodamos eidavo į pievas pinti vainikų. Vainiką jos pindavo iš devynių arba dvylikos skirtingų žydinčių žolynų. Nusipintais vainikais merginos pasipuošdavo galvas, o vėliau iš jų spėdavo ateitį.
Manyta, kad šią naktį stebuklinga ir rasa. Jos surinkus reikia duoti karvėms, kad būtų pieningos, pabarstyti į daržus, kad būtų derlingi, kad neželtų piktžolės. Buvo tikima, kad ūkininkas sulauks gero derliaus, jei šią naktį apibėgs savo laukus ir nuogas pasivolios rasoje.
Šią naktį buvo garbinama saulė. Jai dėkojama už šilumą, šviesą, prašoma jos kuo daugiau šviesti. Naktį ant aukštos kalvos buvo sukuriamas didelis laužas. Buvo manoma, kad kuo toliau apšvies laukus, tuo didesnis bus rudenį derlius.
Kaip rasti paparčio žiedą?
Visiems gerai žinoma, kad Joninių naktį pražysta paparčio žiedas. Lietuviai nuo seno jo eidavo ieškoti vidurnaktį. Buvo manoma, kad radęs paparčio žiedą žmogus tampa aiškiaregiu – gali girdėti kitų žmonių mintis, todėl žino visas jų paslaptis; supranta paukščių kalbą. Tokie sugebėjimai žmogui atneša turtus ir laimę. Paparčio žiedo galima ieškoti tik po vieną, o einant gilyn į mišką jokiu būdu negrįžčioti atgal. Atėjus į miško gilumą ir suradus papartį po juo reikia patiesti nosinaitę ar skarelę, apsibrėžti aplink papartį šermukšnine lazda, pasidėti indą su šventintu vandeniu, užsidegti žvakę ir melstis. Tuomet suspindės švytintis žiedas ir nukris ant patiestos skarelės. Kol lauksi paparčio žiedo pražystant, tave gąsdins piktosios miško dvasios, todėl turi būti drąsus, susikaupti ir nesigręžioti. Paparčio žiedą patariama įsikišti po oda, prasipjovus rankos odą, kad jo nepamestum.
Kiti burtai
Jaunimas Joninių naktį šokinėdavo per laužą. Buvo manoma, kad, jei mergina ir vaikinas kartu peršoka laužą susikibę rankomis, jie šiemet susituoks.
Netekėjusios merginos vidurnaktį į upę ar ežerą paleisdavo po du vainikus. Buvo manoma, kad, jei vainikai išsiskis – mergina išsiskirs su savo mylimuoju, jei susiglaus – ištekės už jo. Buvo leidžiama ir po vieną vainikėlį su žvakute. Manyta, kad jei vainikėlis plaukia, tai mergina ištekės. O jei vainikėlis sustoja, dar šiais metais nesusiras vyro. Merginos naktį burdavosi ir iš žolynų. Skaičiuodavo ramunės žiedlapius, žiedus puokštėje (myli, nemyli arba jei porinis skaičius – susiras porą, jei neporinis – dar ne).
Dar vienas įdomus spėjimas merginoms: patariama prieš vidurnaktį iškasti darže gabalėlį velėnos ir jį apversti. Iš ryto pasižiūrėti į tą apverstą velėną, koks iš jos išlenda vabaliukas: jeigu pilkas – vyras bus neturtingas, paprastas; jeigu margas – vyras bus valdininkas arba kariškis; jeigu žalias – ūkininkas.
Kaip sveikinti Jonus?
Vardas Jonas žinomas ne tik Lietuvoje, bet visame pasaulyje: Latvijoje – Jānis, Rusijoje – Ivanas, Anglijoje – Johnas (Džonas), Prancūzijoje – Jeanas (Žanas), Ispanijoje Juan (Chanas). Lietuvoje iki šiol išklikęs paprotys Joninių išvakarėse nupinti ąžuolo vainiką ir girliandas. Girliandomis papuošiamos Jono ar Janinos namų durys, kiemo vartai, vainikas prikalamas ant durų ar pakabinamas ant durų rankenos. Prie durų rankenos galima prikabinti ir dovanėlę. Į vainikus įpinama ir gėlių: bijūnų, jazminų ar kt. Jonų ir Janinų namai būdavo puošiami naktį, kas niekas nepamatytų, bet kartu puošėjai ir norėdavo būti pagaunami, kad gautų iš Jonų vaišių.

• MIDSUMMER DAY’S, OR RASOS, HOLIDAY (June 23). The Feast of St John. The Lithuanian traditional Rasos feast or Joninės is Midsummer Day, marking the summer solstice. After the Sun goes down led by the songs, wreaths made of grasses are floated, everyone dances, sings, jumps over the bonfire, tells a fortune, drinks beer and at midnight everyone attempts to find the magic blossom of a fern.
This festival is celebrated at the end of June when the sun reaches its peak and there is the shortest night. In ancient times the young and the old used to gather in the most picturesque places – on the hills, by the rivers, lakes, forests. They used to make a big fire. The girls used to make wreaths of the most beautiful flowers, they danced by the fire, sang, jumped over the fire. At midnight the young used to look for the flower of the fern. They used to have fun till the sunrise. Feast of St.John has been celebrated in Plateliai on June 23-24.

During the feast by the bonfire youths of both genders interacted as members of one family. This is evidenced by the custom of jumping over the bonfire in pairs that existed in western Lithuania and in Lithuania Minor. (If the girl did not like the boy she refused to jump). People believed that if the jump was successful, the couple married that year (which usually happened). A search for a fern flower was usually practised in northern, western and southern Lithuania. This custom was also performed in group. In Žemaitija and northern Lithuania, the fixed standards of behaviour were sporadically disregarded on such an occasion. Couples would leave the group to look for the so-called “fern flower” without any witnesses. This added another functional meaning to the custom.

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