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Two girls put traditional wreaths near a bonfire as they take part in the Ivan Kupala Night celebration.

Two girls put traditional wreaths near a bonfire as they take part in Kupala Night celebrations. Slavic countries celebrate Kupala Night, which is related to the summer solstice, with bonfires that last throughout the night with some leaping over the flames as it is believed the ritual of jumping over bonfire cleanses people of illness and bad luck.

Midsummer, Kupala Night, and the Summer Solstice

June 17, 2020 — The European summer solstice is soon upon us, and in particular, the “Swedish Midsommar” — which neither Amajarl nor Seidrsunna can stop talking about right now — is a festivity that has been celebrated in northwestern Europe since time immemorial.

But how was the summer solstice celebrated in the East? In the ancient lands that were once ruled by the mighty Scythians — also known as the far reaches of Ásaland — the Slavic sun-deity Kupala (or Solntse, which means sun) was worshiped. Kupala is not very well-known in the western world, but the modern Kupala Night celebrations that take place every year are just as popular as Swedish Midsommar festivities. In fact, it is likely the Kupala rites are even crazier!

On the eve of Kupala Night, the Slavic deity of the sun is celebrated in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. Pagan rituals of purification through water and fire are carried out, suggesting modern Kupala festivities relates to ancient rites connected with the ever-returning summer solstice — that time of year when nights are the shortest.

In recent years, Kupala Night has become the most popular feast of summer and sun in the East, with plenty of bonfires to light up the darkness of the night — that inevitably creeps in as the sun dies only to be reborn the next morning. And as the stars line up — who knows what is waiting on the other side of the equinox?

Valgam Akatziri
Valgam “Galdrabragi” Akatziri chants, sings and brings news of the future from the far reaches of Ásaland. He has been called a gam, a ch’am, and a seiðr-man. The challenge of bringing ancestral insights to our conscious minds is sometimes brought up by him on Twitter. ᛟ

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