wildflowers: 1 post

Wildflower Walk on The Eve of Ivan Kupala

Bonfires are being prepared on the sandy beach lining the Vorskla, a river that cuts Poltava in half and hugs our hamlet within the city’s suburbs. One group of girls is busy weaving wreaths from wild flowers. Heaps of daisies, yarrow and cornflowers are spread out on the ground around them. Further along the bank, grills are being set up, and people are staking out spots with towels and empty crates. It is still early enough, several hours before the sun takes a dip in the river. The scent of hot sand, hay, wild thyme, cigarette smoke and water lilies hangs heavy in the still air. We are waiting for Ivan Kupala’s Eve.


Ivan Kupala is the Slavic version of the midsummer festival marking the summer solstice. According to the old style Julian calendar used by the Orthodox Church, it’s celebrated on the night of 6/7 July in Ukraine. (In neighboring Poland, Noc Kupały, just like the Swedish midsummer celebrations, takes place on 23/24 June.) Ivan means John (as in John the Baptist) and Kupala comes from the Slavic word for bathing. Although Christian traditions are woven into the festival, the roots are clearly pagan. Water and fire intertwine in various rites, and the river is worshiped as much as the saint himself. Today, the celebrations may involve more beer and barbecue than romantic rituals, but women still float wreaths in the streams to divine their future. Candles are still lit on the river bank. Couples still jump over the bonfire to test the strength of their relationship.

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