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  • Writer's pictureBogdana Postrygan

Ivana Kupala

On the night of July 6-7, Ukrainians celebrate Ivana Kupala ancient holiday. Thousands of years have passed since its first celebration and the traditions and signs of celebration are still preserved and honored in Ukraine. This holiday symbolizes the human connection with nature and the transition to the summer cycle.

Initially, this day had pagan character. Since ancient times it had been dedicated to the Slavic god Kupala and sun.

In keeping with Christian canons, this is a day to honor Saint John who was the Godfather of Jesus Christ. The two holidays blended together, just as the name combined both John (Ivan) the Baptist and the old Pagan god Kupalo.

Traditions of Celebration:

  • Search for fern flower.

  • Jumping Over a Bonfire. Young couples are jumping together over the fire whilst holding their hands tightly. If they manage not to separate their hands during the jump this will bring a big happiness to the couple and most likely they will stay together forever.

  • Flowery Wreath Weaving.

  • Create effigies of Kupala and Marena. Then burned, drowned or buried it.

Be careful since dark powers appear on Ivan Kupala day!


Effigies of Kupala and Marena

There is a legend that at night of Ivana Kupala the wedding of Kupala and Marena was celebrated as a symbol of a combination of two elements: water and fire, male and female.

They personify male (sun) and female (water) deities respectively. Depicting Life and Death, these two characters are recreated as effigy and at the end of the celebration they are either drowned, burned, buried, or torn apart and scattered in the fields as a symbol of the impending decline in the earth's fertility.

In different parts of Ukraine Kupala and Marena are made from different materials.

Most often effigies were made from a willow. Usually decorated by girls with bouquets of wild and garden flowers, berries, candies, colorful ribbons, the top was fixed with a wreath of periwinkle, sometimes flower of nettles and thistles, to make it difficult for the boys to break it. And today women put the branches of the broken "Kupalo" all through the garden for a good harvest.


Magic fern flower

On the night of Ivan Kupala young men walks in woods, looking for a fern flower, which blooms for a few minutes, then disappears.

According to the legend, on this night fern blooms with bright fiery flower. Around midnight the germ suddenly appears out of fern leaves, rising higher and higher. Exactly at midnight before the spectator’s eyes appears bright fire flower, so bright that it is impossible to watch; invisible hand picks it as a person hardly ever can do so.

Who will find blossomed fern and will be able to seize it, acquires magical power. If you have time and strength to pick it, the earth will open, making visible the hidden treasures. Also you’ll begin to understand the language of animals and birds.

Young girls searching for Chervona Ruta. According to legends that still exist in the Carpathians, Chervona Ruta is a yellow flower that turns red for only a few minutes, on the night of Ivan Kupala. The girl who finds it and breaks it off will be happy in love.

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