HAPPY SUMMER SOLSTICE! I wanted to tell you about this wild Lithuanian tradition that involves everything from jumping over fires to find a hubby and searching in the forest for a magical fern. The lore has inspired me since I first learned about these magical practices in childhood. As I've grown older, they have really fueled my imagination and creative practice.
Joninės (also known as Rasa) is a Lithuanian midsummer festival celebrating the longest day of the year and the arrival of summer. The festival has its roots in ancient pagan traditions, but it is now celebrated by people of all faiths.
The name Joninės comes from the Lithuanian word "Jonas," which means "John." The festival is traditionally celebrated on the feast day of Saint John the Baptist, when the Christians appropriated the Lithuanian pagan festival of Rasa . Rasa means “dew”, and it is believed that the dew on the morning of Joninės has special powers. In fact, much of the medicinal herbs gathered that night are said to be at the height of their magical potency - for example, St. John’s Wort!
Some of the most popular Joninės / Rasa traditions include:
- Building bonfires. Bonfires are a symbol of purification and protection, and they are often built on hilltops or in open fields. People will often jump over the bonfires to ward off evil spirits and to bring good luck. Fun fact: If you and your partner jumped over the fire while keeping your arms linked, it ensured a long and healthy marriage.
- Medicinal Herb Wreath-making. Women and girls will often make flower with 9-12 medicinal herbs/plants in wreaths to wear on their heads or to float on the water. The wreaths are a symbol of fertility and love. These were also an ancient form of Tinder- if your wreath traveled fast when you threw it in the river, that much sooner you’d find a husband!
- Singing and dancing. Singing and dancing are an important part of Joninės / Rasa celebrations. People will often gather around bonfires or in large fields to sing and dance traditional folk songs.
- Searching for the paparčio žiedas (fern flower). The paparčio žiedas is a mythical flower that is said to bloom only on the night of Joninės / Rasa. It is said that whoever finds the paparčio žiedas will be granted good luck and happiness, be able to see the dead, and have great prosperity!
- Bathing in the morning dew. It is believed that the dew on the morning of Joninės / Rasa has special powers, and people will often bathe in it to cleanse themselves and to bring good luck.
Joninės / Rasa solstice ritual is for celebrating the beauty of nature and the abundance of summer. This pagan festival is also a time for spending time with family and friends, and for making memories that will last a lifetime.