Ivana Kupala is a special holiday, one that dates back to very ancient pagan times, when Ukrainian people had a strong sense of the magical power vested in the natural world. At the peak of the sun’s reign, around the time of the summer solstice, Ukrainians celebrated the awesome power of the sun to make the earth come alive. They worshipped the two most powerful and basic elements: sun and water, that mystically cleanse and nourish us. Kupala is one of the oldest pagan holidays that has survived in our collective memory and imagination to the present day. Although the Church has tried to stamp it out since the 10th century, Kupala has endured, albeit as an amalgamation of the Christian holiday St. John’s Eve and the pagan Kupalo’s Eve. (Kupalo was the pagan deity of fertility.)
In order to celebrate it with all of our friends, this year, Kosa decided to officially host an Ivana Kupala bonfire. On the eve of June 22nd Kosa invited everyone to celebrate the traditional summer solstice on the shores of Lake Ontario.
An amazingly beautiful and diverse group of folk lovers arrived to our somewhat hidden and secluded spot on the beach, where a creek flowed into the lake, beside a big weeping willow tree. Despite the erratic and apocalyptic-looking weather we managed to enjoy a wonderful night of singing, dancing and games.
Girls took shelter under the big willow where they sang and wove wreaths of wild flowers while the boys and children built a wonderful bonfire. Everyone generously shared food, drinks and musical talents. Once the sun went down we crowded next to the creek as the girls tossed their wreaths in the water and anxiously watched as the men waded in after them. In the confusion pairs were eventually formed and they took turns leaping over the fire. The atmosphere was great! Only the weather challenged us, and even the strong winds and rain didn’t stop us from dancing the night away in the downpour…
Hopefully next year the sun-worshipping holiday will actually take place on a warm and sunny day! To all who came out- you are amazing! Kosa is so glad to have met so many kindred spirits interested in and appreciative of our folk roots. We had such an incredibly fun time! Thank you and see you next year!!