In Slavic religion, Kupala is the goddess of herbs, sorcery, sex, and midsummer. She is also the Water
Mother, associated with trees, herbs, and flowers. Her celebration falls upon the Summer solstice in June.
After Poland embraced Christianity in 966, its ancient traditions were replaced with Catholic ones. In the
14th century, the bishop of Poznan banned celebrations held on the eves of holy days. However the pagan rituals were often linked to Catholic feast days. Respectful of the Church, the celebration was moved ahead
to the night of St. John the Baptist—June 24th being Sobótka, his feast day.
In some regions, such as Kraków and Kielce in South Poland, festivities take place a few weeks earlier. This time was called “Zielone Świątki” (Whitsunday feast), and was later also incorporated with Pentecost. In 1468 King Kazimierz Jagiello—on demand of the
abbot of St. Cross Monastery—banned pagan festivities taking place in Łysa Gora (Bald Mountain), a place where, legend has it, witches’ sabbats took place.
Poet Jan Kochanowski, who participated in these festivities in his youth, wrote a description of the night in his
“Piesń o Sobótce.” Today, the celebrations known as Wianki include music, dancing, fireworks, boat parades and lighting bonfires.