The maidens would throw herbs to the fire, in hopes that it would protect them from evil. To demonstrate their agility, the young men would jump over
At midnight the search for the elusive fern’s flower would begin as the “unmarried” ran into forest.
If you found the flower of fern, the wishes of life may be fulfilled. A lucky man returning with the flower would wear the flowered wreath of his engaged
on his head
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.