Friday, June 22, 2018

Līgo, līgo // Jāņi 2018

They say that on Jāņi night the animals can speak, that you must not sleep or you’ll sleep all summer. That if you go in search of the fern flower and find it, that the mošķi will not bother you all year. That the flowers and Jāņu zāles picked have magical powers. This Latvian holiday with roots in the pagan and branches in the present day awakens in each of us our connection to nature. We weave crowns of flowers and oak leaves, jump over fires with skirts held high, make pīrāgi and curd cheese with caraway seed, and sing until the sun paints the skies pink at dawn.

This year we celebrated the summer solstice with our bŗāļu tauta, the Lithuanians. The Atlanta Lithuanian-American community was kind to invite us to their Joninės / Midsummer festivities, and so we donned our linen shirts and tautiskās jostas and headed west to the forests of Georgia. Some customs we share, others were new, but the underlying connection with nature united us in our merriment.

Yesterday was the summer solstice: longest day of the year, shortest night. The lightning bugs are bringing fairy magic to our homes at dusk, the smell of rain (līst kā pa Jāņiem) and tomato plants creeping into the subconscious with memories of summers past. I weave some mint and lavender into my Jāņu vainags, then as an afterthought add some rosemary and oregano; all night the comforting smells follow me around.

We burn the crowns from the previous summer in the bonfire, watching all of our worries and fears from the last year flame up, disappear in smoke. The Lithuanians have taken their vainagi  to the shoreline, lighting a candle and letting them float away as just a few more twinkling lights in the glittering waters of the lake. We wade in, the water cool on our overheated skin, the moonlight reflecting around us as some otherworldly portal.

May your voices join the chorus of Līgo on this most enchanted of evenings. Good luck in your search for the fern flower, and strength in your leaps over the Jāņuguns. May the magic of the solstice find you all, and as you turn your gaze upwards at the dark skies of the shortest night, may the generations of līgotāji who have come before you give you strength as you face the shortening days.

Pūt, Jānīti, vara tauri
Pašā Jāņu vakarā`i,
Lai sanāca Jāņa bērni,
Lai dziedāja Jāņu dziesmas,
Lai dziedāja Jāņu dziesmas,
Lai atnesa Jāņu zāles,
Lai iedzēra Jāņu alu,
Lai uzkoda Jāņu sieru
Lai aizdedza darvas mucu,
Lai darīja vainadziņus,
Lai gaidīja Jāņu rītu,
Kad saulīte rotājās`i.


  1. Hi There, I love reading all about your wonderful traditions... You mentioned lightning bugs... WELL--we went with one of our sons to Elkmont in the Smokies recently to see the "Firefly Display" up there which was supposed to be spectacular... They blink in Sync supposedly and some of them have a long blink which makes streaks across the area... WELL--the fireflies (lightning bugs) decided NOT to come out to play after dark the night we were there... Disappointing --but that does happen. Pictures of this unique display show some awesome beauty... You all may want to check into this sometime. The kids would love it--and adults too of course!!!! Go on the internet and google "Fireflies in Elkmont"... Lots of info...


    1. Although I've heard of the synchronous fireflies, we've not yet had the opportunity to see them in GSMNP. Congaree NP also has a season for them, although they differ from the blue ghost fireflies which we have here in the Upstate and SW North Carolina which have the long blink. Both have very short mating seasons (and so can only be seen for a very short time), can be hard to find, and are hard to photograph - although I am sure you and George would find a way!

  2. Ah, so lovely outfits and crowns for Ligo and Janiem!

    1. Paldies Inese! Biju drusku pārsteigta redzēt, ka lietuvieši Jāņus nesvin svētku drēbēs... Tomēr karstās temperatūras šeit ASV dienvidos tautas tērpiem nav galīgi piemērots.


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