"The Island of Desires"
Ivan Kupala Day and Night
July 7 was Ivan Kupala day, or the feast day of St. John the Baptist. It is also the summer solstice. Ivan is the Slavic version of John, and Kupala comes from the Slavic word for bathing, however Kupala is also the name of a pre-Christian Slavic god, which would make this another syncretization. The night before the holiday is mischief time, and the day itself is full of water pranks and water fights, as well as more "adult" water rituals, arranged around the idea of finding a lover: "Girls would float wreaths of flowers often lit with candles on rivers and would attempt to gain foresight into their relationship fortunes from the flow patterns of the flowers on the river. Men may attempt to capture the wreaths, in the hope of capturing the interest of the woman who floated the wreath." (Wikipedia)
"Ivan Kupala Night"
With the coming of Christianity, the Church tried to suppress the festival, but it was unsuccessful. So they did what they normally did: they combined the festival of the pagan god Kupalo with the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (July 6th, Julian Calendar) and called it "Ivana Kupala." The customs were cleaned up a bit, but it's still a feast for young unmarried people, with plenty of opportunities for "making whoopie."
The most adventurous go into the forest in search of the tsvit paporoti - the magic flower, which blooms only on that night. If found, the finder gets untold riches and happiness. But beware! On that magic night the forest is of full of demons and other scary beings (nechysta syla), which are out to get the unwary. In particular, there are Rusalky, the water nymphs, who are the souls of those drowned. They try to entice you into the water, so that you would join them in death. But around the bonfire all is merriment and joy. Songs are sung (many of them survive to the present day), music is played, and everybody dances and makes merry." Source
Oddly, a little more looking around linked Ivan Kupala day to a different saint, St. George, specifically "Green George," whose representation we've seen before. St. George's festival linked Ivan Kupala to the larger story of the changing of the seasons and the stages of harvest by opening up the love story of Jarilo and Morana. The Slavic god Jarilo seems to be a version of Persephone: he was stolen from his father and taken to the world of the dead, which in Slavic beliefs was a world of eternal spring where the birds migrated in winter. In the spring, he would return to his father, which was celebrated with spring festivals, later named the feast day of St. George. He was then noticed by Morana, a goddess of death and nature, and they would fall in love and court each other in a very ritualistic and traditional pattern, leading up to a divine wedding, which was on--you guessed it--Ivan Kupala day, the summer solstice. This marriage brought peace to the world and thus bountiful harvest, but ended after the harvest in bitterness, with Jarilo's return to the underworld, this time sent by Morana, and her dissolution into a terrible hag. She dies at the end of the year, and in the spring, the whole thing starts over again.
This story also sees its echoes in Golub's many centaur paintings, as Jarilo's long travel between worlds is compared in two very particular but conflicting ways. It is said in the folk songs that he walks so long that when he arrives his feet are very sore, but it is also emphasized that he rides in on a horse. This seems impossible, but it is noted that a young husband is often symbolized by a horse, and also that in many Slavic folk songs, the cuckolded wife--here Morana-- vents her rage by killing a horse--here Jarilo--or having her brothers do so for her. Horses were saccred animals in West Slavic paganism, and the way they walked through a pattern of spears was used as a tool for divination. So, it seems important to keep Jarilo's association with his horse, and also to point out how very far he has traveled on his poor feet, and this has led students of Slavic mythology (such as Katičić and Belaj) to suggest that he might be a centaur.
"The Shout" (Jarilo is associated with the moon)
More Musicians that Play the Soul of the City
Here, Golub paints his favorite model as the muse that pulls the rhythms and melodies of the city out to be heard:
"City Romance I"
"City Romance II"
"City Romance III"
Vladimir Golub was born in 1953, in Slutsk, Belorussia. At 12, he left home to enter a fine arts academy. He often uses the history, folklore, mythology and laudatory ritual songs of his area as sources for his images.
This blog post, it will come as no surprise, was inspired by a usual source, Art Odyssey, who has a wonderful playlist with more of Golub's works.