Fortune-telling, sorceries, mysterious signs – this is only a part of what you can expect on St. John’s Night, which is celebrated on 23rd/24th June. This magic night was cultivated as a celebration of fire and water among Slavs in the past. The most important rituals involved lighting a bonfire and becoming immersed in water. Popularly called “Sobótka,” St. John’s Night was also a celebration of love and fertility. It often aroused disgust and was condemned by church officials because it abounded in bonfire dances, indecent songs, courting and superstitions.
It was St. John’s Night, the time of the longest day of the year, which became an inspiration and leitmotiv for organising a huge St. John's Fair from 18th May till 25th June 2018. On the Wroclaw Market Square and the nearby ul. Świdnicka, you will experience a feast for your eyes and palate!
An adequate welcome of the summer was believed to guarantee successful harvest, good weather and abundant crops. At the same time, young girls and boys told one another’s fortune in love during the upcoming hot summer. Sobótka celebrations would traditionally begin at bonfires. One larger bonfire or a number of small bonfires were to be lit from fresh wood on the river bank or at the peak of a hill. The participants danced, sang and practiced magic rituals around bonfires all night long. The tradition of jumping over the flames in a wreath or a hairband made of herbs was also alive, its goal being to defend people from evil spirits, demons, witches and illnesses.
One of the most popular customs associated with St. John’s Night is the floating of garlands on the water, which functions as a prediction of a wedding and awaited love for unmarried women and men. When floating garlands, ladies should stick to certain principles. Firstly, they should throw their garlands into a river rather than a lake because standing water is a symbol of stagnant affection and old love affairs. Secondly, a garland should be thrown forcefully so that it does not get stuck in the reeds, but also skilfully enough not to damage the candle burning on it, as this will foreshadow an unhappy love affair. Thirdly, the presence of an unmarried man on the river bank must be ensured – if nobody picks up the garland from the water, its female owner will live without love for the whole year. If a boy fails to pick up a garland, he will have to wait alone until next year.
On St. John’s Night, couples went into the woods in search of the fern flower, which was believed to bring great happiness, wisdow and the ability to see all treasures hidden in the ground to anyone who would find it. The blue fern flower blossoms once a year, on St. John’s Night. It is said that this flower can be found only by a brave and honest man. Those who claim to have seen the flower say that it is small and blue. On the one hand, the fern flower guarantees happiness, wealth and the ability to influnce others’ feelings to its finder; unfortunately, on the other hand, it also deprives him of true feelings. Thus, even if a night escapade into the forest proves unsuccessful, there is no point in despairing. It is enough to pick a sprout of fern, which is much easier to find, and wear it in one’s wallet. This brings good luck, too.