Sunday, 30 December 2012

New Years Eve

Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31 (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1 (New Year’s Day). Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.

Photo Source
Lia Steakley Dicker give us the history of New Year's

Whether it is the glittering ball in Times Square or a giant cheese wedge in Plymouth, Wisconsin, champagne flutes clink and kisses are exchanged as countless people toast the New Year. As the wave of celebrations travel across the globe, millions vow to kick bad habits and improvement themselves in an effort to make this next year better than the last.

Revelry and resolutions have been essential to ringing in the New Year since 2000 B.C. when Babylonians held semi-annual festivals around the spring and autumn equinoxes. Back then, people marked the beginning of a New Year by paying off debts and returning borrowed goods. The practice carried over into Roman times with worshippers offering resolutions of good conduct to a double-faced deity named Janus, the god of beginnings and endings. When the Roman calendar was reformed, the first month of the year was renamed January in honour of Janus, establishing January 1 as the day of new beginnings.

Fast-forward a few millennia to New York City in 1907. That was the year Adolph S. Ochs, publisher of The New York Times commissioned the construction of a five-foot iron globe studded with 216 electric lamps. The one-of-a-kind ball fell from a 70-foot flagpole at midnight in Times Square on the last day of the year. With the inaugural drop an ancient ritual was transformed into a spectacular show.

Over the next century, the Times Square ball drop became a symbol of new beginnings and nearly 100 cities across the country replicated the tradition, substituting the glowing sphere for home town mascots. Each year, the celebrations grow more grandiose as represented by the dazzling 1,200-pound sphere clad in Waterford crystal with 30,000 watts of light-emitting diodes that will descend this year on Dec. 31.

The same could be said of resolutions. Once a tradition of performing simple good deeds, modern-day resolutions often involve breaking negative patterns to eat healthier, save money, or be more organised. But this type of self-change isn't easy, especially when trying to fulfil such vague goals. The difficulty of accomplishing behavioural changes combined with the non-specificity of most resolutions is the main culprit behind the rising percentage of people who fail to keep their New Year's pledge.

A University of Washington study in 1997 found 47 percent of the 100 million adult Americans who make resolutions give up on their goals after two months. This figure has grown to 80 percent in the past decade, according to recent research completed at the University of Minnesota.

While the statistics are grim, your intentions to make 2013 the best year yet aren't doomed. Experts agree that writing down resolutions, sharing goals with others, and tracking your progress, can help you achieve success. What do you want to do in 2013?

Photo Source

We are full of good intentions when we write down our resolutions for the new year. But for the majority of us the thrill of accomplishing our New Year's resolutions remains elusive. We might promise to run that race, but never cross the finish line. We might aim to overcome frustration, temptation, and procrastination, but sticking to our resolutions can be hard. So what's the trick to making resolutions that stick?

When selecting resolutions for the new year, use the following tips to convert your enthusiasm for change into year-long commitment toward personal growth. Doing so will help you avoid future disappointment and launch yourself on journey of self-renewal.

Be deliberate

Resist the urge to impulsively make pledges for the upcoming year based on what's bothering you at a specific moment. Spend a week, or longer, evaluating your priorities for the new year and think about how your resolution fits with these objectives. This is a great conversation to have with a friend, "Could you see me doing this goal, this year?"

Leave the past behind

Refrain from adopting old resolutions to prevent past regrets from following you into the future. Instead, redefine failed goals. If "lose weight" didn't work last year, consider the new approaches of "eat healthier" or "exercuse five days a week"

Stay positive

Swearing off bad habits such as "I will never bite my nails again" only emphasizes the forbidden behaviour. For better results, cast resolutions in a flattering light and vow to "Take better care of my hands and nails"

Shorten the deadline

Recent research found 80 percent of people don't keep their resolution past Valentine's Day. Maintain yours until July 1 and you will have accomplished more than most. We're betting the buzz you get from successfully making reaching the six-month mark will carry you the rest of the year.

Define the obstacles

Acknowledging and preparing for the challenges upfront allows you to better navigate bumps in the road ahead.

Go public with your plans

Telling others about your goals helps you in a couple of ways. Writing the goals down and sharing them with others can increase your sense of responsibility to meet your objectives. It also gives others insight into what you are trying to accomplish and opens new doors for support.

Photo Source

A little more information on the history I found at

The earliest recorded festivities in honour of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—heralded the start of a new year. They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was cut in the spring) that involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days. In addition to the new year, Atiku celebrated the mythical victory of the Babylonian sky god Marduk over the evil sea goddess Tiamat and served an important political purpose: It was during this time that a new king was crowned or that the current ruler’s divine mandate was symbolically renewed.

Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed increasingly sophisticated calendars, typically pinning the first day of the year to an agricultural or astronomical event. In Egypt, for instance, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. The first day of the Chinese new year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.

The early Roman calendar consisted of 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox; according to tradition, it was created by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in the eighth century B.C. A later king, Numa Pompilius, is credited with adding the months of Januarius and Februarius. Over the centuries, the calendar fell out of sync with the sun, and in 46 B.C. the emperor Julius Caesar decided to solve the problem by consulting with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time. He introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today.

As part of his reform, Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honour the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. Romans celebrated by offering sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts with one another, decorating their homes with laurel branches and attending raucous parties. In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 (the anniversary of Jesus’ birth) and March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation); Pope Gregory XIII re-established January 1 as New Year’s Day in 1582.

Photo Source

In many countries, New Year’s celebrations begin on the evening of December 31—New Year’s Eve—and continue into the early hours of January 1. Revellers often enjoy meals and snacks thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead-right before midnight. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States. Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and other countries. Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, round out the feast in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece and elsewhere. In Sweden and Norway, meanwhile, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve; it is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune.

Other customs that are common worldwide include watching fireworks and singing songs to welcome the new year, including the ever-popular "Auld Lang Syne" in many English-speaking countries.

Photo Source

To all my friends near and far, new and old I wish you all the blessings of the New Year. May your lives be filled with wonder, love, laughter, friends and family. May you find meaning, deep nurturing, 

My resolutions for the coming year are as follows:

To be present in each moment or bring myself back when I find that I am not, if I give totally of myself in each thing I do I can give no greater gift to others and myself. Through this practise I truly hear what I am being told, I speak through connection, I open by heart to both give and receive.

To sit in grace daily for a least a few minutes if that is all I have to spare, longer when I am able.

To appreciate and give gratitude for all that I have.

To sit and allow my instincts to form and be guided by them, in all that I do physical, mental and spiritual.

To continue to nurture and love myself therefore I will have more to offer others, you can not give to others what you do not have yourself. 

To express myself through my crafts creating make my soul sing.

To continue on my path of seeking knowledge and learning allowing my growth as an individual, sharing my knowledge with others.

Finally to flow with the waves of life and what it serves me, knowing in my soul that I am never alone, I am loved, all will be for my better good, even when situation are not as I would have chosen them to be. My life experience has proven to me with the distance of time looking back I have always been served well and for this I give thanks. 

Life is sacred and every single moment is precious and I think of the following when I am making plans for my day and my life.
There are so many chooses for the precious minutes of each day - so much to see, create, hear, and feel deeply in my soul.
There are so many people I have the opportunity to share each day with, they bring joy, excitement, they laugh and cry with me, and I go away feeling uplifted by having spent time with them.
I want to experience all that there is and leave no stone unturned, never wasting a moment, acknowledging that there are times when I need to be still and replenish and renew.
The world is a precious gift in which I can play and explore, I do not take this for granted and I am grateful for my abundant and lush life, each day so exciting with choices so numerous therefore I must be mindful when I make my plans.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Korobona (America) - Wawalag Sisters (Australia)

Korobona (core-oh-BONE-ah) is a water goddess of central and south America whose story bears some similarity to that of the Wawalag Sisters of Australia. Korobona is one of the two sisters who walked by a lake and decided to bathe in the waters. While doing so, she became entranced by a piece of wood standing upright in the lake. She grasped the wood, and this broke the spell of enchantment that held a powerful water spirit entranced and captive below. He emerged and took her to his home at the bottom of the lake.

As in most myths, the child of this union created much strife in the family, and the symbols of the story include  the potency and taboos relating to water and menstrual blood. The story of mother and son is central to the entire creation legion of the Carib, Arawak, and Warau  people of Central and South America. Korobona's son, who was half serpent, became a sacrificed saviour and was later resurrected to become the first of the Carib Indians and a mighty warrior.

The contemplation of this goddess is if I pause, look deeply, and resist the urge to judge, I can feel the pain of another's path.

From Goddesses for Every Day by Julie Loar.

This was the reading I was doing in my daily practise this morning and I thought that I would research it further and blog here of my findings as I had never heard of this goddess before.

You can call on Korobona to help you through the death of a loved one.

Photo Source Book Guyana Legends: Folk Tales of the Indigenous Amerindians 
By Odeen Ishmael
Sketch of a Carib Warrior 17th Century Depiction 

In the book Society and Nature - A Sociological Inquiry By Hans Kelsen states the following:

The country in which the ancestors of the Waraus lived was abundantly supplied with game, but water was scarce. The Great Spirit, in reply to their supplications, created the Essequibo and other streams. Moreover, he formed for the Waraus, his dear though erring children, a small lake of delicious water, charging them "only to drink of it, but not to bathe therein, or evil would ensue." This was the test of obedience, and all the men religiously observed it. Near that pleasant spot there dwelt a family of note among the Waraus, consisting of four brothers, named respectively, Kororoma, Kororomana, Kororomatu and Kororomatitu, with their sisters Korobona and Korobonako. The latter, two beautiful but wilful maidens, disregarded the injunction, and in an evil hour ventured into the forbidden water. In the centre there was planted a pole, which, while it remained untouched, was their safeguard. This excited their curiosity. There was a secret which they must find out. The boldest of the two at last ventured to shake it, and thereby broke the charm which had bound the spirit of the pool - and he immediately took possession of the maiden as his' lawful prize. Great was the indignation of her brothers when, after a time, their sister became a mother. But as the babe was in all respects like one of their own children, they, after long consultation, allowed it to live and grow up with them, and the mother's offence was forgiven. She could not, however, forget the pleasant pool and its mysterious inhabitant, and after a while repeated her transgression. Then came the threatened woe! The offspring of the second offence only resembled the human race in the head and upper parts, which were those of a beautiful boy - the other extremity resembling that of the variegated python or camudi of the rivers and swamps of Guiana. Though terrified at the appearance of her offspring, Korobona yet cherished it secretly in the depth of the forest where she had brought it forth. Her brothers at length discovered her secret, and transfixed the serpent-child with their arrows, leaving it for dead. But under the mother's nursing it revived, and soon grew to a formidable size. The suspicion of her brothers having been again aroused by her frequent visits to the forest, they followed her, and from a distance beheld her conversing with it, themselves remaining unseen. Fearing that they would themselves be eventually overpowered by a creature so terrible,
which, after what had happened, must naturally look upon them as foes, they resolved on an onslaught with all the power at their command. Accordingly, they made many arrows and put their other weapons in order. Their sister, asking the purpose of those preparations, received an evasive answer. On this she fled to give warning, and they pursued. Attacking the mysterious being, which sought refuge in its mother's embrace, they disabled it from a distance with showers of arrows, and to make all sure, cut it in pieces before her eyes. The unhappy Korobona carefully collected the remains into a heap, which she kept continually covered with fresh leaves and guarded with tender assiduity. After long watching, her patience was rewarded. The vegetable covering began to heave, and show signs of life. From it there slowly arose an Indian warrior of majestic and terrible appearance. His brow was of a brilliant red, he held bow and arrows in his hand, and was otherwise equipped for instant battle. That warrior was the first Carib the great father of a powerful race. He forthwith commenced the task of revenge for the wrongs suffered in his former existence. Neither his uncles, nor the whole Warau race whom they summoned, could stand before him. He drove them hither and thither like deer, took possession of such of their women as pleased him, and by them became the father of brave and terrible warriors like himself. From their presence the unhappy Waraus retired, till they reached the swampy shores of the Atlantic, forsaking those pleasant hunting grounds which they had occupied on their first descent from heaven.

Photo Source Book Guyana Legends: Folk Tales of the Indigenous Amerindians
By Odeen Ishmael
Warau children in a canoe

Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines By Patricia Monaghan states that Scholars believe that Korobona was the local name of the creator goddess Kururumany sometimes described as a god that created man, while a goddess, Kulimina created women. Alexander Bierhorst 1976 Brett Jones

This website has the tale in poetic form


Two Warau maidens sweetly sang,
 "O waters calm and clear!
We love our happy walks to take
By thy sweet margin, woodland lake,
 And find our pleasure here."

Those maidens, from the hills at first
 That guarded spot would spy.
Then, though their brothers said, "Beware,
The lake is fatal, bathe not there!"
 They dared to venture nigh.

At length fair Korobona said
 (The elder sister she),
"We, by an idle threat restrained,
From these clear waters have refrained;
 Come, sister, bathe with me.
"For what is here to do us harm?
 We maidens are alone.
Waraus, with superstitious awe,
Both old and young obey the law;
 Intruders here are none."

Straight she plunged in; for scant attire
 Our maidens wore, I trow;
Though wild beasts' teeth, with woven seeds,
And shining stones (they had no beads)
 Adorned each young Warau.

Then both, through waters fair and clear,
 Began to dive and swim;
The elder sister, void of fear,
Went first; the other followed near,
 Obeying every whim.

Before her Korobona saw
 A rod of charméd wood.
Oh that some power had stayed her hand,
And forced the maid to let it stand—
 Her safeguard while it stood!

But, wild with glee, she shook the rod,
 And broke the mighty charm.
They saw a man-like form arise,
And Korobona was his prize,
 Held by a powerful arm.
(A water spirit, 'neath the wave,
 Lay bound by mightier power;
Till some one, swimming in the lake,
Should dare that charméd rod to shake.
That was the destined hour.)

"O Warau maid!" the spirit said,
 "Thy sister there may go;"
But thee I hold. O woman fair!
Thou for a time my home must share,
 And come with me below."
Sad Korobona weeps at home
 Upon her sister's breast.
It had been comfort in her woe
That her four brothers did not know:
Now she is more distressed.
O Korobona! time has passed;
 Thou art a mother now!
And lo! thy brothers, as they stand,
(The eldest with his club in hand),
 To slay thine infant vow.
"Kill not my baby girl," she cries;
 "Slay me—the mad and wild!
But she a gentle maid will be,
And serve you all most lovingly.
 O spare the helpless child!"
Why should I dwell upon this woe,
 With greater far to tell?
Their hearts were softened by her prayer,
They gave the infant to her care:
 Though grieved, they loved her well.
Of that young child we hear no more,
 And think she must have died.
Meanwhile the spirit of the lake
Most strangely would his pastime take,
 Near that bad waterside.

A snake immense, from tree to tree
 Disporting he was seen;
Or, in his human form, would stand
Where gentle ripplets mark the sand,
 Beneath the branches green;

And sometimes as a man above,
 With serpent form below;
Until the keepers said, "What hand
Can this dread 'Wahma's' power withstand?
 His nature who can know?"

And Korobona hears the tale
 Of him who fills her mind;
Then, heeding not her sister's prayer,
Steals to the lake, and watches there,
 Resolved the truth to find.
And long she waits beneath the trees
 Filled with strange hope and fear;
Whilst he, who can her presence spy,
In serpent form eludes her eye,
 Yet still is drawing near.

His head seems like a floating seed,
 By gentle breezes blown;
The tail, like filmy scum, is near
(Thus, seeking prey, such snakes appear),
 No other part is shown.
Why, Korobona, dost thou stoop,
 That floating seed to view?
He cries, triumphant, "Thou art mine!
Unto thy fate thyself resign!"
 And captures her anew.
The hapless Korobona now
 Lives in the woods alone;
Another babe there hides from view;
For if her fault her brothers knew
 Blood only could atone.
She weepeth sore for woes in store,
 Which she can well foresee;
But that fair boy her tears now warm,
Who shares in part his father's form,
 Her greatest grief is he.

Photo Source
Warau People
She, in the day which gave him birth,
 At first essayed to fly,
But soon returned to that deep glade,
In which the helpless one was laid,
 Drawn by his feeble cry.

And by her sister, kind and true,
 Who o'er her errors wept,
That secret (soon to be revealed,
For eyes and ears cannot be sealed)
 Hath faithfully been kept.
One, passing by, the infant's cry
 Heard, and upon her came.
Then told her brethren, hunting near;
And soon she saw the four appear,
 All wild with rage and shame!

Two of them dragged their sister home;
 Two turned the child to slay,
There lying, helpless, in their view:
They with an arrow pierced him through,
 And left him where he lay.

"The child is dead," the slayers said,
 "The mother mad and wild!"
They let her go to make his grave.
But knew not that the care she gave
 Revived that hapless child.
He grew far more than other babes
 In wisdom and in size;
And, still concealed in some thick tree,
Till he his mother's form could see,
 Would shun all other eyes.

With food she daily sought the woods
 Where he was doomed to stay,
And there held converse with her child;
Till sorrow, by their talk beguiled,
 Would seem to pass away.
But Korobona quite forgot
 That some her track might know—
Her track—by those small footprints shown!
Each brother then, her secret known,
 Prepared the shaft and bow.

"Oh, why," she said, "these arrows made,
 And these stone weapons too?"
The brothers gave her short reply,
Then through the woods they saw her fly,
 And hastened to pursue.
"Oh, hide me, mother, from their eyes,"
 The wretched victim said;
"Alas! why didst thou give me birth?
For I have found no place on earth,
 And now shall soon be dead!"

The mother, clinging to her son,
 Then screened him from his foes,
And left small space at which to aim,
Yet to its mark each arrow came
 From their unerring bows.

They cut him into pieces small,
 She cursed their cruelty:
"Vile slayers of the innocent!
The woes you fear will now be sent—
 And come through you, not me!
"See here your Korobona lie!
 This spot shall be her tomb,
Where this poor blood o'erspreads the ground.
Think on it when your woes abound,
 And Waraus meet their doom!"
Of her who watched her outcast dead
 (In mournful "Bible word"),
And "suffered neither bird nor beast"
Upon the loved remains to feast,
 My Warau never heard.

He never heard! yet in his tale
 We seemed the like to bear,
How vultures and wild beasts could see
A mother in her misery,
 And none would venture near;

While food her loving sister brought;
 She, that the heap might bloom.
Laid bright green leaves and flow'rets red
Upon the body of her dead,
 Which had no other tomb.

There, sweet and fragrant, still was found
 That spot, by blood defiled.
A mighty wonder happened then,
For that great change which waits all men
 Touched not the serpent child.
At length that heap, with flowers bedecked,
 Began with life to heave:
She seemed these words to hear, "Thy son
Shall now avenge his murder done:
 O mother, cease to grieve!"

And first a head and shoulders rose,
 Slow growing from that mound:
She saw a mighty form appear,
Well armed, to fill all foes with fear,
 With limbs complete and sound.

With weighty club the warrior stood,
 With bow and arrows keen;
White down adorned his short black hair,
His skin like copper shone, more fair
 Than with Waraus had been.

And with vermilion were besmeared,
 Like blood, his cheeks and brow.
Thus the first CARIB stern arose,
A warrior strong to smite his foes,
 Dread sight to each Warau!
The brethren four their warriors called,
 Appalled that sight to see;
But few to face his club would dare,
All those who did he slaughtered there,
 And forced the rest to flee.
No Warau could his strength withstand;
 Their arrows turned away.
Their warriors fled to save their lives,
While he their daughters took for wives.
 And all their goods for prey.

And as his children still increased,
 They took the Warau's place.
Invincible, from Wahma sprung!
Though still (by mother) they belong
 To our despiséd race."
And now my tale is done at last;
 My people's fate you know,
Who from the heavens, in days long past,
 Came down to earth below,
And since to swamps were driven, where now
You may behold the poor Warau!"

Photo Source Book Legends and Myths of the Aboriginal Indian of British Guiana
By William Henry Brett
Legends of the Arawaks
Mentioned in the beginning was the similarity to that of the Wawalag Sisters of Australia.

1988 - East Arnhem Land - Where the Myth Began - Yulunggul & the Wawalag Sisters from  website

The area known as Arnhem Land is culturally rich in its mythology. A reserve (now mostly under Aboriginal control) spans an area of 37,167 square miles and has two main culture divisions - the east and the west. Each has a number of distinct social groups whose members 'possess' myths from the creative era of the dreaming. Many of these are acted out in religious ritual or in open camp ceremonies.

In eastern Arnhem Land every Aboriginal person is a member of one dialet (Mada) group and clan (Mala) according to decent from a father. Each Mada-Mala combination belongs to one of two divisions or 'Moieties' called 'Dua' and 'Yiridja'. These divisions apply not just to people, but to everything in the known universe. The recognition of them forms a basic part of Aboriginal life. 

Photo Source
The Holey Dollar & The Dump
Wawalag Sisters
Lettering: Quarter Oz· The Dump· 999 Silver
· 1988 ·
The characters depicted on the reverse of the 1988 Holey Dollar and Dump are drawn from a story which is one of the most significant in eastern Arnham Land. It is one associated with fertility and the increase of the natural species, the proper sequence of seasons and all phenomena necessary for people's well-being. It is the story of the Wawalag (or Wagilag) Sisters. Some of the meaning of the story is secret/sacred, but what follows may be shared by all of us. There are various versions and some complex interpretations, this is one:
Long ago, in the early days of the dreaming, two sisters left their home at Ngiligidji to embark on a long journey to the north. The elder sister, Boaliri, took her infant son along with her. Her younger sister, Garangal, was due to bear a child along the way. The sisters were members of the Wawalag group that belonged to the dua moiety. The women carried stone spears and hunted many animals along the way - goanna, possum, bandicoot and kangaroo. They carried these in their big 'dilly bags' and collected yams to supplement their supplies. 

One day Garangal said to her sister, ' We must stop here, for the baby will soon be born'. Sure enough, she gave birth to a male child. When her strength returned, she gathered up the infant and continued with her sister until they reached Muruwul waterhole and they decided to stay and cook their food. They did not know that the land around the waterhole was taboo, because its waters were the home of Yulunggul, the great rock python who was a 'dua' headman.

Much to the sisters' surprise, as each animal was placed on the fire, it came back to life and jumped into the waterhole. This was their way of warning the sisters of the danger that faced them. The action of the animals disturbed Yulunggul, who started to get angry. The sisters, however, did not know they had done wrong and prepared to camp, gathering bark from a stringybark tree by the waterhole to make a shelter.

Yulunggul smelled the scent of the women and became incensed. He blew a mouthful of water into the air, forming great black thunder clouds. Lightning crashed and rain came pelting down. The sisters, frightened by the sudden storm, retreated into the hut with their children. In the stormy darkness, Yulunggul uncoiled himself from the depths of the waterhole and approached the hut, his eyes protruding like great lights, searching them out. Terrified, the sisters took turns in performing a series of dances, trying to stop him. But they could not keep him at bay for very long with their songs and dancing and at last they both fell asleep exhausted. Slowly, Tulunggul coiled his huge body around the hut, pushed his head through the doorway and swallowed them all, the children and their mothers - and according to some versions of the story, their dogs.

Next morning, Yulunggul reared up on his tail and proudly surveyed the flooded countryside around him. Other 'dua' moiety snakes stood up too, and began to talk to each other in voices like thunder. Eventually the conversation got around to food and Yulunggul was forced to admit that he had swallowed the sisters. This was a calamity because, like the sisters, he was of the 'dua' moiety and so had done wrong by eating them.

As soon as he had confessed to swallowing the Wawalag, he fell to the ground, spewing out the sisters alive, but retaining the children in his stomach, because they were of the opposite moiety division, 'yiridja'. At this time, the northern monsoonal season began in earnest, bringing relief from the long dry period, fertilising the earth so that all the natural species could grow and increase and provide food for human beings.

On hearing the thunderous noise, some of the Wawalag men hurried to the scene. When they saw a rainbow within the waterhole, they knew that Yulunggul must be in there beneath the surface. They made a symbol of the great python - a long, sinuous dijeridu, and lay down to sleep. As they slept, the sisters came to them in their dreams and, guided by their messages, the men re-enacted the songs and dances the sisters had performed to ward off the snake. These became the rituals that are carried out each year to encourage fertility and the natural passing of the seasons.

Photo Source

Carved and painted wooden images of three of the great figures of aboriginal myth below. The figure on the left is Laindjung, father of Banaidja and one of the great ancestral beings. His face is white with the foam of the sea from which he emerged. It was made by Langarang of the jiridja miety at Yirrkalla.

On the right are the Wawalag sisters. The smaller, younger sister wears the crossed string bindings or breast girdle to make the breasts strong. These superb figures were executed by the artist Mauwalan, at Yirrkalla. Images like this are sometimes used as rangga emblems and revealed at performances of ceremonial acts associated with the myths. Australian Institute of Anatomy, Canberra.

Photo Source

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Blessings of the Holidays

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, holly wreaths, decorated trees, mistletoe, season’s greetings, seasonal music, “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and Santa Claus are all associated with this holiday. These all bring warm feelings to those who celebrate it. Christmas is thought by most to be a wonderful time, focusing the participants on giving, family togetherness, beautiful music and decorations and feasting on special foods. 

Photo Source
We live in a world filled with customs, but few ever seek to understand their origin. We generally accept them without question. Most people basically do what everyone else does—because it is easy and natural!
Let’s carefully examine the roots of Christmas.

Nearly all aspects of Christmas observance have their roots in Roman custom and religion. Consider the following admission from a large American newspaper (The Buffalo News, Nov. 22, 1984): “The earliest reference to Christmas being marked on Dec. 25 comes from the second century after Jesus’ birth. It is considered likely the first Christmas celebrations were in reaction to the Roman Saturnalia, a harvest festival that marked the winter solstice—the return of the sun—and honoured Saturn, the god of sowing. Saturnalia was a rowdy time, much opposed by the more austere leaders among the still-minority Christian sect. Christmas developed, one scholar says, as a means of replacing worship of the sun with worship of the Son. By 529 A.D., after Christianity had become the official state religion of the Roman Empire, Emperor Justinian made Christmas a civic holiday. The celebration of Christmas reached its peak—some would say its worst moments—in the medieval period when it became a time for conspicuous consumption and unequalled revelry.”

Consider these quotes from the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition, under “Christmas”: “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church…The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.” Further, “Pagan customs centring round the January calends gravitated to Christmas.” Under “Natal Day,” Origin an early Catholic writer, admitted, “…In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world” (emphasis mine).

Photo Source
1915 Natal Day Lumsden

The Encyclopedia Americana, 1956 edition, adds, “Christmas…was not observed in the first centuries of the Christian church, since the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth…a feast was established in memory of this event [Christ’s birth] in the 4th century. In the 5th century the Western church ordered the feast to be celebrated on the day of the Mithraic rites of the birth of the sun and at the close of the Saturnalia, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.”

There is no mistaking the ORIGIN of the modern Christmas celebration. Many additional sources could be cited and we will return to this later. Let’s begin to tie some other facts together.

It was 300 years after Christ before the Roman church kept Christmas, and not until the fifth century that it was mandated to be kept throughout the empire as an official festival honouring “Christ.”

Previous quotes introduced the subject of the Saturnalia. Let’s carefully study just exactly who Saturn was. Consider the following quote from another large American newspaper, The Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, New York, December 1984: “The Roman festival of Saturnalia, Dec. 17-24, moved citizens to decorate their homes with greens and lights and give gifts to children and the poor. The Dec. 25 festival of natalis solis invicti, the birth of the unconquered sun, was decreed by the emperor Aurelian in A.D. 274 as a Winter Solstice celebration, and sometime (later)…was Christianized as a date to celebrate the birth of the Son of Light.”

Photo Source
Ruins of the Temple of Saturn (eight columns to the far right) in February 2010,
with three columns from the
Temple of Vespasian and
 (left) and the Arch of Septimius Severus (center)

Dr. William Gutsch, chairman of the American Museum of Natural History—Hayden Planetarium, further confirmed the original name of Christmas with this quote on December 18, 1989, in a Westchester, New York, newspaper, The Reporter Dispatch:

“The early Romans were not celebrating Christmas but rather a pagan feast called the Saturnalia. It occurred each year around the beginning of winter, or the winter solstice. This was the time when the sun had taken its lowest path across the sky and the days were beginning to lengthen, thus assuring another season of growth.

“If many of the trappings of the Saturnalia, however, seem to parallel what so many of us do today, we can see where we borrowed…our holiday traditions. And indeed, it has been suggested that while Christ was most likely not born in late December, the early Christians—then still an outlawed sect—moved Christmas to the time of the Saturnalia to draw as little attention as possible to themselves while they celebrated their own holiday.”

The Saturnalia, of course, celebrated Saturn—the fire god. Saturn was the god of sowing (planting) because heat from the sun was required to allow for planting and growth of crops. He was also worshipped in this dead-of-winter festival so that he would come back (he was the “sun”) and warm the earth again so that spring planting could occur. The planet Saturn was later named after him because, among all of the planets, with its rings and bright red colour, it best represented the god of fire!

Virtually every civilization has a fire/sun god. The Egyptians (and sometimes Romans) called him Vulcan. The Greeks named him Kronos, as did the Phoenicians—but they also called him Saturn. The Babylonians called him Tammuz (as Nimrod, resurrected in the person of his son), Molech or Baal (as did the Druids). These were all simply the various names for Nimrod. Nimrod was considered the father of all the Babylonian gods.

The above comes from  the website.

Photo Source
Saturn (Kronos)

December 25 had already been identified by Sextus Julius Africanus in AD 221 as the day on which Christmas would be celebrated, and it was celebrated in Rome by AD 336. During the Middle Ages Christmas became extremely popular, and various liturgical celebrations of the holiday were established. The practice of exchanging gifts had begun by the 15th century. The Yule log, cakes, and fir trees derive from German and Celtic customs. Christmas today is regarded as a family festival with gifts brought by Santa Claus. As an increasingly secular festival, it has come to be celebrated by many non-Christians.

I have celebrated and enjoyed Christmas my whole life. The only way to differentiate 25th December from any of the other 364 days of the year is to call it Christmas. It is a day when we take the time out (we are forced to by businesses shutting and workplaces having this day as a public holiday) to spend time with those in our lives who are most significant. Families gather from great distances in some cases to share in joyous time feasting and sharing in the love they share. This is a very important custom as the year continues and lives get busy it is sometimes the only gathering that some families have each year where they stop and rejoice in the love and life they share.

We see the lights on the Christmas Tree, the faces of the children embracing the celebration of the day with Santa and the magic that he brings. Celebrating togetherness of family, love, giving, hope and magic - all this can bring warm feeling of love to all those involved. It is in the acceptance of YOU and the celebration that surrounds you that you feel and integrate the true meaning of Christmas.

I wish everyone a joyous day filled with love, just sit with the feeling and allow it to seep into every cell of your being, then carry that love with you throughout the coming year.

Click below and I will dance across your screen and wish you a wonderful day. 

Boxing Day

In English-speaking countries, the day following Christmas Day is called 'Boxing Day'. This word comes from the custom which started in the Middle Ages around 800 years ago: churches would open their 'alms boxe' (boxes in which people had placed gifts of money) and distribute the contents to poor people in the neighbourhood on the day after Christmas. The tradition continues today - small gifts are often given to delivery workers such as postal staff and children who deliver newspapers.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Litha - Summer Solstice

Midsummer is also sometimes referred to by neopagans and others as Litha.

Here in Australia we celebrate on 21st December this year whereas in Europe a day between June 21 and June 24 the exact dates vary between different cultures is celebrated. 

Known by many names Summer Solstice, Litha, Alban Hefin, Sun Blessing, Gathering Day, Feill-Sheathain, Whit Sunday, Whitsuntide, Vestalia, Thing-tide, St. John's Day.

In addition to the four great festivals of the Pagan Celtic year, there are four lesser holidays as well: the two solstices, and the two equinoxes. The Summer Solstice is one of them.

According to the old folklore calendar, Summer begins on Beltane (November 1st) and ends on Lammas/Lughnassadh (February 1st), with the Summer Solstice midway between the two, marking Mid-Summer. It celebrates when the hours of daylight are longest. The Sun is now at the highest point before beginning its slide into darkness.

Humanity has been celebrating Litha and the triumph of light since ancient times. On the Wheel of the Year Litha lies directly across from Yule, the shortest day of the calendar year, that cold and dark winter turning when days begin to lengthen and humanity looks wistfully toward warmth, sunlight and growing things. The joyous rituals of Litha celebrate the verdant Earth in high summer, abundance, fertility, and all the riches of Nature in full bloom. This is a madcap time of strong magic and empowerment, traditionally the time for handfasting or weddings and for communication with the spirits of Nature. At Litha, the veils between the worlds are thin; the portals between "the fields we know" and the worlds beyond stand open. This is an excellent time for rites of divination.

Photo Source
Those who celebrated Litha did so wearing garlands or crowns of flowers, and of course, their millinery always included the yellow blossoms of St. John's Wort. The Litha rites of the ancients were boisterous communal festivities with morris dancing, singing, storytelling, pageantry and feasting taking place by the village bonfire and torch lit processions through the villages after dark. People believed that the Litha fires possessed great power, and that prosperity and protection for oneself and one's clan could be earned merely by jumping over the Litha bonfire. It was also common for courting couples joined hands and jump over the embers of the Litha fire three times to ensure a long and happy marriage, financial prosperity and many children. Even the charred embers from the Litha bonfire possessed protective powers - they were charms against injury and bad weather in harvest time, and embers were commonly placed around fields of grain and orchards to protect the crops and ensure an abundant reaping. Other Litha customs included carrying an ember of the Litha fire home and placing it on one's hearth and decking one's home with birch, fennel, St. John's Wort, orpin, and white lilies for blessing and protection.

Litha is the season of expansion, when the crops burgeon forth. We forget winters cares and spend our days basking under the brilliant light. From now until Yule, the light will fade into darkness.

This is the time of lovers and gardeners. The rutting fervor of Beltane has deepened into the passionate eroticism that grows when partners become familiar with one anothers rhythms and moods. It is the love between those committed by heart as well as body. It is also the love of parents for their children (be they two- or four-legged!). Everywhere we look, ripeness spills out from field and forest.

Litha is the height of the Divine Marriage, then the Oak King falls, His vigor and prime giving way to the sagacity of the Holly King, even as the Goddess prepares Herself for harvest and Cronehood.

Photo Source

The Litha Sabbat is a time to celebrate both work and leisure, it is a time for children and childlike play. It is a time to celebrate the ending of the waxing year and the beginning of the waning year, in preparation for the harvest to come. Midsummer is a time to absorb the Sun's warming rays and it is another fertility Sabbat, not only for humans, but also for crops and animals. Wiccans consider the Goddess to be heavy with pregnancy from the mating at Beltane - honour is given to Her. 

At the Summer Solstice, the Goddess is the Generous Mother, Freya, Flora, Habondia, she who gives life and fruitfulness to all her children. Everything in nature is generous - otherwise we could not live. The apple tree makes hundreds of apples every year, when only one seed in one apple would be enough to reproduce the tree. Bees make honey so that the hive can survive the winter, but they keep on working all summer long, storing enough to share. Life could exist without climbing roses, striped butterflies, songbirds, raspberries, or wildflowers, but the Goddess keeps making new forms of beauty for us to enjoy.

The Goddess at Summer Solstice gives us not just what we need, but extra. We can feel close to her by being generous, giving more than were asked to give, and doing more than just our fair share. That way, we make abundance for all.

The rose is the Goddesss symbol at this time of year. Roses bloom abundantly, and we can take joy in their sweet scent and the lovely colors of their petals. Another of her flowers are the white blossoms of the elder.

Photo Source
The Sun God is celebrated as the Sun is at its peak in the sky and we celebrate His approaching fatherhood - honour is also given to Him. 

All through the first half of the year, since his birth at the Winter Solstice, the God has been growing into this life in the visible, tangible world. Now, at the Summer Solstice, he transforms. The daylight is longest and strongest at this time, but now the power of night must begin to grow again. Everything and everyone who fulfils their purpose must change. The God dies in this world in order to be born into the Other-world. 

Before, he was awake in this world and asleep in the Dream-world  Now he becomes the Dreamer, asleep in this world but awake in the world of dreams and visions, the seed of what will come to be in this world. He becomes the Messenger, carrying our hopes and prayers to the spirit realms.

The God is also the partner of the Goddess, bringing abundance to all of nature. He is Lugh, the Sun God, and he is the ancient power of life who was known simply as the Good God, Keeper of the Crops, provider for his people.

The faeries abound at this time and it is customary to leave offerings - such as food or herbs - for them in the evening.

Litha is a time to find a balance between fire and water. According to Ceisiwr Serith, in his book The Pagan Family, European traditions celebrated this time of year by setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into a body of water. He suggests that this may be because this is when the sun is at its strongest yet also the day at which it begins to weaken. Another possibility is that the water mitigates the heat of the sun, and subordinating the sun wheel to water may prevent drought. This is a time of year of brightness and warmth. Crops are growing in their fields with the heat of the sun, but may require water to keep them alive.

For contemporary Wiccans and Pagans, this is a day of inner power and brightness. Find yourself a quiet spot and mediate on the darkness and the light both in the world and in your personal life. 

Photo Source

Tools, Symbols & Decorations
The sun, oak, birch & fir branches, sun flowers, lilies, red/maize/yellow or gold flower, love amulets, seashells, summer fruits & flowers, feather/flower door wreath, sun wheel, fire, circles of stone, sun dials and swords/blades, bird feathers, Witches' ladder.

Blue, green, gold, yellow and red.

Bonfires, processions, all night vigil, singing, feasting, celebrating with others, cutting divining rods, dowsing rods & wands, herb gathering, handfastings, weddings, Druidic gathering of mistletoe in oak groves, needfires, leaping between two fires, mistletoe (without berries, use as a protection amulet), enjoying the seasonal fruits & vegetables, honour the Mother's fullness, richness and abundance, put garlands of St. John’s Wort placed over doors/ windows & a sprig in the car for protection.

Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Venus, Aphrodite, Yemaya, Astarte, Freya, Hathor, Ishtar, all Goddesses of love, passion, beauty and the Sea, and Pregnant lusty Goddesses, Green Forest Mother; Great One of the Stars, Goddess of the Wells

Father Sun/Sky, Oak King, Holly King, Arthur, Gods at peak power and strength.

Animals/Mythical Beings
Wren, robin, horses, cattle, satyrs, faeries, firebird, dragon, thunderbird

Lapis lazuli, diamond, tiger’s eye, all green gemstones, especially emerald and jade

Anise, mugwort, chamomile, rose, wild rose, oak blossoms, lily, cinquefoil, lavender, fennel, elder, mistletoe, hemp, thyme, larkspur, nettle, wisteria, vervain ( verbena), St. John’s wort, heartsease, rue, fern, wormwood, pine,heather, yarrow, oak & holly trees

Heliotrope, saffron, orange, frankincense & myrrh, wisteria, cinnamon, mint, rose, lemon, lavender, sandalwood, pine

Nature spirit/fey communion, planet healing, divination, love & protection magicks. The battle between Oak King, God of the waxing year & Holly King, God of the waning year (can be a ritual play), or act out scenes from the Bard’s (an incarnation of Merlin) "A Midsummer Night’s Dream", rededication of faith, rites of inspiration.

Honey, fresh vegetables, lemons, oranges, summer fruits, summer squash, pumpernickel bread, ale, carrot drinks, mead.

Photo Source
Midsummer is especially important in the cultures of Scandinavia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia where it is the most celebrated holiday apart from Christmas.

In Austria the midsummer solstice is celebrated each year with a spectacular procession of ships down the Danube River as it flows through the wine growing Wachau Valley just north of Vienna. Up to 30 ships sail down the river in line as fireworks erupt from the banks and hill tops while bonfires blaze and the vineyards are lit up. Lighted castle ruins also erupt with fireworks during the 90-minute cruise downstream.

In Brazil Portuguese St. John's Day, brought to Brazil during colonial times, has become a popular event that is celebrated during a period that starts one week before St. Anthony's Day (June 12) and ends after St. Peter's Day (June 29). Two northeastern towns in particular have competed with each other for the title of "Biggest Saint John Festival in the World", namely Caruaru (in the state of Pernambuco), and Campina Grande, in Paraiba. The celebrations are very colourful and festive and include the use of fireworks and bonfires.
Photo Source
In Bulgaria on Midsummer day Bulgarians celebrate the so-called Enyovden. On the same day the Eastern Orthodox church celebrates the day of John the Baptist and the rites and traditions of both holidays are often mixed. 

In Quebec Canada, the celebration of June 24 was brought to New France by the first French colonists. Great fires were lit at night. The first celebrations of St John's Day in New France took place around 1638.  In 1908, Pope Pius X designated John the Baptist as the patron saint of the French-Canadians. In 1925, June 24 became a legal holiday in Quebec and in 1977, it became the secular National Holiday of Quebec. It still is the tradition to light great fires on the night of the 24th of June.

In Croatia, midsummer is called Ivanje (Ivan being Croation for John). It is celebrated on June 23, mostly in rural areas. Festivals celebrating Ivanje are held across the country. According to the tradition, bonfires (Ivanjski krijesovi) are built on the shores of lakes, near rivers or on the beaches for the young people to jump over the flames.

In Denmark, the solstice celebration is called sankthans or sankthansaften ("St. John's Eve"). It was an official holiday until 1770, and in accordance with the Danish tradition of celebrating a holiday on the evening before the actual day, it takes place on the evening of 23 June. It is the day where the medieval wise men and women (the doctors of that time) would gather special herbs that they needed for the rest of the year to cure people.

It has been celebrated since the times of the Vikings by visiting healing water wells and making a large bonfire to ward away evil spirits. Today the water well tradition is gone. Bonfires on the beach, speeches, picnics and songs are traditional, although bonfires are built in many other places where beaches may not be close by. In the 1920s a tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth (probably made by the elder women of the family on the bonfire emerged as a remembrance of the church's witch burnings from 1540 to 1693. This burning sends the "witch" away to Bloksbjerg, the Brocken mountain in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day. 

Photo Source
Danes on the riverbank

Estonia "Jaanipaev" ("John's Day" in English) was celebrated long before the arrival of Christianity in Estonia, although the day was given its name by the crusaders. The arrival of Christianity, however, did not end pagan beliefs and fertility rituals surrounding this holiday. Midsummer marks a change in the farming year, specifically the break between the completion of spring sowing and the hard work of summer hay-making.
The best-known Jaanik, or midsummer, ritual is the lighting of the bonfire and jumping over it. This is seen as a way of guaranteeing prosperity and avoiding bad luck. Likewise, to not light the fire is to invite the destruction of your house by fire. The fire also frightened away mischievous spirits who avoided it at all costs, thus ensuring a good harvest. So, the bigger the fire, the further the mischievous spirits stayed away.
Since 1934, June 23 is also national Victory Day of Estonia and both 23rd and 24th are holidays and flag days. 

On the Faroe Islands St. John's Eve (jóansøka) is generally not celebrated. However, on the southernmost island of Suouroy it is observed by lighting a bonfire. Only one bonfire is lit on the island as one of the two biggest towns hosts the celebration alternately every other year.

Finland Midsummer bonfire in Seurasaari are very common where many people spend their midsummer in the countryside outside towns. Before 1316, the summer solstice was called Ukon juhla, after the Finnish god Ukko. In Karelian tradition, many bonfires were burned side by side, the biggest of which was called Ukko-kokko (the "bonfire of Ukko"). After the celebrations were Christianised, the holiday became known as juhannus after John the Baptist (Finnish: Johannes Kastaja). In the Finnish midsummer celebration, bonfires (Finnish kokko) are very common and are burnt at lakesides and by the sea. Often two young birch trees (koivu) are placed on either side of the front door to welcome visitors. Swedish speaking Finns often celebrate by erecting a midsummer or maypole (Swedish midsommarstång, majstång). Midsummerday is also the day of the Finnish Flag. The flag is hoisted at 6 pm on Midsummer eve and flown all night till 9 pm the following evening.

Photo Source
In France, the "Fête de la Saint-Jean" (feast of St John), traditionally celebrated with bonfires (le feu de la Saint-Jean) that are reminiscent of Midsummer's pagan rituals, is a catholic festivity in celebration of Saint John the Baptist. It takes place on June 24, on Midsummer day (St John's day). In certain French towns, a tall bonfire is built by the inhabitants in order to be lit on St John's Day. In the Vosges region and in the Southern part of Meurthe-et-Moselle, this huge bonfire is named "chavande".

The day of sun solstice is called Sommersonnenwende in German. On June 20, 1653 the Nuremberg town council issued the following order: "Where experience herefore have shown, that after the old heathen use, on John's day in every year, in the country, as well in towns as villages, money and wood have been gathered by young folk, and there upon the so-called sonnenwendt or zimmet fire kindled, and thereat winebibbing, dancing about the said fire, leaping over the same, with burning of sundry herbs and flowers, and setting of brands from the said fire in the fields, and in many other ways all manner of superstitious work carried on---Therefore the Hon. Council of Nürnberg town neither can nor ought to forbear to do away with all such unbecoming superstition, paganism, and peril of fire on this coming day of St. John." Bonfires are still a custom in many areas of Germany. People gather to watch the bonfire and celebrate solstice.

Photo Source
Bonfire in Freilburg im Breisgau

In Greece according to Eastern Orthodox tradition the eve of the day of the Nativity of John the Baptist is celebrated with festivals in many towns and villages, both in the mainland and in the Greek isles. Traditionally the midsummers celebration is called Klidonas (Κλήδονας) meaning sign or oracle, and was considered a time when unmarried girls would discover their potential mates through a ritual. It is also customary to this day to burn the Mayday wreaths that are used to decorate the doors of the houses for the previous two months, in large communal bonfires, accompanied by music, dancing and jumping over the flames.

On June 21 Hungarians celebrate "Saint Ivan's Night" (Szentiván-éj). The whole month of June was once called Month of St. Ivan until the 19th century. Setting fires is a folklore tradition this night. Girls jumped over it, while boys watched the spectacular.Most significant among the customs of the summer is lighting the fire of Midsummer Night (szentiváni tűzgyújtás) on the day of St. John (June 24), when the sun follows the highest course, when the nights are the shortest and the days the longest. The practice of venerating St. John the Baptist developed in the Catholic Church during the 5th century, and at this time they put his name and day on June 24. Naturally, the summer solstice was celebrated among most peoples, so the Magyars may have known it even before the Conquest. The custom survived longest and in the most complete form in the north-western part of the linguistic region, where as late as the 1930s they still lit a Midsummer Night fire. People jumped over the fire after they lit it. 

Iran Tiregan (Persian: تیرگان‎) is the ancient Iranian festival coinciding with the mid summer festivals.

In Ireland many towns and cities have 'Midsummer Carnivals' with fairs, concerts and fireworks either on or on the weekend nearest to Midsummer. In rural spots particularly the north-west, bonfires are lit on hilltops. This tradition harks back to pagan times and is now associated with "St. John's Night". 

In Italy the feast of Saint John the Baptist has been celebrated in Florence from medieval times, and certainly in the Renaissance, with festivals sometimes lasting three days from 21 to 24 June. Such celebrations are held nowadays in Cesena from June 21 to 24, also with a special street market. Saint John the Baptist is the patron saint of Genoa, Florence and Turin where a fireworks display takes place during the celebration on the river. In Jersey most of the former midsummer customs are largely ignored nowadays. The custom known as Les cônes d'la Saint Jean was observed as late as the 1970s - horns or conch shells were blown. Ringing the bachîn (a large brass preserving pan) at midsummer to frighten away evil spirits survived as a custom on some farms until the 1940s and has been revived as a folk performance in the 21st century.

In Lativa, Midsummer is called Jani (Jānis being Latvian for John) or Ligo svētki (svētki = festival). It is a national holiday celebrated on a large scale by almost everyone in Latvia and by people of Latvian origin abroad. Celebrations consist of a lot of traditional and mostly Pagan elements - eating Jāņi cheese (special recipe with caraway seeds), drinking beer, baking pīrāgi, singing hundreds of Latvian folk songs dedicated to Jāņi, burning bonfire to keep light all through the night and jumping over it, wearing wreaths of flowers (for women) and oak leaves (for men) together with modern commercial products and ideas. People decorate their houses and lands with birch or sometimes oak branches and flowers as well as leaves, especially fern. In rural areas livestock is also decorated. In modern days small oak branches with leaves are attached to the cars in Latvia during the festivity. Jāņi has been a strong aspect of Latvian culture throughout history, originating in pre-Christian Latvia as an ancient fertility cult.

Photo source
Lativa Jani
Midsummer is commonly called John's Day (Joninės) in Lithuania, and is also known as Saint Jonas' Festival, Rasos (Dew Holiday), Kupolė, Midsummer Day and St. John's Day. It is celebrated in the night from the 23rd of June to the 24th of June. The traditions include singing songs and dancing until the sun sets, telling tales, searching to find the magic fern blossom at midnight, jumping over bonfires, greeting the rising midsummer sun and washing the face with a morning dew, young girls float flower wreaths on the water of river or lake. These are customs brought from pagan culture and beliefs. 

As in Denmark, Sankthansaften is celebrated on June 23 in Norway. The day is also called Jonsok, which means "John's wake", important in Roman Catholic times with pilgrimages to churches and holy springs. For instance, up until 1840 there was a pilgrimage to the stave church in Roldal (southwest Norway) whose crucifix was said to have healing powers. Today, however,Sankthansaften is largely regarded as a secular or even pre-Christian event. In most places the main event is the burning of a large bonfire. In parts of Norway a custom of arranging mock marriages, both between adults and between children, is still kept alive. The wedding was meant to symbolize the blossoming of new life. Such weddings are known to have taken place in the 1800s, but the custom is believed to be older. It is also said that if a girl puts flowers under her pillow that night, she will dream of her future husband.

Photo Source
Norwegian St Hansbal (bonfire) in Bergen.
Especially in northern Poland – the Eastern Pomeranian and Kashubian regions – midsummer is celebrated on June 23. People dress in traditional Polka dress, and girls throw wreaths made of flowers into the Baltic Sea, and into lakes or rivers. The midsummer day celebration starts at about 8:00 p.m. and lasts all night until sunrise. People celebrate this special day every year and call it Noc Świętojańska which means St. John's Night. On that day in big Polish cities (like Warsaw and Krakow) there are many organized events, called the Wianki, which means wreaths.

In Portugal, Midsummer festivities are included in what is known today as Santos Populares (Popular Saints celebrations), now corresponding to different municipal holidays: St Anthony's Day in Lisbon and Vila Real (June 13), St John's Day in Porto, Braga,Figueira da Foz, Vila do Conde, and Almada (June 24), St Peter's day in Seixal, Sintra, Povoa de Varzim, and Barcelos (June 29). Saints’ days are full of fun and merriment. The streets are decorated with balloons and arches made out of brightly coloured paper; people dance in the city's small squares, and altars, dedicated to the saints, are put up as a way of asking for good fortune. These holidays are days of festivities with good food and refreshments, people eat Caldo Verde (cabbage and potato soup), Sardinha Assada (grilled sardines), bread and drink red wine and água-pé (grape juice with a small percentage of alcohol).

Photo Source
St John's festival in Porto
In Romania, the Midsummer celebrations are named Dragaica or Sanziene. Drăgaica is celebrated by a dance performed by a group of 5-7 young girls of which one is chosen as the Drăgaica. She is dressed as a bride, with wheat wreath, while the other girls, dressed in white wear a veil with bedstraw flowers. Midsummer fairs are held in many Romanian villages and cities. The oldest and best known midsummer fair in Romania is the Dragaica fair, held in Buzau between 10 and 24 June every year. 

Ivan Kupala was the old Russian name for John the Baptist. Up to the present day, the Russian Midsummer Night (or Ivan's Day) is known as one of the most expressive Russian folk and pagan holidays. Ivan Kupala Day is the day of summer solstice celebrated in Russia and Ukraine on June 23 NS and July 6 OS. This is a pagan fertility rite, which has been accepted into the Orthodox Christian calendar. Many rites of this holiday are connected with water, fertility and auto-purification. The girls, for example, would float their flower garlands on the water of rivers and tell their fortunes from their movement. Lads and girls would jump over the flames of bonfires. Nude bathing is likewise practised.

The Yakut people of the Sakha Republic celebrate a solstitial ceremony, Ysyakh, involving tethering a horse to a pole and circle dancing around it. Betting on Reindeer or horse racing would often take place afterward. The traditions are derived from Tengriism, the ancient sun religion of the region which has since been driven out by the Russian Orthodox Church and finally the Communist Party. The traditions have since been encouraged.

In Serbia Ivanjdan is celebrated on July 7, according to the Serbian Orthodox Church Saint John (Sveti Jovan) is known by the name Igritelj (dancer) because it is thought the sun is dancing on this day. Among traditions are that girls watch the sunrise through their wreath, to become red as the sun, towards the evening in the heights, Ivanjske vatre (kresovi, bonfire) are lit, and dancing and singing takes place. It is a tradition for people to become Godfathers and blood brothers on this day, as John is a symbol of character and  rectitude.

The traditional midsummer party in Spain is the celebration in honour of San Juan (St. John the Baptist) and takes place in the evening of June 23. It is common in many areas of the country. Bonfires are traditionally named tequeos, which means people of the dance. Parties are organised usually at beaches, where bonfires are lit and a set of firework displays usually take place. On the Mediterranean coast, especially in Catalonia and Valencia, special foods such as Coca de Sant Joan are also served on this occasion.

Midsummer tradition is also especially strong in northern areas of the country, such as Galicia, where one can easily identify the rituals that reveal the pagan beliefs widespread throughout Europe in neolithic times. These beliefs pivot on three basic ideas: the importance of medicinal plants (fennel, rosemary, lemon verbena as just a few), especially in relation to health, youth and beauty; the protective character of fire to ward men off evil spirits and witches and, finally, the purifying, miraculous effects of water.  Tradition holds it that the medicinal plants mentioned above are most effective when dipped in water collected from seven different springs. Also, on some beaches, it was traditional for women who wanted to be fertile to bathe in the sea until they were washed by 9 waves.

Photo Source
Almadrava Beach - Spain
In modern Sweden, Midsummer's Eve and Midsummer's Day (Midsommarafton and Midsommardagen) were formerly celebrated on 23 June and 24 June, but since 1953 the celebration has been moved to the Friday and Saturday between 19 June and 26 June with the main celebrations taking place on Friday. It is one of the most important holidays of the year in Sweden, and probably the most uniquely Swedish in the way it is celebrated. Raising and dancing around a maypole (majstång or midsommarstång) is an activity that attracts families and many others. Before the maypole is raised, greens and flowers are collected and used to cover the entire pole. People dancing around the pole listen to traditional music and sing songs such as Sma grodorna associated with the holiday. Some wear traditional folk costumes or crowns made of wild springs and wildflowers on their heads. The year's first potatoes, Soused herring, Chives, Sour Cream, Beer, Snaps and the first strawberries of the season are on the menu. Because Midsummer was thought to be one of the times of the year when magic was strongest, it was considered a good night to perform rituals to look into the future. Traditionally, young people pick bouquets of seven or nine different flowers and put them under their pillow in the hope of dreaming about their future spouse. 

Photo Source
Midsummer celebration Arsnas Sweden

In Great Britian from the 13th century, Midsummer was celebrated on Midsummer Eve (St. John's Eve, June 23) and St. Peter's Eve (June 28) with the lighting of bonfires, feasting and merrymaking. Traditional Midsummer bonfires are still lit on some high hills in Cornwall. This tradition was revived by the Old Cornwall Society in the early 20th century. Bonfires in Cornwall were once common as part of Golowan, which is now celebrated at Penzance, Cornwall. This week long festival normally starts on the Friday nearest St John's Day. Golowan lasts several days and culminates in Mazey Day. This is a revival of the Feast of St John (Gol-Jowan) with fireworks and bonfires.

Midsummer festivals are celebrated throughout Scotland, notably in the Scottish Borders where Peebles holds its Beltane Week.

In Wales it is called Gŵyl Ifan, or Gŵyl Ifan Ganol Haf (St John's of Midsummer) to distinguish it from Gŵyl Ifan Ganol Gaeaf (St John's of Midwinter, the feast of John the Evangelist). Great agricultural fairs used to be held at this time, along with merriment and dancing. A bonfire was also kept this night. Since 1977, a folk-dance revival started in Cardiff, and is held now annually on this feast day.

Photo Source
Tansys Golowan - A cornish hilltop bonfire
Midsummer celebrations held throughout the United States are largely derived from the cultures of immigrants who arrived from various European nations since the 19th century.

The NYC Swedish Midsummer celebrations in Battery Park NYC, attracts some 3,000-5,000 people annually, which makes it one of the largest celebrations after the ones held in Ledsand and at the Skansen Park in Stockholm. Swedish Midsummer is also celebrated in other places with large Swedish and Scandinavian populations.

The Seattle Washington neighbourhood of Fremont puts on a large Summer Solstice Parade and Pageant. In St. Edwards Park in Kenmore, the Skandia Folkdance Society hosts Midsommarfest, which includes a Scandinavian solstice pole.

A solstitial celebration is held on Casper Mountain in Wyoming at Crimson Dawn park. The celebration is attended by many people from the community, and from around the country. A large bonfire is held and all are invited to throw a handful of red soil into the fire in hopes that they get their wish granted.

Tucson has announced its first annual Earthwalk Solstice celebration, with sister events in San Francisco, Jerusalem, and other communities around the world. The event features a walk through a giant labyrinth, musicians, healers, ceremony, etc. In Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the large number of Finnish and other northern European descendants celebrate Juhannus annually by holding a beachfront bonfire on the Saturday following the first day of summer.