Back in the day…
The life of our ancestors was totally ruled by the sun, and as they lived in mimicry with nature, they observed that there was a season in the natural cycles in which the sun seemed to lose its strength and therefore, the days became shorter.
These ancestors feared that the star would lose its power and the darkness would settle on the face of the earth, so they began to perform rituals and celebrations to keep the sun happy when it began to be noticed in all its splendor, and this must have been the origin of the magical Night of Saint John.
But how did they explain the short duration of the night at that particular time?
The legend of the longest night of the year…
Perhaps the oldest legend that explains this phenomenon is the one that assures that the Sun, considered as a divinity, had fallen in love with Earth, so much so that there was a day that it resisted to abandon his lover. This was taken as a symbol of fertility, and hence the Sun God was honored with bonfires and rituals in which the waters were also included.
As I have already commented in the previous post, the Celts celebrated the Alban Heruin, with great bonfires to achieve the blessing of the gods in the fertility of their women and the land of their crops. They divided the year into two semesters, the first, Samos, semester of light; and the second, Gamos, semester of shadows. The summer solstice marked the beginning of the second semester, Gamos, which ended in winter or Samhain, aka Halloween nowadays.
The Germanic celebrated the Litha, with great bonfires to frighten the evil spirits that camped freely at sunset.
The Phoenicians worshipped Baal, a divinity assimilated with the sun, who died at the end of June and rose on the third day. The temples built in his honor were oriented towards the birth of the solar star, and there the priest celebrated this rite of death and resurrection in a very private environment.
In ancient Greece, the Kronia festival was held in honour of Kronos. On that day, nobody worked to earn a living, so social hierarchy and morality were set aside.
The Romans celebrated the date of the marriage between Jupiter and Juno, a day dedicated to fertility, fire and water.
With Christianity, the solstice was made match with the 24th of June, day of the birth of Saint John the Babtist, according to the Holy Bible.
The adoption of the tradition of bonfires is also explained in the sacred texts, since it is said that the father of Saint John the Baptist, Zechariah, ordered to set bonfires to announce the birth of his son.
How do we currently celebrate Saint John in the province of Cadiz?
In the bay of the province of Cadiz, we usually gather together by the beach to set the traditional bonfires. In some villages they follow the tradition of burning the juanillos, two rag dolls named John and Johanna. By burning them, people leave behind evil and thus purify everything they want to forget.
The night baths in the shore are also traditional, since it is considered that sea waters have healing properties, fertile and good omens.
Nevertheless, it is a night to enjoy with family and friends by the beach, to gather around the bonfire, to throw into the flames the written notes with all those things that we want to forget, take a swim in the sea, watch the fireworks, and for the brave ones, jumping through the bonfires as many times as necessary to win the protection of the good fortune.
And you, how do you celebrate Saint John night?
Since the celebration extends to almost every corner of the planet, I will love to know how you celebrate this magical night…. Don’t forget to share and leave your comments! Thank you.