Friday, June 21, 2013

Bonfires and Visions (Repost!)

Reposting my midsummer post from last year, though this time I'm actually posting it on the solstice (the actual date of Midsummer, though in Portugal it's celebrated on St. John's eve/day... two days from now.) Still, this is one of my favorite times of the year for all the old Celtic and Ibero-celtic traditions my grandmother used to tell me about:

There's magic in the simple fountain* in my family's village. According to legend, if a girl drinks its water in the middle of the night on Midsummer's eve, she will dream of the man she is meant to marry.

If you believe in the old traditions, that is.

And if you believe in these traditions, you probably would have already jumped the midsummer bonfires, maybe while holding hands with the boy in town who had stolen your heart. Because, you know, jumping the bonfire means that you will stay together.  And, of course, you would also have devoted a few minutes to setting out a glass filled with water and an egg for another 'bout of pre-sunrise fortune telling.

Anything is possible on Midsummer.

A lot of this folklore is amazingly similar to Midsummer traditions throughout Europe. Generation upon generation of girls dreamed of the boys they would love. Will o' the wisps were chased through forests. Magic and wonder wove into the everyday for just one night a year.

These customs are dying out with my grandparents' generation as young people move overseas or to the city, or push away "silly old superstitions." Sadly, because they stretch back centuries, back to before Christianity replaced "Midsummer" with the feast of St. John. I still think the magic is there, waiting. All you need to do is take a sip and believe.

*These aren't the jumping water kind-of fountains, but usually just spigots of continuously running spring water from the mountains or faucets connected to a communal well. Before modern water towers and plumbing, families who didn't have their own wells were dependent on the town fountain for their drinking/cleaning/bathing water. Many towns still test the water to make sure it's drinkable, and many fountains still run to this day.

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