June 26, 2009

Past The "Night Of Magic".

I guess a better title would be "I am back, do you still remember me?", but I decided to dedicate my first post after my absence to the Midsummer celebration. Not to worry, I intend to fully summarize my wonderful vacation in a few posts in the near future.

Although they say that '...time flies when you are having fun...', I feel as though I have been gone for weeks and weeks, due to all that I have experienced and seen. I will do my very best to visit all your wonderful blogs, catching up on all the lovely posts that I have missed, but forgive me if it will take me a short while to do so.

I traveled back by train on the the 24th of June, which is the Day of St John and therefore missed the annual St John's Eve celebration, taking place the evening before. This is the Danish variant of the summer solstice or Midsummer observance.
It is a special time here in Scandinavia, celebrated slightly differently in each of its countries. In Sweden where I grew up, this was the second major annual holiday, right after Christmas. In Denmark, on the evening before St John's Day, everyone burns bonfires on beaches, a celebration that has its origins in the time of the Vikings.

In the Slovak folklore, where my roots lie, the night of St John was the night of magic. Slightly linked to similar traditions as the Scandinavian, people believed that certain secret portals were opened and creatures could cross into our world, thus one would burn fires for protection. Furthermore, there was the tale of the golden fern. This was a magical fern which would bloom exactly at midnight on St Johns Night and anyone who would pick it right then could become invisible and see all the treasures of the earth. Likewise, people would be (and some still are to this day) picking healing plants as they were attributed special potency around Midsummer. Placing nine different flowers under the pillow on St Johns Night would guarantee any dreams dreamed on that night to come true.

I like all the traditions linked to the celebration of the sun and its wonderfully healing powers. In some way, I find it amusing and to some degree comforting that despite all the technology and the speed and innovation, with which our lives progress so very relentlessly forward, most of us still like the idea of celebrating that which is magical, symbolically or otherwise.
Personally, I love Midsummer. But even more I endlessly enjoy the anticipation of the longest day of the year. As soon as it passes, it leaves me with a trace of a bittersweet realization that even though the summer has just begun, the days are slowly getting shorter again.

The below pictures were taken on the other side of midnight on the night of St John. I tried to illustrate the natural wonder that is the Scandinavian Midsummer Night Sky, by taking photographs of the simultaneous sunset and sunrise. As seen on pictures captured much better by others in Denmark, the sky did appear truly magical, as on that night the eastern part was covered by "iridescent clouds", illuminated by the setting/rising sun in an unusual way. This phenomenon is only possible to experience during summer months, when the sun is positioned about 5-13° below the horizon in the late night hours and illuminates extremely distant clouds situated some 80km above the earth in exceptionally cold surroundings (down to -100°C).
This set of pictures oncludes my "White Nights Countdown", as they have officially culminated and the day has already become 1 minute shorter (please click to enlarge).

20 comments:

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

Welcome home! I think midsummer is a magical time, we don't generally do much to celebrate it in the UK but I think we should.

I can't wait to hear about your adventures.

Nice to have you back. x

Hilary said...

Welcome back, my friend. I've missed you, and I'm looking forward to hearing all about your trip. :)

We actually have a holiday in common! In part, anyway. We too had St-Jean-Baptiste Day on June 24th in my home province of Quebec.

"As soon as it passes, it leaves me with a trace of a bittersweet realization that even though the summer has just begun, the days are slowly getting shorter again.
This has always been exactly how I feel about this magical longest day of the year. I've never experienced anything so magical though as a sunset and sunrise at the same time. Just lovely.

swenglishexpat said...

Good to see you back. As always you present interesting facts, some of which I did not know. It is striking how old beliefs and traditions are so similar between countries, and yet there are some notable differences.

Rosezilla said...

Yay, you're back! I've missed you. This was an interesting post with new things to learn. Love the photos of the sunrise/sunset. For some reason, it makes me think of a favorite song, part of which is "Every good and perfect gift is from above, from the Father of Lights, from the God of Love." I was intrigued by the idea of trying to make the dreams you dreamed one night come true. I would never want to do that, my dreams are way too weird and unpredictable. So many mornings I wake up glad that "it was just a dream." It's funny how universal it is that we all want summer to last and we all realize just how short it always is. Remember when you were a kid and it DID seem to last forever?

Claus said...

You're back! I came everyday to your blog, you know. I did not know when exactly was that you were coming back, so I kept of checking for the last week :-) I'm glad you had a great time, experiencing and seeing a lot. The purpose of every away time I think.

Traditions and beliefs in this era of technology are indeed something special. Sort of takes you away for a moment to a simpler time. There are quite a number of such special dates in Guatemala, and I find each of them not only interesting, but also magical and unique. Many of them, curiously, are of a religious nature, but mixed with Mayan beliefs. Maybe I should write about a couple sometime?

Welcome back!

Shelly's Style Shop said...

Welcome back! You have been missed.

That is really neat that there is a celebration for midsummer. It would be fun to burn a bonfire on the beach. Thanks for sharing all of this with us.

I can't wait to hear more about your trip!

xoxo, Shelly

Valentine said...

Welcome back Ms. Z! Thanks for this bit of information.. sounds like its a truly magical occasion and you know me.. I like anything magic related. :-)

I really like the photos you took! Especially the photo of the sunset. Such beautiful colors.. which I rarely get to see since numerous buildings obscure my view. hehe.

Cant wait to hear more about your trip!

xx

V

♥ fashion chalet said...

Oh, Protege!! How I've missed you and your wonderful posts. How was the vacation? Glad to have youuu back! :)



xo!

Jill said...

HELLO! You are back from holiday! You were missed.

I love that Midsummer sunset...it is like nothing I have ever seen!!!

I look forward to hearing about your travels.

Holly said...

WELCOME BACK!! I am sad and happy for you that you are back as I know exactly what it is that you had to leave behind,...again! I am glad that you have made so many new and amazing memories. I am excited to hear about all of them!!

Lovely post by the way!! All of your experience and knowledge fascinates me!!

sallymandy said...

Welcome back, Z. So glad you had a good vacation, and look forward to hearing about it. I loved reading about the Midsummer traditions in Scandinavia. Thank you.

Beep said...

Welcome home! So glad you had a magical vacation. I'm looking forward to sharing the June 24 traditions you posted with the person in my house who has a June 24 birthday :)

Mahmud Yussop said...

So glad you're back.And the midsummer skies are lovely and magical.You have been missed :)

Dave King said...

Didn't get to know you in your first incarnation. Would like to get to know you in this.

Protege said...

=Reasons To Be...,
thank you so much, it is good to be back.;)) I will dedicate a few post next week to my trip.;)
I guess the Midsummer is a very Scandinavian celebration due to the fact that light is so scarce here comes winter.;)

=Hilary,
my dearest friend, it is good to be back.;)
Is that the celebration of John the Baptist? The name is the same.;)
Yes, accounts of my trip will follow very soon.;))
It warms my heart that you share that quoted sentiment with me.;)
xoxo

=swenglishexpat,
thank you so much for the welcome.;)
I wonder whether you keep the Swedish traditions of "Midsommar" with "sill och Johnsons frestelce och ny potatis och jordgubbar, kanske aven egg-ost"?;)

=Rosezilla,
what a truly beautiful comment! Every time I watch the sunrise and sunset in the summer I almost have a spiritual experience. How can one not believe in something divine when presented with such a beauty?
I agree, one year in my childhood was an eternity.
xo

=Claus,
I am extremely touched and delighted by the fact that you were checking my blog awaiting my return. Comments like yours makes all this worth while.
I for once would love to hear more about your tradition, please do write about them. To me nothing is more interesting than learning about other cultures from beautiful blogs such as yours.;)xo

=Shelly,
thank you so much - I love being back! Traveling is great but nothing beats coming home.;))
My adventures will be fully described in the coming weeks;))
xo

=Valentine,
you and me both; what would life be without magic, right?
I am glad to be back and look forward to more of your wonderfully refreshing posts.;))
Love the new picture.;))xo

=Erika,
thank you for the warm welcome - it is good to hear I have not been forgotten.;)))
My vacation was great and updates will follow, I promise.;)) xo

=Jill,
thank you so much! I missed all of you as well.;)) My vacation was wonderful, but time flew by too fast.;)) Your warm comments tough make the return so much easier.;)) xo

=Holly,
my dear friend, always glad to read your kind words. I can almost hear you saying it with a warm voice.;)) I will thoroughly describe everything that happened and so right you are, I hate good byes... But it was wonderful and I just have to accept the fact that my life consists of fleeting moments of happiness.;))
xoxo

=sallymandy,
thank you for your kind words.;)) I am glad that you enjoyed the story of Midsummer, to me the best time of the year.;)) xo

=Beep,
thank you so much.;))
And how extraordinary for your friend to be born on that day; I am sure it brings luck.;)) xo

=Mahmud,
thank you dear friend; I have missed your wise and interesting posts as well.;)) I am happy you enjoyed the magical night summer sky.;))

=Dave,
welcome - now that is one of the most interesting comments to date; I hope you will not be disappointed.;))
Thanks for stopping by.;))

Donna at Mourning Dove Cottage said...

Welcome back, I missed you! What a wonderful, magical celebration for midsummer. The traditions sound very interesting and special. The sunset and sunrise photos are beautiful!

Looking forward to hearing all about your travels!

Enjoy your weekend!
Hugs,
Donna

Protege said...

=Donna,
thank you for the warm welcome and your always kind words.;))
xo

Gal Friday said...

I didn't know there were so many legends and stories relating to Midsummer and/or the summer Soltice in Scandinavia. It really IS a magical type, only we missed out on it prety much completely this year in this region I live in(very disappointing because of the weather) so it was at least a comfort to read this blog.

Welcome back, too!! You were missed.

Gal Friday said...

..er, a magical "time"(not "type"). My typing and spelling is so bad. I'm sorry.

Protege said...

=Tina,
you know me, I am interested in anything legendary and magical.;))
No problem with the typos, I misspell everything at all times, it is refreshing to know I am not alone.;)) Besides, I would not even notice if you did not say.;))
xo