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Saint John's Eve *** Noc Świętojańska *** Sobótka *** Wianki *** Wiła Wianki *** Brathanki
Saint John's Eve *** Noc Świętojańska *** Sobótka *** Wianki
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The maidens would throw herbs to the fire, in hopes that it would protect them from evil. To demonstrate their agility, the young men would jump over fires.

At midnight the search for the elusive fern’s flower would begin as the “unmarried” ran into the forest. 

If you found the flower or fern, the wishes of life may be fulfilled. A lucky man returning with the flower would wear the flowered wreath of his engaged on his head

After Poland embraced Christianity in 966, its ancient traditions were replaced with Catholic ones. In the 14th century, the bishop of Poznan banned celebrations held on the eves of holy days. However the pagan rituals were often linked to Catholic feast days. Respectful of the Church, the celebration was moved ahead to the night of St. John the Baptist—June 24th being Sobótka, his feast day.

The night of merrymaking—also known as St. John’s Night or “Noc Świętojańska" —is still observed in parts of Poland and some Polish communities in the United States. It has its roots in pre-Christian pagan rituals that honored two important elements: fire and water. It is also a feast celebrating the Sun as a source of light and warmth on the longest day of the year, usually June 23.

The ancient tradition is to burn bonfires, bathe in open waters at sunset, and sing and dance until midnight. 

Young maidens dressed in white, with wreaths of yellow and white wild flowers upon their heads would set afloat candled wreaths on the rivers, in hopes that a fitting mate would find the wreath when fishing and fall in love with them. The rite is known as “Rzucanie Wianków” (throwing of wreaths). In Slavic tradition the wianek is a symbol of unmarried state—maidenhood.


 A gdy ona te wianki nad Wisłą wiła przyszedł do niej rycerzyk młody
 A gdy ona te wianki nad Wisłą wiła przyszedł do niej rycerzyk młody
 Mila ach miła- tak rzecze do niej
 Mila ach miła- tak rzecze do niej

 I udała się z tym młodym rycerzykiem w świat daleki
 I udała się z tym rycerzykiem w świat
 I udała się z tym młodym rycerzykiem w świat daleki
 I udała się z tym rycerzykiem w świat

         Gm                                                      Cm                       Gm
 I nie uszło nic więcej jak dziewięć miesięcy siedzi ona nad Wisłą
- płacze
         G                                                        D7                          G
 I nie uszło nic więcej jak dziewięć miesięcy siedzi ona nad Wisłą
- płacze
   Em           G                D      D7  G
 Miłość ach miłość zdradziłaś Ty mnie
   Em          G                D        D7  G
 Miłość ach miłość zdradziłaś Ty mnie

 I rzuciła się z rozpaczy do tej falującej wody
 I rzuciła się z rozpaczy do tej wody
 I rzuciła się z rozpaczy do tej falującej wody
 I rzuciła się z rozpaczy do tej wody 


Wiła wianki 
Performed by Brathanki*
BRATHANKI is a popular Polish folk-rock group. They combine Polish, Hungarian and Czech folk elements with rock music. Their recoding of  Wiła wianki  is more upbeat than the complete version (provided on this page) which concludes with the young mother attempting to end it all by throwing herself into to Vistula River in despair.
Polonia Music  Videos
St. John’s Night: a night of merrymaking
                            Wiła Wianki 
    Key of G
    G                                    
 Tam nad Wisłą, w dolinie siedziała dziewczyna
         D               D7     G
 Była piękna jak różany kwiat
    G
 Tam nad Wisłą, w dolinie siedziała dziewczyna
         D               D7      G
 Była piękna jak różany kwiat
   Em     G          D D7  G
 Maki i róże zbierała sobie
   Em     G          D D7  G
 Maki i róże zbierała sobie

 (D7) G                                      C
 Wiła wianki i wrzucała je do falującej wody
         D7                                    G
 Wiła wianki i wrzucała je do wody
 (D7) G                                      C
 Wiła wianki i wrzucała je do falującej wody
         D7                                    G
 Wiła wianki i wrzucała je do wody
Sulejów - Noc Świętojańska - wianki na Pilicy - 2008 



"Na Święty Jan woda kwitnie."  - "On St. John's Eve, the water blooms."


Noc Kupały, zwana też nocą kupalną, kupalnocką, kupałą, sobótką lub sobótkami – słowiańskie święto związane z letnim przesileniem Słońca, obchodzone w najkrótszą noc w roku, czyli najczęściej (nie uwzględniając roku przestępnego) z 21 na 22 czerwca (późniejsza wigilia św. Jana - potocznie zwana też Nocą Świętojańską i posiadająca wówczas wiele zapożyczeń ze święta wcześniejszego - obchodzona jest z 23 na 24 czerwca).

Kupała Night also known as "nocą kupalną, kupalnocką, kupałą, sobótką lub sobótkami" is a Slavic feast associated with the summer solstice the Sun, celebrated the shortest night of the year, which is usually (not including leap year) from 21 to 22 June (later eve of St. John – also commonly called St. John’s at night "Noc Świętojańska" and then having many borrowings from earlier holidays – is celebrated with a 23 to June 24). 
Feast of fire, water, sun and moon, harvest, fertility, joy and love, celebrated in areas inhabited by the Slav peoples.

Amy Smardz  leading a Saint John's Eve celebration at the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle in Buffalo, New York
Young maidens dressed in white, with wreaths of yellow and white wild flowers upon their heads would set afloat candled wreaths on the rivers, in hopes that a fitting mate would find the wreath when fishing and fall in love with them. 
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Traditional Polish Music
Polish folk music was collected in the 19th century by Oskar Kolberg, as part of a wave of Polish national revival. With the coming of the world wars and then the Communist state, folk traditions were oppressed or subsumed into state-approved folk ensembles. The most famous of the state ensembles are Mazowsze and Śląsk, both of which still perform. Though these bands had a regional touch to their output, the overall sound was a homogenized mixture of Polish styles. There were more authentic state-supported groups, such as Słowianki, but the Communist sanitized image of folk music made the whole field seem unhip to young audiences, and many traditions dwindled rapidly.

Polish dance music, especially the mazurka and polonaise, were popularized by Frederick Chopin, and they soon spread across Europe and elsewhere. These are triple time dances, while five-beat forms are more common in the northeast and duple-time dances like the krakowiak come from the south. The polonaise comes from the French word for Polish to identify its origin among the Polish aristocracy, who had adapted the dance from a slower walking dance called chodzony. The polonaise then re-entered the scene and became an integral part of Polish music.

G
Sobótki - from Reymont's "The Peasants" (Chłopi)
    It had kept pouring steadily till nightfall, and the peasants had the pleasure of standing outside their huts to breathe the cool and deliciously fragrant air. Meanwhile the Gulbas lads were urging all the boys and girls to sally forth and kindle the "Sobotki" * fires on a neighboring eminence. But the weather was far from pleasant, and only a few bonfires gleamed that evening along the skirts of the forest.
    Vitek wished very much for Yuzka to go with him to the Sobotki. But she said: "No, I will not. What care I for amusements now... or for anything in the world?"
    Still he pressed her to go. "We will only light a bonfire, leap over it... and come home again."
    "No! And you too shall stay at home: else Hanka shall know of it," she said, threatening him.
    He went notwithstanding--and came back too late for supper, famished, and most shockingly bespattered with mud; for the rain had been falling all the time. Indeed, it only gave over the next day, at the time of the funeral service.
     Even the weather was cloudy and foggy, setting off still better the bright green of the fields, threaded with silver brooklets everywhere. It was fresh, cool, pleasant: the lands, all drenched and soaked, seemed fermenting with intense life.

​* The "Sobotki" correspond to the St. John's Eve fires -- Translator's Note.

 Vol.4 SUMMER, p. 21; Translated from the original Polish by Michael H. Dzierwicki, Reader of English Literature at the University of Cracow
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