Let the German dance
by Jörg Judersleben
(Look at original German Text)
"It must be here", Saulius switches off the motor, looks intensively down the hill. Here, somewhere in the South of Lithuania, about thirty minutes after Alytus, where the sandy way ends at last between moor and forest. Here, where the elks and hare say good- night to each other. And once the year, always on St. John's day, men and sun, too.
There is already something in action. Down at the lake smoke rises to the evening sky. We must hurry to climb down, dawn is already falling. The place of the feast would be like a camp, but there the gate is, decorated with flowers and the picked stems, ingeniously sticked with bushes - they are called Kupole. Why has this arrangement stinging-nettle? "Deep-flying wichs will burn their buttocks!", Saulius grins. "Come, we'd help."
There is already something done. Flower wreaths are bounded, instruments dragged, cloths loaded with fruits and round flats, fresh cheese and self-distilled beverages. Then all climb quickly the hill: thirty Lithuanians, the women with flowers in their hair and jewels at the wrists, the men with hands at their belts and torches in their hand. And two Germans, profusely all keyed up: will firewheels run down now to the vale? Will be ashwater offered against consumption?
Not a bit! A stout is offered, and bread. The master wets the earth, adds some strewed crumbs. The first draught, the first bit are destined to the deads. After that the jug and the dish wanders from hand to hand. A half-circle is formed, turned against the sinking sun, singing begins.
That are the old songs. They are song on quarts, not in tierce like at folklore-dance. "Behind the lake, behind the hill I guarded weeping childs, warmed poor shephards", sun says in this songs; "- and you have shown the right way", the strange rider answers to her and waits till he comes down, then fetches his maiden from the Kamara, and the holy ring-snake easefully winds in her light. "Heathen customs, cultivated by Christians", Saulius comments lapidarily . He has married last year, and that was even threefold: in the post-socialistic register office, in the catholic church and under a pagan oaktree. That's no cultivtion of customs, but nearly stands to reason. This folk cannot become really un-pious, because they never have been really pious. The fishermen groves in the North with the cross at the foot and the remarkable snake’s-symbolism often are not even 100 years old.
As soon as the full moon reaches the gate’s gable, the round dance starts. Like garlands, the persons thread their way through the flowers, left side the men, right side the women. When the music stops everybody kisses the person who is standing vis-a-vis, then they guide each other through the gate and wishes the face. More does not happen. A heathen Catholic is not a loosed Adamit by no means.
But much more takes place, much more. The night is strictly ritualisized, and all know the rules. At midnight herbs become themselves as rulers!
Before the morning dawn the women’s wreaths, sticked with chandles, drive on the lake. He who fishes one is allowed to court the belonging lady. But only the master and a village-fellow plunge into the cold water, all other don’t show any interest. And this wouldn’t have any use. Everything is well provided here. Nearly everything. And the solstice drink, mixed from distilled and Rigaer Balsam, requires for a toll. Even the old man with his accordion takes a little nap. Only the little flutist bravely holds out.
Five o’clock comes nearer. A pale early shine gropes its way through the morning mist, makes the flames turn pale. „The meadows are grand before the first mowing“, Agnes Miegel would say now.- And there she is! There she is again! Glowing and strong, like Zarathustra when he left his cave. Some fellows take off their clothes, roll yelling through the John’s dew. „What’s that now?“ The German slip over their clammy jackets. „What that is?“ Saulius always knows an answer, „well - that’s - healthy!“
The meadows are grand before the first mowing.
Translation of Cristine Harifi.
Original German text
Lithuanian summer solstice celebration page
Kam Joninës, o kam Kupala
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