Friday, July 6, 2012

The Hartford Circus Fire, Ivan Kupala Day, Kvas

On this day in 1944 – The Hartford Circus Fire, kills over 160 and injures more than 700, making it one of America's worst fire disasters. The fire started about 20 minutes into an afternoon performance of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in a corner of the tent that held approximately 7,000 people The blaze was accelerated by the waterproofing on the tent - paraffin soaked in gasoline - that was common at that time.

Tomorrow is Ivan Kupala Day. Originally celebrated in Poland, Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine as a pagan fertility holiday (Kupala), it is celebrated on June 23/24 in the Gregorian calendar which is June 6/7. The pagan rituals still continue to the present day, even though the holiday was transformed into a John (Ivan) the Baptist feast day.

The holiday begins on Kupala eve, a night of merriment, waterfights and innocent pranking.
An ancient belief is that midnight on the eve of Kupala is the only time of the year when you can find the elusive fern flower - which bestows prosperity, power and good fortune on whoever can find it. Now a ritual for young men and women, unmarried women enter the forest first, (ostensibly to find the flower*) with the young men following shortly thereafter.

Kupala day is filled with celebrations of life. There is singing and dancing, bonfires and bathing in the river. The Goddess Kupała is the Water Mother as well as the goddess of herbs, sex, and midsummer.

The Historical Inebriant:  Kvas

Kvas (квас) is an ancient and beloved beverage from Slavic Europe. While it is basically a low-alcohol beer, it is enjoyed as a soft drink, even by small children. Factory-made versions have been available for some time and many are quite good. But homemade will always be best. Often spelled "kvass."

For more information (and some cool pictures):

* Ferns do not, in fact, flower.

Truly Bizarre

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