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Today, Grandpa Enyo puts on his yamurluk and sets off to bring back the snow

Midsummer herbs and water have magical powers

We celebrate Enyovden with the children from the summer school at the National Ethnographic Institute and Museum at BAS

Photo: BGNES Archive

Early in the morning, young men and women gather in the meadows to play with the sun. "It is believed that the sun dances and shimmers on Enyovden at sunrise, because it is the longest solstice of the year". This is the most important thing to know about Midsummer, according to eight-year-old Ivo Iliev from Sofia. Ivo is one of the knowledge-hungry children attending a summer school for students aged 7 to 12 at the National Ethnographic Institute and Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The budding ethnographer tells us that Midsummer is a very old holiday celebrated in Bulgarian lands: 


"In the morning the sun bathes in the rivers and springs and people go into the water because they believe it is healing. I imagine the sun going down and going into the water and then coming up and shaking itself off, and when it shakes itself off, the dew of Midsummer appears, which is also believed to be healing. This is when the herbs are at their most healing, it is believed to be the most healing day of the year. The stars also come down from the sky and give more power to the herbs. That's when people go out and pick herbs," says eight-year-old Ivo.

"After bathing in the water of the sun, people lie down and roll around in the dewy grass, because they think it is as healing as the water," adds nine-year-old Emanuela from the Graf Nikolai Ignatiev 6th Primary School in Sofia.

Емануела и Антонина
"And on the eve, because there is dew on the fields, the witches take their aprons and drag them along the ground. Then they go to their own crops and squeeze the water out of the aprons. In this way they take away the fertility of the people's fields. That is why people have many fertility rites, such as the 'prayer for rain'.


For Antonina, a first-grader at Sofia 18 School, Midsummer Day is one of the most special days of the year. "I feel happy on Midsummer's Day because so many things happen. The sun shines very brightly because it wants to be the brightest on that day. 
The children's stories about Midsummer are told by Mariya Boyanova, curator and museum educator at the National Ethnographic Institute and Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences:

Mariya Boyanova (R)
"We try to teach the young ones how the tradition began in antiquity, how it changed over time and how it reached us in the form we know today. But in any case, Midsummer, also known as Enyovden, or Enyo's Day, is a very old holiday, connected with the cult of the sun, with the worship of the sun. 

And because it falls on the summer solstice, it's the day when the sun shines the longest in the sky, so people used to say that from that day on, the sun goes back to winter. This is the distant beginning of winter and it is also said that on this day Grandfather Enyo puts on his yamurluk (cloak) and sets out to bring back the snow. The dew on this day was also believed to be healing, so people used to roll in the meadows for health," explains Maria Boyanova, continuing her story about the traditions associated with this day in June: 


"On the night before Midsummer, herbalists, witches and the women of each household would go out to gather herbs, because it was believed that the sky would open up and the stars would descend to earth, giving the herbs their magical powers. The oldest woman in the house would make a huge special wreath - the Midsummer wreath. Then the children, maidens and young brides would have to pass through it. 
The wreath contains a variety of herbs, the most important of which is lady's bedstraw. After the feast, the wreath is kept all year round, hung over the door and left to dry. Throughout the year, women pick herbs from the wreath to make herbal tea to cure all sorts of ailments. It is especially given to mothers within 40 days of childbirth, so that they can "get over the ordeal" more quickly.


Today is a holiday for people named Encho, Yana, Yani, Yanko, Enitza, Yanitsa.

Photos: BGNES
Translated and posted by Elizabeth Radkova


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