Our wise Ancestors always connected their Solar calendar to various astronomical events, such as solstice and equinox. Such events were very important in Mother Nature, and therefore, they were the main celebrations in ancient Rus’. Because there is a total of 2 solstices and 2 equinoxes within a year, there were 4 main celebrations in ancient Slavic culture. It was believed that our Sun had several “faces”.
1. Kolyada – the infant – it is the birth of the Sun after the Night of the Winter solstice.
2. Yarilo – the lad – it is the period during the Spring equinox.
3. Kupalo – the husband – it is the Sun during the Summer solstice, in all of its strength.
4. Svetovit – the elder – it is the Sun during the period of the Autumn equinox, when it is slowly extinguished, as if dying during the Night of the winter solstice.
Now, let us take a closer look at these 4 great celebrations in ancient Rus’.
Kolyada, the world can be broken down in two words: “Kolo” and “Da” and means “the beginning of the circle”, is the celebration that takes place during the Winter solstice (usually between 19th-25th of December). This happens to be the longest night of the year, after which, the “Day of the Deities (Bogi)” begins. The Sun is born, it is still very weak, as an infant. It rises very little above the horizon. That is why this day was always celebrated as the “birthday of the Sun” and was dedicated to the Divine Light. It was believed that specifically on this day, all people are visited by their passed Ancestors, who already fulfilled their duty before Rod and earned their Light Body.
Yarilo, where “Yar” means the “force of fertilization” or “birth of new life”, is the period of the Spring equinox (usually takes place on 19th-25th of March). Beginning on this day, the day was longer than the night. The Sun became bigger and stronger, as if entering the period of adolescence. It is now strong enough to melt away the snow and to invite Spring to come. All Slavic and Aryan people celebrate Maslenitsa on this day. It is also the day, when young lads and maidens meet and create couples. The Spring is considered to be the period, when new life of all Nature begins.
Kupalo, where “Kup” means “unity and fullness”, is the celebration which takes place during the Summer solstice (usually on 19th-25th of June). It is the longest day of the year, after which, the “Night of the Bogi” begins. It is the day, when all elements activate and the Sun gathers strength. It is now the “strongest” Sun – the husband. During the “Night of Kupalo”, all encircle themselves with herbs, for it is the symbol of healthy and strong posterity, and also of wealth. The deity of Fire (Agni) is honored on this day. He is manifested in the form of mountains, sun, water, earth and trees. Slavic and Aryan people perform cleansing rituals with fire and water. People light “fires of Kupalo” on this day, which, according to the belief, are supposed to be ignited with “live fire” (by rubbing two sticks together). The celebration of Kupalo is the celebration of Preservation.
Svetovit, where “svet” is “life” and “vit” is “turn” – the “turning moment in life”, happens during the Autumn equinox (usually on 19th-25th of September). Beginning on this day, the nights are longer and the days are shorter. It is as if the Sun is aging, while losing its strength and slowly “dying”. It is also the celebration of the Harvest and of the Novoletiya (New Year), during which the Slavic and Aryan people honored and praised the Sun for giving its strength in order to provide for a plentiful harvest. People burned fires, danced in “horovody” and told fortunes. On this day, in each cottage new fire was reignited, and the old fire was put out.