Summer Solstice Tradition – Latvian

Fern Flower

“You look for the fern flower on Summer Solstice. Young couples—man and woman—go off into the forest to find the fern flower. There is actually no such thing as a fern flower, but it might not be an actual flower because there are a lot of sexual connotations to the stuff going on during the solstice. But if you magically find it, you will have the greatest luck for your whole life. It only appears on Summer Solstice. And you can never look back when you’re looking for it because evil spirits will follow you. And when you find it, evil spirits will still try to take it from you. So when you find it, you must take a stick of wood and draw a circle around you with it while singing or just saying a folk song—I don’t remember it. But no one can come in the protective circle. It’s like Pagan religion, you either set yourself up to be afraid or not—because you can feel safe if you trust that no one can come in your circle.”

“Learned in elementary school and before school from tales and from parents and grandparents. Also from TV a little bit. Officially in school.”

“I think it’s a very nice tradition, keeps it fun. I don’t think it really acutally physically exists, but it exists as a symbol of something else—symbolizes love between man and woman. I think it’s a very important activity; not that it’s going to show future, but really brings the community together. If you’re brace enough to do it, it shows that you care about your culture and tradition.”

The informant is originally from Latvia but has been living in Los Angeles for more than five years. She practices Latvian Neo-Paganism.

Paganism is a religion that is passed down from generation to generation through folklore, and as such it is rich in folk beliefs. The summer solstice is an important time in the cyclic calendar, which Paganism observes. Also, the festival is meant to bring together younger couples, a characteristic typical of summer festivals. Festivals are often characterized as “not normal time” and as such “new normal” behaviors are practiced and accepted. These behaviors are typically a way of performing identity; in the case of the youth during the Summer Solstice, they are performing the fact that they are looking for a life partner as well as the fact that they are in a liminal phase between childhood and adulthood. Also, the connotations of the tradition can not be overlooked– flowers typically represent the feminine or virginity. Walking into the woods to find it and coming back without having found it can be seen as a reference to intercourse. This tradition also features the use of protective folk magic, for it one finds the flower, one is supposed to draw a circle around oneself.