The Midsummer New Year of Johns 2012 Yesterday, June 1st, as I was mowing the lawn in front of my house, I noticed that the acorns that had fallen off the oak trees last fall, had begun to sprout, and were announcing their birth with leaves brighter than the grass surrounding them. I left the saplings stand and will in due course transplant them.
Over the years, I have written quite a bit on the Midsummer’s New Year of Johns. Of all the holy days of our ancient forebears, the Latvians are the only ones, whose tradition still has the New Year of Johns on the calendar. Just like the New Year’s Eve of our times, the New Year of Johns is also celebrated on the Eve of Johns day, i.e., it is called Johns Eve. Alas! Over the years this Holy day has been much repressed and, therefore, let pervert into a celebration of forgetting tradition through an overuse of alcohol and silly tales of heroic teens jumping naked over bonfires and getting their pubic hair singed.
This is not to say that this writer cannot play along: after all, the explanation that most people’s pubic hair ir curly because of the high flames of Johns fires has a poetic element about it.
One of the more profound writers regarding the New Year of Johns or Midsummer was and remains the English poet from Wales, Robert Graves. Here is a quote from his study of early European deities, re “The White Goddess” (1946), Chapter 10, The Tree Alphabet, D for Druis:
“”The month [June], which takes its name from Jupiter the oak-god, begins on June 10th and ends on July 7th. Midway comes St.John’s Day, June 24th, the day on which the oak-king was sacrificially burned alive.. The Celtic year was divided into two halves with the second half beginning in July, apparently after a seven-day wake, or funeral feast, in the oak=king’s honour.”
I will here add that in ancient days the year had 13, not 12 months. I also write the ‘New Year of Johns’ without an apostrophe in the name of Johns—because the Latvians, risking excommunication by the Christians, have insisted in retaining the name in its plural form. After all, once upon a time the Johns were many, though it is true that the last of Johns was St. John the Annointer [not Baptist]. More about this “last” at the end of this series.
Robert Graves goes on to write:
“Sir James Frazer, like Gwion [an ancient writer, ? pronounced ‘John’, has pointed out the similarity of ‘door’ words in all Indo-European languages and shown Janus to be a ‘a stout guardian of the door’ with his head pointing in both directions. As usual, however, he does not press his argument far enough. Duir, as the god of the oak month, looks both ways because his post is at the turn of the year; which identifies him with the Oak-god Hercules who became the door-keeper of the Gods after his death. He is probably also to be identified with the British god Llyr of Lludd… for according to Geoffrey of Monmouth the grave of Llyr at Leicester was in a vault built in honor of Janus. Geoffrey writes:
‘Cordelia obtaining the government of the Kingdom buried her father in a certain vault which she ordered to be made for him under the river Sore in Leicester (Leicestre) and which had been built originally under the ground in honour of the god Janus. And here all the workmen of the city, upon the anniversary solemnity of that festival, used to begin their yearly labours.’
“Since Llyr was a pre-Roman God this amounts to saying that he was two-headed, like Janus, and the patron of the New Year, but the Celtic year began in the summer, not in the winter. Geoffrey does not date the mourning festival but it is likely to have originally taken place at the end of June.”
While Robert Graves had his troubles with his critics [“…no expert in ancient Irish or Welch has offered me the least help in refining my argument…. But it is only fair to warn readers that this remains a very difficult book, as well as a very queer one, to be avoided by anyone with a distracted, tired, or rigidly scientific mind….”], the history of “Latvian religion” has it worse. While the British may well accept the argument that Llyr or Janus was a pre-Roman God, go tell a rigid Latvian that Jahnis (John) preexisted the New Testament’s ‘baptist’—though there cannot be any doubt about his repression in the past as well as its continuation today—because to recognize the preexistence of Johns obviously means the Resurrection of Jesus as John.
Today, June 2nd, the Latvian Celebration of Johns Eve (June 23rd) is but three weeks or 21 days before us. [/color]