The morning of the 23rd I woke up not feeling well, I had actually not been feeling well for several days. My pee was pink (meaning blood) and I had abdominal pain. I was to go visit my father and then we were to go off to his cousin Milda’s sodas for a light lunch and some gentle relaxing conversation in the middle of her huge flower garden (nearly an acre of fruit trees, vegetables and flowers). But I called saying that I was going to a medical clinic to be taken care of. I did go to one and I got rather lacklustre care — the Soviet system of medicine did not disappoint me, let me tell you, the utter lack of care and knowledge of the advances in medical science are still quite prevalent.
My father got anxious and didn’t want to go to Milda’s, but I reassured him that I’m okay, I got a script and was resting up.
Later I met up with Kimo and whoosh! We were off to Verkiu Parkas for Rasa!
Rasa is but one of several different names for the Summer Solstice – the others being “Jonines” (for St John’s Day), Kupolines (because of the kupoline on which everyone throws vainykai [flower wreaths] onto as part of the celebrations). Kimo and I arrived around 7:30pm and it was a bit of a hike up the hill as there were hundreds of cars already parked around Verkiu Parkas. Got to the site and there were already several hundred people singing, dancing, going into the woods gathering branches and flowers and braiding their flower crowns (if a lady) or oak leaf crown (if a man). Various different ethnographic groups were there, along with members of Romuva and Kulgrinda – preparing the fire altar.
The formal opening of Rasa started with the ceremonial lighting of the fire altar – there were hundreds of us, watching and singing whilst the fire was being lit and carefully tended and propitiated by the ritual leaders. I too sang and thankfully I knew most of the songs – my favourite being “Dega Ugnele”.
Once the fire was lit we were each given some grains/seeds and it was suggested we make offerings to the fire. There was also black bread shared amongst all of us, as part of the opening rites.
Afterwards there was singing, dancing around the various different bonfires, throwing the head wreaths onto the kupoline, and general merriment – all in honour of the Sun Goddess Saule’s descent into the sea and waiting for her rising again.
My cousin Remigijus also came to help my first proper Rasa. I wasn’t feeling too well, so I didn’t partake in much of the merriment, but I did manage to wander about in Kimo’s wake – being introduced to various individuals from Romuva — and all in awe that I have managed to maintain the Romuva mailing list for over a decade now. Drank some gira (kvass), munched on some nuts and bread. It was all great fun.
The greatest part of Rasa for me, and I agree with Inija Trinkuniene on this, is that Rasa isn’t just for the pagans — all Lithuanians, no matter what their own personal religious beliefs, flung off the cares of the world to take part in this most ancient of celebrations of the Sun. It was fantastic being part of it all, watching an entire city (Vilnius) spend 2 weeks celebrating the upcoming Solstice — the build up was amazing and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.