Il faisait un froid suffocant. Un canard n’aurait pas pu sortir ni un loup. (La Disparition, Georges Perec, 1969, p. 34).
This post was first published the 16th of May 2015 and began as follows “Summer is coming and to welcome it,…” but republishing this post this Christmas 2020, in link with the 27th of December, the celebration of St. John the Evangelist is celebrated, we decided to change the phrase… In this case, the Wayback Machine didn’t archive it but fortunately, a preview of the post – sent by the communication head on 18 May 2015 – allowed us to view the post as it was on the Europeana Sound blog. Let’s discover two sound archives dealing with the classical elements: fire and water. One archive from Provence presents Saint-Jean celebration and the other one from Serbia introduces Dodole ritual.
Saint Jean, protector of fruits and crops, is a very popular patron saint in Provence. An old Provençal saying claims that “Jan émé Jan partejan l’an” and explains how the “Saint Jean” celebration divides the year1. The solstice day on June 24th marks the beginning of the hot weather. During this night a collective celebration is organized: we light a big fire and have to jump on it in order to bring warmth and protection. The nature is celebrated this day as well, because it’s the leading of livestock to the high mountains for the Transhumance.
Futhermore, it’s time for picking aromatic herbs2.
The following tracks are talking about the Saint Jean fire in the Cévennes, at the begining of the 20th century, recorded by Pierre Laurence, a French ethnologist :
From the field recording n°782 : http://phonotheque.mmsh.huma-num.fr/dyn/portal/index.xhtml?page=alo&aloId=5549 – Listening to the track (15) “Branchs with silkworms are burnt” : http://multimedia.mmsh.univ-aix.fr/phonotheque-782-15 [The soundcloud player has disappeared…]
From the field recording n°787: http://phonotheque.mmsh.huma-num.fr/dyn/portal/index.xhtml?page=alo&aloId=5614 – Listening to the track (14) “St-John fires in Cévennes” : http://multimedia.mmsh.univ-aix.fr/phonotheque-787-14 [The soundcloud player has disappeared…]
Not so far away from the fire there is the water. Actually, when the summer is hot, the harvest is threatened by the dryness. That’s why many rituals invoking the rain are numerous in Europe, such as in Serbia, with the very old "Dodole" song and dance.
This ritual is performed during the droughts of summer. One girl is wearing plants (flowers, branches and leaves like reeds, willow, yellow iris …) which fully cover her body and her face. The girl is called “Dodole” and the group goes through the streets
of the village. In front of each house, Dodole is dancing, spinning in the middle of the circle. They’re singing a verse of the song. In response, the master of the house pours water on the Dodole. The group keeps on singing another verse on the way back…3.
The next sound archive was recorded in the Svrliska Topla town (Est Serbia) in 1954. Hristina Jovanovic (44 years old) and Sevdija Nikolic (50 years old) are singing a Dodole song.
This archive was deposited in 1963 by the Institute of Musicology of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgrade (SASA) to the “Musée de l’Homme” in Paris.
Authors : Véronique Ginouvès, Aude Julien-Da Cruz Lima, Ariane Néroulidis, Joséphine Simonnot
Crédits de l’image “à la une” : a preview of the post
- Saint Jean is celebrated on June 24th (Midsummer) and St. John the Evangelist is celebrated December 27th.
- For further information about Saint-Jean rituals, refer to the book Le folklore de Provence by Claude Seignolle, Maisonneuve et Larose, 1980, pages 225-235. Cote MMSH : F.ME 306 SEI
- For a description of this ritual, refer to pages 542-543 of Ami Boué, La
Turquie d’Europe, Arthus Bertrand, éditeur, libraire de la Société de géographie de Paris, 1840, digitization Google Books