August is my favourite summer month in a Polish folk calendar. Sound and smell of rye straw field, sun, poppies, bees, storks, wildflower bouquets. It's a harvest season in Poland.
Photo: Harvest window, Folka 2021
On the 15th August, the Assumption of Virgin Day is celebrated. In a folklore tradition known as the Day of the Lady of Herbs and Harvest.
Traditionally people make bouquets with summer herbs, flowers, fruits and straw from their field. They believe a bouquet made on that day with herbs like mugwort, myrt, hyssop, tansy, rosemary, rue, chamomile has magical properties. They take them to a church to thank Virgin Mary for the harvest and ask for blessing for the next year.
Photo: Celebrations in Piotrków Trybunalski in the beginning of the XX century, Ethnography Museum in Kraków
Photo: Celebrations in the Village Open Air Museum in Lublin, 2021
People used to hang the bouquets inside the house and the one from the previous year should be burnt in a potato field - as it would bring you good crop next year.
Culmination of the harvest season is Dożynki (Harvest Festival), which usually takes place shortly after the Day of the Lady of Herbs and Harvest or in September. It's one of the oldest and most important customs, connected with Slavic pagan cults of nature, plants and agriculture.
The symbol of Dożynki is a harvesting wreath. It symbolises a rich harvest, the prospect of wealth and the power of new life. Wreath is made of wheat and rye straw (which are believed to be the most important ones) usually in the shape of a crown decorated with flowers, berries, ribbons and braided straws.
People dressed in traditional costumes will carry the wreath in a colourful procession, some of them will also carry scythes and smaller garlands.
Dożynki is still celebrated across Poland, they are organised by local authorities. Each village makes their own harvesting crowns, which are later presented at the procession and during the show.
Photo: Harvest procession, Village Open Air Museum in Lublin
Hope you like my story about harvest season. If you would like to know and see more, I took part in a very interesting Harvest Talk with the Selvedge Magazine last year. Together with other artists we presented various harvest customs as well as our art practices inspired by harvest. You can still watch it online here.
Photo: Harvest window, Folka 2022
Bye August, until next year!