Friday, June 24, 2016

Dia de San Juan

Eve of St. John by Peter Hurd

For many in the southwest, especially those in Sonora, today marks the beginning of the monsoon season. The celebration really begins on the eve (June 23rd). Today is Dia de San Juan, the day the Church commemorates the birth of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of water. Some traditional peoples say prayers for rain to water their crops. 

St. John's Day may have been the Church's way of "baptizing" the older pagan holiday of Midsummer or Litha, the Solstice. For European pagans long ago and still today, Litha is a time for bonfires. It is the power of light over darkness. But people of this continent observed the day as a time to water the earth: the Aztecs with the blood of human sacrifices, their northern cousins in the Pueblos with the blood of roosters. Animal activists have recently decried the sport of rooster pulls where horsemen pull a rooster which has been buried up to his head in the ground. The custom is dying out. 

Rooster Pull by Pablita Velarde

Coronado and the Spaniards brought Christianity and Dia de San Juan to the southwest. The Saint's festival is popular in Sonora as well as in Tucson and is also the celebration of the beginning of the monsoon season. Blessings with water, bathing, splashings, rodeos mark this day. 

Throughout the Southwest and here in El Paso the monsoon season generally falls between June 15th and the end of September although it may not get started until July. Monsoons are driven by solar energy warming the land and the ocean at different rates, producing winds and rain and violent thunderstorms. It's all very scientific.

Whatever the science, clouds began to gather yesterday on the Eve of St. John and there was distant thunder to the south of us. I asked St. John to bless my gardens and I planted teparies, the beans that fed the ancient Pueblo southwesterners. Late last night the thunder drew closer. This morning my rain gauge showed .03" of precipitation. 

I love Peter Hurd's painting, the Eve of St. John. A print actually signed by the artist hangs in my den room. A young girl holds a candle, a minature bonfire. A horseman rides in the distance. The darkening sky shows just a hint of virga.

Feliz Dia de San Juan!

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