Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Midsummer's Eve



It is St. John's Eve. Tomorrow is the Feast of the Baptist. It was a tradition in the days of Christendom to have a bonfire in honor of the saint who was a "burning and shining light." (John 5:35) In some places, they still do; my father always had a bonfire in honor of the Birthday of the Baptist. In the Middle Ages, there were St. John carols (carols were not just for Christmas), dancing, and everyone would burn rubbish and old bones as a sign of the end of the old covenant. Houses would be decorated with St. John's Wort, and young girls would sleep with wildflowers under their pillows in the hope that they would dream of their future spouse. Fish Eaters, which has the details about the festivity, also discusses how the Vespers hymn for St. John's Day is the origin for "Do, Re, Mi:"
Another interesting thing about the Feast of St. John: the Breviary's hymn for this day, Ut queant laxis -- the hymn sung or recited during the blessing of the bonfire -- is the source of our names of musical notes -- Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do. The hymn, attributed to Paulus Diaconus (Paul the Deacon, ca. A.D. 720-799), was noted by a monk to rise one note in the diatonic C-Scale with each verse. The syllables sung at each rise in pitch give us the names of our notes (the "Ut" was later changed to "Do" for easier pronunciation):
Ut queant laxis
Re
sonare fibris
Mi
ra gestorum
Fa
muli tuorum,
So
lve polluti
La
bii reatum,
Sanc
Te Ioannes.
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4 comments:

Madeleine said...

I removed the portrait of Marie Antoinette with her children and her last letter from my blog bc it's my little nephew's bday and I thought it might be better for him to see his greeting than the Marie Antoinette's sad tale when he looked at the blog today! Tomorrow the letter and portrait will go up again. Thanks for your inspiring blog. I love it.

elena maria vidal said...

That sounds very prudent, Madeleine. I am just delighted that you found my blog and are enjoying it!

Terry Nelson said...

I'm not sure my comment posted - but I'll try a second time - I just finished a post on Midsummer and wondered if anyone else would have posted - I thought of you immediately, and sure enough you did. I linked to your post. Happy Midsummer Eve!

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, Terry, that is sweet of you!