Ivan Kupala is an ancient pagan ritual, which used to be known as just Kupala – meaning to bathe. Ivan – meaning John, as in John the Baptist – was added after Christianity came to the region and assimilated the festivities.
The ritual was originally held on the summer solstice between June 20 and 22, but was moved to the birthday of St John the Baptist, which was on June 23 by the old Julian calendar.
The new Gregorian calendar moved the date to July 6, so the link with the solstice was lost.
Despite its associations with Christianity, the festival still draws heavily on mysticism and folk-law.
It is believed that witches also take a holiday on this day and come to do harm to people, and that werewolves and mermaids also emerge to roam around and attack the souls of the wicked.
The day-long ritual is therefore designed around purity, supposedly cleansing the body and soul and providing protection, fertility and luck to those who take part.
The main focus is fire-jumping, with the flames supposedly cleansing the souls of those who pass over it.
Couples who can complete the jump holding hands will have a strong relationship, while friends may also jump together to prove their loyalty to one-another.
Unmarried women also wear garlands of flowers and herbs in their hair during the day, and at night float the wreaths out on to a lake with a candle. The woman whose flowers float the longest will be lucky in love, while the longest burning candle denotes long life.
It is also said that, on this one night, ferns are able to produce flowers, with whoever sights one of the blooms able to make a wish come true.
Villagers often take off into the woods in search of the blossoms, with unmarried women allowed to go first with single men following, in the hope that relationships might also blossom in the hunt.
In 54 A.D. Nero became emperor of Rome after the death of Claudius, who was thought to have been poisoned by his wife Agrippina, who also happened to be Nero’s mother.
Nero’s real name was Lucius, but his mother decided that Nero Claudius Caesar was more suitable so she got him to change it. Agrippina was always plotting in the background.
As a wife of a former emperor and mother to the current one, she saw herself as a new version of Livia.
Nero was only a teenager when he came to power, just seventeen years old. Having been under the influence of his mother all his life, he now saw an opportunity to do what he wanted instead.
Within the first year of his reign he had made it obvious to her that she was not going to be sharing his power. When an Armenian ambassador visited Rome, Nero did not let Agrippina sit next to him to receive the guest.
During the following months, mother and son quarrelled openly about his affair with an ex-slave-girl called Acte. He was already married to Octavia, daulghter of Claudius.
Agrippina did not approve of this liaison and at this point started to get closer with Britannicus, Claudius’s son with the unfortunate Messalina.
When Nero saw this he realised this could be a threat to his reign, so he had Britannicus poisoned and forced Agrippina to move out of the palace, took her bodyguard away and slapped a lawsuit on her.
Grouped together in Peru’s lush Cuzco region, the ringed Incan ruins known as Moray have long been a mystery, but it is looking more and more likely that the nested stone rings may have been part of a large-scale agricultural experiment.
Unlike a number of the elaborate metropolises and statuary left behind by the Incan people, the rings at Moray are relatively simple but may have actually been an ingenious series of test beds.
Descending in grass-covered, terraced rings, these rings of rings vary in size, with the largest ending in a depth of 30 meters (98 feet) deep and 220 meters (722 feet) wide.
Studies have shown that many of the terraces contain soil that must have been imported from other parts of the region.
The temperature at the top of the pits varies from that at the bottom by as much as 15ºC, creating a series of micro-climates that — not coincidentally — match many of the varied conditions across the Incan empire, leading to the conclusion that the rings were used as a test bed to see what crops could grow where.