Ivan Kupula, the Ancient Baptism of Fire and Cleansing Ritual.

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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.
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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.
See more Images via Baptism of fire: Girls leap over flames as part of ancient cleansing ceremony held on the birthday of John the Baptist | Mail Online.

Surfing Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania by Luke Shadbolt.

surfer-brook-phillips-australia_91303_990x742Photograph by Luke Shadbolt
To get this photograph of surfer Brook Phillip catching a wave off Tasmania, photographer Luke Shadbolt hiked for two hours through beautiful scenery to get to Shipstern Bluff on the island state’s southeastern coast.
According to Shadbolt, the surfing here can be a rough ride, as the waves off the coast are “renowned as [some] of the most intimidating and remote waves in Australia … about as far from civilization as you can get.”
This trip marked Shadbolt’s first time at Shipstern Bluff, and a group of locals took pleasure in telling him “all sorts of horror stories about sharks and killer whales and huge unruly swells” while they hiked in.
“It wasn’t quite as scary as they made it out,” Shadbolt says, “but it was definitely an adventure.”
Not wanting to miss any of the action, Shadbolt spent about eight hours in the water to get this shot. His use of a fish-eye lens required him to be as close to the wave as possible, which also gives the image its wide, slightly distorted look.
Shadbolt had no idea who the surfer in the photograph was until he posted it later on his Instagram feed, discovering Phillip’s name from a few Tasmanian locals.
via Extreme Photo of the Week – National Geographic.

Adorable Owls by Sasi, Thailand.

owl-photography-sasi-smit-25Owls are some of the forests’ most regal, mysterious and graceful models for wildlife photographers.
These photos by a photographer in Bangkok, Thailand who goes by Sasi Smith show the many different faces of these ferocious, silent hunters.
Sasi is a very prolific photographer, and he doesn’t just shoot owls – he has quite a lot of bird photography under his belt as well, especially of parrots.
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Owl photography can be difficult, especially because of their amazing camouflage!
When someone as talented as Sasi gets it right, however, the results can be amazing; here are some more majestic owl photos that we’ve featured on Bored Panda!
More info: 500px | Facebook
See more Images via Adorable Owl Photos Captured By Thai Photographer Sasi | Bored Panda.

The Ice Hotel of Quebec Province.

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Hôtel de Glace. Photo by | Copyright: Creative Commons
Contributor: atimian (Editor)
Comprised of 15,000 tons of snow and 500,000 tons of ice, the Hôtel de Glace, Canada is a massive undertaking, yet each spring it completely disappears.
With only a four-month lifespan, the Ice Hotel takes a month and a half and 60 full-time workers to finish its rooms, but the result is a spectacular blend of chilly, natural architecture and ambient pastel light.
Altogether, the hotel features 85 bedrooms along with a club, art gallery, and even a chapel that usually hosts a handful of weddings.

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Every inch of the hotel is created out of ice, including the furniture.
To make the rooms more livable, beds are covered with furs, blankets and sleeping bags tested to arctic temperatures.
The only areas of the hotel that are heated are a few outdoor bathrooms, along with a few outdoor hot tubs to add to the experience.
Considered an example of a pure ice structure, the hotel is not supported by anything except the icy walls, which can be as thick as four feet to insulate the hotel.
Although you might not get four-star service, the Hôtel de Glace is certainly a unique experience as it changes in layout and complexity every year.
via Hôtel de Glace | Atlas Obscura.

Cloud City crafted entirely out of paper by the Makerie Studio.

makerie-studio-1The Makerie Studio worked in collaboration with photographer Luke Kirwan to create “Cloud City,” an alluring landscape inspired by the intricate patterns in Moroccan architecture.
Three egg-shaped palaces seemingly float in mid-air—connected only by ladders—and give the viewer a bird’s-eye-view into the opulent locales.
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Gilded rails, tiered fountains, and gold lattices are fashioned entirely out of cut paper, but with the moody lighting and incredible craftsmanship, they fool the eye into thinking these structures might just be real.
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See more great Images via Opulent “Cloud City” Constructed Entirely Out of Paper | Illusion Magazine

Foxes and Owls in Finland by Konsta Punkka.

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Twenty-one year-old Finnish photographer Konsta Punkka takes breathtaking pictures of nature and lifestyle.
We’ve written about him previously, but just can’t seem to get enough of his photos of wild animals.
Punkka manages to capture the animals from so close, it’s unbelievable. His secret?
He brings snacks to the photoshoots and feeds them to the animals.

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“The feeding thing in my photographs is more like a thing I want to show to the people, that the animals trust me and they allow me to get really close to them.
I don’t feed these guys much, just a few peanuts to get them stay close to me to take the shots”, Punkka told Bored Panda.

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More info: Instagram | 500px
See more images via Photographer Captures The Soul Of The Forest With His Unbelievably Intimate Animal Shots | Bored Panda