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'Ligo' by Rhys John Stubbs
"The first Covid-19 lockdown in Latvia ended just in time for the Summer Solstice this year, and many of my family members were able to finally be together for the celebrations on 23rd and 24th June (known as Līgo and Jāņi respectively). To ward off evil spirits homes are decorated with birch, rowan, ferns and thistles. To bring good health women weave wildflower headbands while the men are adorned with oak leaves. Food, drink and music unique to the festival are enjoyed in abundance on this special occasion, with Jāņi cheese being essential. The beautiful but eerie light never dwindles at this time of the year in the far north, the sky turning an icy white before being warmed by the pink sun once again in the early hours. It is traditional not to sleep, so bonfires are lit and kept burning all night with couples jumping over them hand in hand to relinquish their burdens and strengthen their bonds. Before retiring to bed it's customary to walk through the morning dew to bring good fortune, and feeling the fresh cool beads on your face is said to enhance your beauty. It's the perfect way to heal your body and mind in all of nature's glory, especially after a hard winter; my grandad used to tell stories of even the engine oil in cars thickening in the freezing temperatures. There is already a famous piece of Latvian choral music called 'Līgo' which is as beautifully haunting as the festival itself, but when I saw the photographs of my family's celebration this year a new melody sprang to me on the guitar and I felt compelled to write this song of my own. The Winter Solstice on Monday marks our darkest day, but it also marks the beginning of our journey back towards that brilliant light."
Released 18th December 2020.
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