Held July 23, 2014 in Ottawa, Canada, Pokrova Master Class Series welcomed guest instructor Kassandra Prus, to teach the art of creating traditional and modern unique ‘vinky’ (wreath headdress). A former dancer with ARKAN Ukrainian Dance Company, Kassandra Prus has worked in the costuming and wardrobe team curating and creating unique and stylized Ukrainian costumes for performance.
In traditional Ukrainian culture, the vinok is a type of wreath worn by girls and young, unmarried women. It is part of a tradition predating the Christianization of Rus’ reaching back to old East Slavic customs. The flower wreath headdress continues to be part of traditional Ukrainian performance costuming, and is often worn on festive occasions and Holy days.
The celebration of “Ivana Kupala” originally was a pagan fertility rite. Dating back to pre-Christian times, it was thought that the vinok would protect girls from evil spirits. The tradition involved young women placing their wreaths into flowing water with a lit candle. Its purpose was to foretell their romantic future by virtue of the flow of the wreath down the river of lake. From the wreath’s direction, the girl could tell whom she would marry: if the wreath stayed in one spot and did not float down the water, she would not marry. If the wreath submerged, she would die. If the candle extinguished misfortune would follow. Young men would dive into the flowing water to retrieve the vinok of the girl they loved.
As Christianity came to Ukraine and the nation evolved, the ceremonial, religious value of the vinok diminished, replaced as a notional character of girlhood. For example, to lose a wreath in folk songs and traditions means that a young maiden transitioned into womanhood.
Since 2013, the Ukrainian vinok has enjoyed resurgence in popularity, entering mainstream Western culture as seen in images of Hollywood actresses wearing stylized vinky as part of daily or ceremonial wear. In Ukraine, its resurgence coincided with the rise of the independence movement and the Maidan.
Pokrova Network is proud to share the unique Ukrainian tradition of “vinky” in Ottawa, Canada.