Follow the dancing sun

Dale
Dale Jarvis
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One of my favourite Newfound-land storytellers will always be Mrs. Mary Power of Branch, St. Mary's Bay. Mary Power passed away a few Aprils ago, but I still remember her telling stories.

I met Mrs. Power a few years ago at the Cape St. Mary's Performance Series. I fell in love at once with her stories and her friendly, but compelling way of telling her tales. Her stories ranged from her memories of growing up in a Newfoundland very different from what it is today, to folk tales, to ghost stories, a topic near and dear to my own heart. But my most treasured memory of her will always be of sitting on the daybed in her kitchen, warm as toast, with a cup of tea, listening to her talk about the fairies.

Newfoundland unexplained - One of my favourite Newfound-land storytellers will always be Mrs. Mary Power of Branch, St. Mary's Bay. Mary Power passed away a few Aprils ago, but I still remember her telling stories.

I met Mrs. Power a few years ago at the Cape St. Mary's Performance Series. I fell in love at once with her stories and her friendly, but compelling way of telling her tales. Her stories ranged from her memories of growing up in a Newfoundland very different from what it is today, to folk tales, to ghost stories, a topic near and dear to my own heart. But my most treasured memory of her will always be of sitting on the daybed in her kitchen, warm as toast, with a cup of tea, listening to her talk about the fairies.

As Easter drew nearer, I found myself thinking of another of Mrs. Power's stories. I remember her telling me about seeing the sun dance in the sky on Easter morning.

This folk belief that the sun dances on Easter morning is one that arrived on these shores with our early European settlers, and it goes back centuries. In some places, people would rise early on Easter morning in order to witness the event.

The belief, common in parts of Ireland and England, was that the sun would dance, or move up and down three times, in honour of the Resurrection. Some would watch for the sun to do this in the sky, while others would watch the reflection of the sun in a lake, in a bucket of water, or in a basin of water on a windowsill that faced the east.

I am very curious to track where this belief exists, or existed, in Newfoundland and Labrador. The community of Branch, where Mrs. Power was from, has a very strong Irish heritage, but the belief in a dancing sun on Easter is apparently neither particularly Irish nor English.

According to one website, the belief was also once common as far away as Latvia.

"Hanging a large swing on a tree branch, and swinging itself, is one of the most characteristic Easter rituals," claims the Latvian webpage. Considered magical, the swing symbolized the sun dancing.

The late Rev. R.H. Cobbold of Shropshire, England, wrote on Oct. 13, 1879: "In the district called Hockley, in the parish of Broseley, a woman whose maiden name was Evans, wife of Rowland Lloyd, a labourer, said she had heard of the thing, but did not believe it true."

According to the woman, "on Easter morning last, I got up early, and then I saw the sun dance, and dance, and dance, three times, and I called to my husband and said, 'Rowland, Rowland, get up and see the sun dance!' I used not to believe it, but now I can never doubt more."

I clearly remember Mrs. Power saying she had seen the sun dance on Easter morn, but I must confess that I, personally, have never been so lucky.

If you, gentle reader, have also not witnessed the phenomenon, there may be a very good reason for it.

In 1913, Elizabeth Mary Wright of Oxford, England, wrote a book called "Rustic Speech and Folklore." According to Ms Wright, and generations of believers in Sussex, England, "the sun always dances on Easter morning, but nobody has ever seen it because the Devil is so cunning that he always puts a hill in the way to hide it."

If you have a hill-free view of Easter's rising sun, and have seen it dance, you can contact me by e-mail at the address below.

Dale Jarvis can be reached at info@hauntedhike.com.

Organizations: Performance Series

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, England, Ireland Latvia Shropshire Oxford Sussex

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Recent comments

  • Diana Chevrier
    April 18, 2013 - 16:41

    I have seen the sun dance on Easter sun except when it was raining.. I live in Northern Canada ..

  • Rose Kent
    April 08, 2012 - 03:14

    From my living room window,on a clear morning, any day,I can sit and have full view of the sun rise. I watch the sun dance every Easter Sunday morning. It is quite a phenominal experience. You should try to find a way to see for yourself. Happy Easter.

  • Fred
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    I've seen the sun dance many atime but only after consuming a bottle of Screech.

  • Fred
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    I've seen the sun dance many atime but only after consuming a bottle of Screech.