Mėnuo Juodaragis (Black-Horned Moon or MJR for short) is a unique, independent festival of contemporary Baltic culture and alternative music representing the heritage of pagan tradition, post-folk currents and the vanguard of postmodern music. Every year, the innovative and outstanding event assumes ever new forms of expression including a variety of performances from both Baltic and foreign artists, shows of sound architects, ancient rituals, lectures and films on many interesting topics, exhibitions, traditional crafts, eco-art projects, interactive art projects, performances, games, dance parties, hikes, etc.
Mėnuo Juodaragis is an independent event built on pure enthusiasm and ideals. All activities of the Festival are based on personal initiatives and free will unconstrained by any formal or political influences.
Mėnuo Juodaragis has always been and remains a unique festival refraining from emulation and instead relying on invention. The team of the Festival always strives to accomplish most of the tasks by itself. Many new ideas generated by Mėnuo Juodaragis are later incorporated into other events. Facing new challenges, building ever more inspiring ideas and walking unbeaten paths is key to the Joy of Creation of the Festival.
Mėnuo Juodaragis began in 1995 as a spontaneous gathering of a dozen or so creative young persons and their friends in the village of Verbiškės next to Molėtai Town on a starry night. Today, MJR has become one of the most interesting summer festivals and a major Lithuanian event of alternative scene attracting an increasing number of visitors and artists each year.
The Festival takes place in locations of nature, which is closely related to the concept of MJR.
Traditionally, Mėnuo Juodaragis takes place three days and nights with a number of events running on different spots of the Festival site at the same time so that each visitor can find his or her cup of tea. The diversity the Festival’s programme also determines the variety of the audience which consists of a wide range of scenes and age groups. Sincerity, kindness and respect create an unparalleled unifying atmosphere – true refreshment for everyone interested in the Baltic culture and its revival. Also, MJR is among the few events in Lithuania attracting considerable foreign audiences. The latest events were visited by people from Latvia, Poland, Estonia, Belarus, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Austria, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Canada, USA, Australia and Japan.
Many guests find the Festival to be a unique event both locally and internationally. MJR has a settled and evolving model as well as unique attribute, heraldry and environment. This is the place where new ideas are generated and creativity tones in with wild entertainment. For many, MJR has become a certain point zero in the year.
MJR is organised by the record label Dangus and the non-profit organisation Baltijos Griaustinis. From 2002, the Festival is co-financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania, other culture institutions, the Department of UNESCO Cultural Management at Vilnius Academy of Arts, various enterprises, media outlets and private persons.
However, the major sponsors of the Festival are the unique bands and visitors returning to the Festival every year. It is the best place and time for all tribes to meet and feast.
Mėnuo Juodaragis represents contemporary Baltic culture in a very special way. This is both paying respect to the tradition and enjoying alternative new forms – because music should be alive. And LIVING means changing. MJR is a creative think-tank for Baltic world-view and aesthetics, merging the old and the new, the authentic and the modem, meaning and spontaneity. The event also presents many great bands from other countries. This outstanding international cultural event and musical fiesta invites visitors to the country that has preserved the pagan Fire of Europe and speaks the most ancient tongue on the continent.
Restless intuition turns us into seekers. Somewhere in the flow, in the trees, under the turf, in the dance of the flames, in our genetic succession there is an archetypal key of the Universe whose power was so well known to the old European nations. Ethnic tradition here refers neither to the out-dated illustration hanging on the porch nor the drunken tourist reeling with a pint of beer. The glistening weapon of this expedition will be folklore. It is the irreversible Action Principle preserved for ages, it is the alliance of the Past and the Future revealed in elitist dispersion. MJR summons most advanced artists drawing from the very depth and burning with unique art not meant for mass production.
The flow is generated by plenty of old and new music styles ranging from ethno, neo-folk, post-folk, tribal and gothic to ambient, industrial, IDM, rock/metal, and avant-garde – you name it. These are the tools, the colours, the instruments. They differ but have the same direction, direct or indirect relations with the ancestral tradition. Different generations, nations, ideas, genres and styles, but a single feeling and one enchanting rhythm of the Earth.
Cold lips of the History can hardly tell us anything new. Scientific terms will scarcely reveal the beauty of the fluttering Mystery. It is unlikely we will find the light of our Ancestors in the insidious labyrinths of spurious chronicles. But we do believe that we can revive the essential fragments of the Great Legend in other ways – with a much greater force, with our Heart. The truth of our ritual is to revitalise the magical model of Universality HERE and NOW by employing new measures, new post-modern language. We do not believe it is merely the Fear of losing the identity and becoming a disposable Nothing, or a rudimentary tribute to Nostalgia. Expect a LIVE cosmic move with a bright forward projection!
Meanwhile, the idea behind the Mėnuo Juodaragis is clear and simple – THE HEARTBEAT. In touch with the pulsating Mystery a game turns into a ritual and the ritual becomes the game. We move on in a Circle… to the Beginning of the Beginning. And we listen to what our Ancestors tell us from There.
Change is the essence of life. The glow of cooling midsummers, the sting of barefooted dews, the colours of fire – on water and towards the stars, through dreams, and whispers of oaks – the Circle has been turning, the Fate has been speaking, and the Sky has been showing the symbols and dates of the Mėnuo Juodaragis festival.
For three years in a row the event took place in the tiny Verbiškės village; for another three years it grew surrounded by the waters of Alaušas in Sudeikiai; and for three more years it studied history and magic in the legendary Kernavė.
Then, after these nine magic words, a new era came. The power of Juodaragis roared in the ever strengthening cycle of years, the banners rose calling to discover the miracle of identity. The inspiring journey forward towards the Edge of World in the Northeast where the lakes are immense and the pure simplicity restores the sense the Baltic soul. After three years of sweeping spaces in Zarasai and the 12th anniversary of the festival, the new circle began: every fourth year brings a smaller event in a different place of our beautiful Lithuania.
The 13th edition of the festival descended into the Devil’s Pit in Aukštadvaris, and in 2011 the MJR returned to the Great Island of Lake Zarasas for another 3-year journey marked by Polyphonic Songs, Birds and the Baltic fraternity of Latvians and Lithuanians. Then the compact edition of the festival yielded to the vortices of Dreams under the foliage of the Skinderiškis Park tree kingdom in Central Lithuania. It returned to Zarasai with the buzz of bees and the sweetness of honey and was rewarded with Oaks and new magic Home – in 2016 and 2017, the festival moved to the fabulous island of Lake Dūburys near Antazavė.
The 21st compact edition of Mėnuo Juodaragis Festival was at a new exclusive location. In 2017 we visited the region of Raseiniai on the approaches of Samogitia, Western Lithuania. The three-day celebration took place at the striking complex of Molavėnai Castle Mounds.
In 2020 we will return to Home – the island of Lake Dūburys near Antazavė.
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Time flows through altars, and the history of Mėnuo Juodaragis continues…