An introduction to the Summer Solstice
Three years ago I found myself in France at the height of a European Summer. It was a heady experience for sure. The language and culture so different from my own and a style of living which contrasted significantly from my own. Most significantly for me and that which continues to astound me was the light and colour of a Solstice like nothing I had ever seen before. Of a day that lasts for 24 hours……
You realise how different the shades and hues are in contrast to that of Australian skies. Here our skies are the most brilliant blue, and the sun so strong and energetic blasts across our landscape with great regularity. Our Solstice is not so noticeable physically. We do not have the long winters associated with our Northern Hemisphere cousins. Even in Winter we can enjoy more than the odd day of sunshine and pleasant weather. Our lives are less restricted by the seriousness of sub zero weather conditions. We are insulated from the experiences that tie many of our ancestries to the Northern lands. And our longest day passes by virtually unnoticed, unlike the Midsummer celebrations of the Orkney Isles where Orcadians gather and play a 24 hour round of golf 18 holes drinking whiskey throughout the course…few have made it to the now legendary 18th hole…
But there is still a connection that we feel, and a palpable and visual clue that heralds each season here in Australia. The first stirrings of Spring are seen as the earth begins to stir and awaken from her wintery repose. As Spring progresses the earth begins to warm and the first signs of many of our beautiful summer flowers, natives and fruit and veg begin to blossom.
How thrilling these moments are to me now, but I think how reassuring and welcomed they would have been to my forefathers in the Highlands and Border regions of Scotland and in Prussia. In many countries it is also called St Johns Day, although pronounced a sacred day in Christianity many of its customs still bear the hallmarks of paganism. In Mexico for example the customs of St Johns Day are associated with bonfires, bathing, water and decoration of wells and rivers with flowers. St John being the nominated patron saint of the Element of Water.
For those practitioners of the Craft the Summer Solstice marks both an astronomical event and a time which marks the marriage between the God and Goddess. Some traditions also acknowledge this time as a change over between the Oak and Holly Kings. Many countries celebrated Midsummer with bonfires as an act of sympathetic magic to ensure the sun’s potency and virility throughout the season. Some Nordic countries decorated trees and women and girls took part in bathing rituals to ensure rain for crops. Celebrations continue in our modern times and here in Australia where we can often feel so far away from the rest of the world we can still see and feel the changing landscape. Our indigenous people like the people of the Northen Hemisphere welcomed this time as a season of new and more abundant food sources. A time where herbs, barks, roots and flowers could be harvested for medicinal use. Honey could be collected to use as a sweetener and for Mead (this is also the time where the term Honeymoon comes from). It is a season considered magically potent and a time of potential, planting and preparation. This is a simple introductory post with just a handful of the material that can be sourced regarding the customs of people globally at this time of the year, what customs do you observe? Where does it come from?
Behold the sacred union and eternal fires, welcome spirit, celebration and festivity as we herald in Litha /Midsummer!
However you choose to celebrate Midsummer let it be in joy and festivity-hand to hand and heart to heart B*B.
Ronald Hutton: The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles
Deborah Lipp: The Elements of Ritual
Anne Ross: Folklore of the Scottish Highlands
Doreen Valiente: The Rebirth of Witchcraft
Owen Davis: Cunning Folk Popular Magic in English History
John Lindow: A Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals & Beliefs