Category: Summer Solstice

Origins of the Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice marks the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The sun reaches its highest point in the sky as we enjoy over sixteen hours of daylight. The term solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium, with sol meaning “the sun” and sistere meaning “to make stand.” Today the term solstice is used to describe the exact moment when the sun reaches its northernmost point ( around 21 June) or its southernmost point (around 21 December) from the earth’s equator.

Summer Solstice celebrations have their roots deeply imbedded in Neolithic times and both tombs and circles were built in alignment with the rising and setting sun at this time of year. The Druids of the Iron Age called this day Alban Heruin meaning “the light of the shore” and it is also referred to as Midsummer or Litha, an Anglo Saxon word meaning calm and gentle. Probably referencing the beautiful Summer weather.

Some Pagans believe that the Goddess is heavily pregnant at this time and that the God is at the height of his virility. They form the perfect union surrounded by a bountiful earth awash with colour and scent.

Traditionally, people would stay up all night on Midsummer’s Eve so that they could welcome the rising sun. Bonfires were lit on top of hills and the wood they chose to burn was often oak. They danced around the flames, sang, cut divining rods and leapt over the fires and burning embers. These ritualistic fires were lit to invoke good luck, fertility, purity and protection from disease and evil spirits for example.

It was common for courting couples to hold hands and jump over the embers of the Litha fire three times to ensure a long and happy marriage, health, prosperity and many children. Young men jumped over them to prove their courage and strength and young women jumped over the cooling embers to attract a husband and to help with their fertility.

The charred embers possessed protective powers and were made into charms to protect against things such as injuries and were commonly scattered in fields and orchards to protect and encourage abundant crops.

Cattle were guided through the embers too while their backs were singed with a burning hazel twig. Burning gorse or furze was carried around the cattle to bless them and protect them from misfortune.

People would also scatter the embers around their homes for protection, as well as placing them in the hearth. Some people even  lit hazel sticks from the bonfire and raced one another back home; the first one to get there would be blessed with prosperity for the coming year.

In Ireland the oldest woman in the community would circle the fire reciting prayers of protection and houses were decorated with birch, fennel, St John’s Wort and white lillies.

The Celts depicted the sun as a spoked wheel and would bind wooden cart wheels with straw, set them on fire and then roll them down the side of a steep hill. For them this symbolized the turning of the year. It was believed that if the wheel was still alight at the bottom of the hill then a good harvest would follow.

The full moon of June is traditionally called the Honey Moon named after the mead drink that is readily available at this time of year. This was often part of hand fasting ceremonies performed on the Summer Solstice. Mead was regarded as the divine solar drink which was believed to contain magickal and life restoring properties.

Mistletoe was revered by the Druids and was regarded as particularly potent when it grew on an oak tree. Although we associate mistletoe with the Winter Solstice, it was often gathered ceremoniously at Midsummer when it was considered to be at the height of its power. The cuttings would have then been made into protective amulets. Their festivities and rituals would not have taken place at Stonehenge as many people are led to believe. There is no historical evidence that Druids had a connection with Stonehenge, however, modern day Druids still gather at the megalithic stone circle for the Solstices and Equinoxes.

Tree worship has always played an important role in the Midsummer festivities and trees that were found near wells and springs were often decorated with torn pieces of cloth that were soaked in the healing waters. It was believed that when the pieces of cloth disintegrated completely then the malady that they represented was cured.

In some areas of Ancient Greece the Summer Solstice was seen as the first day of the year and a festival called Cronia was held at this time in honour of the agricultural God Cronus . During these wild celebrations, slaves were allowed to swap places with their masters and were treated as equals. The Summer Solstice also counted down the four weeks before the start of the Olympic Games.

In the days leading up to the Summer Solstice, the Romans celebrated the festival of Vestalia (the public hearth).  It was a festival that honoured the Goddess Vesta which included her shrine being ritually cleansed. This was the only time of year that married women were permitted entrance into the sacred temple of the Vestal Virgins to make an offering to the Goddess.

Midsummer was an extremely important time for the Vikings who would already be taking advantage of the milder calmer weather going off in search of land and wealth. For the ancient Norse who stayed behind they would be gathering to discuss legal matters and resolving disputes. Scandinavian and Germanic tribes would also have built huge bonfires and visited healing springs.

If you know of any European traditions or folklore associated with the Summer Solstice then I would love you to share them.

Summer Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

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Celebrating the Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice is a day of celebration as well as deep introspection. Not only do we rejoice in the sun’s power at its peak, but we also come to the realization that the days from now on will be growing shorter as the harvest approaches with haste.

To mark this special occasion here are some ways that you can celebrate, give thanks and bring your desires to life by channelling the sun’s potent energies.

Sun sensitive paper is a fantastic way to decorate your book of shadows or green witch journal. It is so easy to use and it is a fun activity for children to do as well. All you need to do is place leaves, flowers, or any other object on the special paper and then leave it outside in the sun. The paper will change colour around the objects leaving a beautiful print. Just follow the instructions and make sure you do this on a sunny day.

With the abundance of flowers and grasses at the moment now is the perfect time to experiment with natural dyes to use on handmade paper, fabric and for creating inks.

Floating little paper boats down a river or stream and writing your wishes or blessings on them is a magical thing to do.

Find a farm where you can pick your own fruit and vegetables. I love picking strawberries, but be careful though just in case they decide to weigh you before you go in and when you come out 😉

You are never too old to make daisy chains.

Flower garlands are easy to make and you can find everything that you need around you. Leaves, flowers, willow, Virginia creeper and herbs can all be used.

How about harvesting and drying your own herbs? Paper bags are perfect for this if you don’t have the space to hang them to dry. There is plenty of information out there to guide you.

Once your herbs are dry you could create your own potpourri or lavender bags and perhaps you could also add them to candles, soaps and bath bombs as well. Some essential oils that have a Summer vibe about them are lavender, orange and vervain.

Faeries and other land wights always appreciate a little gift and this is their favourite time of year. Offerings of fruit, nuts, flowers, honey and milk are all welcome.  Perhaps you could craft faery doors and faery houses out of wooden lolly sticks.

Kite flying is a lovely way to send your petitions up into the sky.

If you can get yourself to the coast then beach combing is a perfect way to gather materials for some beach art. Sea glass, pebbles, shells, seaweed and driftwood can all be used to make mobiles, wind chimes, land art, mosiacs and jewellery. Shells can be used to decorate a multitude of items including, mirrors, frames, wreaths and flower pots. And remember, if you see any rubbish on the beach and it is safe to do so, pick it up and throw it away properly. We all need to do our bit for Mama.

Your altar can now be transformed into a sun shrine, covered with symbols of fire and light with shades of gold, yellow and bronze.

Quench your thirst by making your own fresh lemonade, elderflower cordial or follow the many different recipes you can find that use dandelions.

For those of us who are unable to greet the solstice sun at dawn, then leaving a battery operated tea light candle on an east facing windowsill is the next best thing. Then in the evening when you bid the sun farewell at sunset, you can switch it off.

Treat your garden to a new edition; a pond. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; a washing up bowl, a baby’s old bath or even a large plastic box that is placed in a hole in the ground with some aquatic plants and a sloping edge made of pebbles or stones. Again you can find plenty of tutorials and advice on the internet or your local library. Mother Nature will thank you for it.

Is there a sad looking area near you that could do with a pick me up? Guerilla gardening is becoming more and more popular now and can really make a difference to people’s lives. It needn’t cost much and with a group of friends would take no time to do.

Have fun creating your own land art using leaves, flowers, pebbles, rocks, branches and even crystals to make anything from beautiful mandalas to 3D sculptures.

And last but not least your Solstice ritual. Let it be about celebrating your accomplishments so far this year, gratitude and self healing. Weather permitting I’ll be outside enjoying my ritual at midday.

If you have any cool ideas that I haven’t mention then please don’t hesitate to share them.

Summer Blessings to you all.

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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