With the summer solstice tomorrow I have been busy at work preparing for our midsummer activities. For those who don’t know midsummer is the longest day of the year and the astronomical start of summer. The word “solstice” is Latin for “sun stands still” and has been an important event throughout history. An example of this is Stonehenge, the entrance of which is aligned with the midsummer sunrise. In Celtic mythology it is the time of year when the Holly King “battles” the Oak King and takes over his throne and moves us toward winter as the sun-god “dies”. The sun-god will return to his throne at the winter solstice and that is the story I tell my children to teach them about seasons, life, death and rebirth.
At midsummer I teach my children about the importance of the sun, we talk about what the sun does to sustain life and appreciate that gift that it is. Together we examine the changes that occur at this time of year as now everyday gets a little shorter.
Some important themes of midsummer:
– fire: bonfires were lit and herbs tossed into them, people would then jump over the embers to ensure fertility, health and protection. the ash from the fires would be taken into homes for protection in the coming year. The fire also lit the sun-god’s way down to the underworld.
– water: people would bath in streams that flowed toward sunrise to cleanse their bodies and spirits.
– abundance: everything is growing, flowers at their fullest, and colors are at their brightest.
– divination: placing yarrow under your pillow will make you dream of your future husband, as will looking in a hand mirror or reflective pool.
– faeries: midsummer is the time of year when faeries are most active and can be seen dancing, so be wary not to wander in to a faery circle. Leave them offerings.
This can be seen as superstition and myths to some but for my family it is our belief and how we see and understand life. We dance with faeries around a fire on midsummer’s eve and celebrate the changing season as one with nature. My children are to young to truly understand and fully participate yet but we do our best to include them and make special activities for them to do to celebrate. Every year we make pictures of the sun and little faery houses while listening to songs that mention the sun. we spend as much time as we can outside picnicking, snacking on sun shaped cookies and strawberry-shortcake. We gather flowers and make wreaths and crowns while telling faery stories and always end the day with fresh lemonade or “sun juice”.
After the kids are in bed and as the sunsets my husband and I do our midsummer ritual :
our altar is decorated with a red cloth and adorn with fresh flowers and gold candles to represent the sun god.
We take a square of red cloth and put midsummer herbs in it. (sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, lavender, st. johns wort and vervain)
We meditate on the pain, troubles, sorrows, and illness of the past year before tying up the bundle with black string.
We continue to meditate focusing on the fire and switching focus to the coming year and what we need protection from, what areas in our lives we need strength/ courage in. then write it down on piece of paper.
We take the paper to our fire (we use our charcoal grill) and burn it sending our need out into the universe.
We then bury the pouch of the past year, letting it go so we can move past it.
This is the time of year to start fresh and accept and acknowledge the good things in your life.
“As the sun spirals its longest dance, Cleanse us. As nature shows bounty and fertility. Bless us. Let all things live with loving intent. And to fulfill their truest destiny.” – Summer Solstice Blessing