Traditions and Magic: Summer Solstice by Sue Perryman



Other names: Midsummer, Litha, Alban Heffyn, Coamhain.

Colours: red, orange, yellow, gold, green, white, blue.

Symbols: Fire, Sun, Oak/leaves and acorns, Sun wheels, Flowers, herbs, Sunflowers/ seeds, Fruit, Sickles.

Herbs: Elderflower, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, St. John's Wort, Bay, Honeysuckle, Yarrow, Mint, Thyme, Mugwort, Carnation, Fennel, Ginger, Rose, Meadowsweet, Vervain.

Foods: Strawberries, Apples, Honey, Seasonal vegetables, Salads and Fruits.

Crystals: Citrine, Sunstone, Ruby, Garnet, Carnelian, Tiger's eye.

Drinks: Mead, Elderflower cordial, Homemade Lemonade.


In the Northern hemisphere Midsummer's day takes place somewhere between 20th-22nd June (the date varies slightly each year), the longest day and shortest night of the year and the first official day of Summer. The sun reaches its most Northerly point and is at its peak of power, but from this day until the winter solstice, the sun's power will wane, and the day's will gradually shorten, despite this the hottest part of the summer is still to come.


The word solstice comes from the Latin word 'solstitium' meaning 'sun stands still'. Evidence shows that the solstices were marked in one way or another for centuries. The sacred site of Stonehenge is aligned with the summer solstice sunrise and attracts thousands of visitors wanting to witness the event and join in the celebrations every year.


Traditionally many of our ancestors would have stayed up all night on Midsummer's eve, to welcome and honour the sun. Bonfires would be lit on hilltops, often made using oak wood with aromatic herbs scattered into the fire. People would have danced around the fires and leapt over them for purification, fertility and prosperity. The ashes from the fires were scattered on fields in the belief that it would bring a good harvest.


Wheels and other round objects were seen as symbols of the sun, an old custom in some areas of Britain involved cartwheels swathed in straw, set alight and rolled down hills. Torchlit processions were also popular, a forerunner of our carnival parades perhaps!


In some traditions the Solstices are seen as a time of battle between light and dark, which is represented by the battle between the Oak and Holly Kings. The Oak king is ruler of the light half of the year from the winter solstice to the summer solstice when the sun is growing in strength, and his brother the Holly king rules the dark half from the summer solstice to the winter solstice when the sun is waning. This battle is often re-enacted by covens as part of their solstice celebrations.


The Sun is ruled by the element of Fire, so it’s a good time to work some fire magic. Fire brings transformation, passion, protection, purification, success, creativity, clarity, strong will, energy, inspiration, courage and change.


On this day the sun enters the Tropic of Cancer, a water sign, making this also a good time for water magic. Water rules love, our emotions, reflection, intuition, healing, purification and cleansing.


Midsummer is well known for being a time when the Fae are afoot. Notoriously shy and careful of who they show themselves to, it is said that liminal times such as dawn, dusk and the solstices are the best time to catch a glimpse. Take an offering of a dish of cream or honey with you and sit in vigil silently in a high place or in a grove of trees, asking the good spirits to show themselves. Who knows, you may be lucky!


The summer solstice, as well as a time for celebration, is also a time for reflection, for while the sun is at his zenith, he is also starting to wane, a promise of the return of the dark, a time for inner development, inner wisdom and looking within, a necessary part of the cycle of the year.


Midsummer is the time to gather with like-minded people, arrange a picnic or barbeque asking everyone to bring food and drink to share, get up early enough to watch the sun rise hang sun symbols around your home and altar, make a mandala, harvest and dry herbs, visit a stone circle or other sacred place. Whatever you decide to do, try to spend as much time outside as possible.


The Summer solstice is time to celebrate all that you have achieved, learn from any mistakes you have made and start to make plans for the dark half of the year. Remember count your blessings and have fun.





Sources:

Sacred Celebration - Glennie Kindred

Grimoire of a Kitchen Witch - Rachel Patterson

learnreligions.com

watkinsmagazine.com

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