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