Summer Solstice or Midsummer is much more than just the longest day of the year. This day has deep, magickal roots all over the world and has been celebrated by a myriad of cultures for centuries. A solar/fire festival, Midsummer is a celebration of light, the powers of the Sun and the coming abundance of Mother Earth. Summer Solstice (I tend to interchange the terms Midsummer and Summer Solstice) occurs around June 20th - June 21st when the Sun enters the zodiac sign Cancer. The longest day and shortest night happens on Summer Solstice day, bringing the Sun to the height of its power. Although the hottest days of summer are still ahead of us, the Summer Solstice marks the end of the light half of the year and the beginning of the dark half of the year (the days slowly start to get shorter as the sun sets earlier each evening).
Midsummer has many names including:
- Summer Solstice and Midsummer
- Feast of Epona (ancient Gaul)
- All Couple's Day (Greece)
- Vastalia (ancient Rome)
- Gathering Day (Wales)
- Feill-Sheathain (Scotland)
- Thing-Tide (Scandinavia)
Because of the power this day (and the days surrounding the Solstice) holds, it's a great time to perform spell work for protection, fertility, abundance, renewal, love and cleansing. Nature is growing and blooming at every turn. The Summer Solstice gives us wee mortals a chance to revel in the beauty of nature and celebrate all that Mother Earth gives us. Midsummer is generally a time to party, feast and get down with your bad self at a community or family gathering (these ancient gatherings took place at Midsummer and are the root of what we now know as family reunions which usually take place in June.) Mother Earth likes a good a party too. Use the power of the Summer Solstice to:
- Honor and commune with the fairy kingdom (Leave the fairies an offering of food ie. milk, honey, butter, wine, bread etc)
- Garden witchery (make a fairy garden and kill 2 birds with 1 stone)
- Herbal and garden magick
- Invite a bunch of pagan folk over and make the most of the sunshine with outdoor ritual followed by a rowdy picnic/bbq
- Gather fresh herbs and hang them to dry (Vervain was traditionally gathered before dawn on Midsummer and pine cones gathered on the day are considered powerful protection amulets.)
- Harness the protective power of the sun and make protection amulets. Next year, bury the amulet on Midsummer Eve and make a new one on Midsummer Day.
Although all Sabbats are associated with fire in some way, this element is most important and honored at Midsummer because of the hot sun. Balefires have been a prominent component of Midsummer for centuries and continue to be lit today. Traditionally, a balefire was lit on the eve of Midsummer, burned/tended to throughout the day of Midsummer and then allowed to burn out. Summer Solstice activities (feasting, spell work, etc.) took place around the balefire making it the focal point of the day (symbolic of the sun's extended stay in the sky). In some traditions, all lights in the home were extinguished and re-lit using torches lit from the balefire to bring the power of the sun into the home. Farmers sometimes lit two fires side by side and walked their livestock between them. This practice had two purposes: 1. the smoke purified the livestock while the fire offered symbolic protection. 2. the heat from the fire caused pests like ticks to fall off the animals. Once the balefire has gone out the ashes that are left behind are sprinkled in the fields to bless the crops and bring fertility. The most important thing to note about fire during Midsummer is its similarities to the sun. Fire can cook your food, heat your home, light the way, burn you, and purify. The sun provides warmth, provides plants with energy to grow and thrive, lights the way, heats you up and can give you one hell of a burn if you're not careful. There are countless activities that can be done during Midsummer that include fire/sun:
- Light a bonfire. If a bonfire is too extreme, make a fire pit. If you're like me and don't have access to a yard, then use your cauldron. Light a few gold and green candles (gold represents the sun and green represents nature) in your cauldron.
- A simple spell to release that which no longer serves you: write down what you want to release on a peace of paper and throw it into the fire.
- Place votive candles in a dish with some water. The floating votives are pretty, provide some ambiance, and can also double as a scrying tool.
- Do some candle magick
- Practice safe sunbathing and work on your tan a bit
- When the sun begins to set, light sparklers and dance with the fireflies.
Summer Solstice folklore: June is a popular month for people to get hitched. Ancient societies believed it was bad luck to marry in the month of May because this time belonged to the God and Goddess (Beltane). May is the month of sacred marriage between the Goddess and God, so people waited until June to walk down the aisle. A nursery rhyme/old poem reflects this belief in its lyrics:
"Married when the year is new, he'll be loving, kind & true,
When February birds do mate, You wed nor dread your fate.
If you wed when March winds blow, joy and sorrow both you'll know.
Marry in April when you can, Joy for Maiden & for Man.
Marry in the month of May, and you'll surely rue the day.
Marry when June roses grow, over land and sea you'll go. (or and happiness you'll always know)
Those who in July do wed, must labour for their daily bred.
Whoever wed in August be, many a change is sure to see
Marry in September's shrine, your living will be rich and fine.
If in October you do marry, love will come but riches tarry.
If you wed in bleak November, only joys will come, remember.
When December snows fall fast, marry and true love will last."
Summer Solstice/Midsummer is a powerful time during the wheel of the year. Work on your tan, reflect on the light half of the year, make plans for the dark half or have a few rowdy companions over for a bbq, fire pit and sparklers. Spend some time thinking of all that Mother Nature provides and the harvest that is still to come. Create a fairy garden or an amulet to protect your home, property, animals or yourself (these could be good projects for the kids). It doesn't matter what you do as long as you enjoy the longest day of the year!!
Brightest of Blessings to you all,
Sabbats: A Witch's Approach To Living The Old Ways by: Edain McCoy (great book!)
Seasons of Witchery: Celebrating The Sabbats With The Garden Witch by: Ellen Dugan