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THE SUMMER SOLSTICE / MIDSUMMER'S EVE

Ingrid Jeffries is a counseling astrologer and tarot intuitive with 20+ years experience. Her office is located in Golden Co. where she also teaches classes in dream work, archetype symbolism, astrology and tarot. Go to her website's "classes" page for more information on her classes and monthly talks. www.NorthStarAstrology.net

As the Sun moves into Cancer, the solar energy peaks in the northern hemisphere, and signals the time when the Sun stands still, or Solstice. For the ancients this was a day to celebrate life and make wishes for the future. On this day the Sun God is seen at His highest point in the sky, vibrant and strong. Together with the pregnant Mother Goddess He rules the summer season. However, this is also a time of transition, for now the Sun will begin its yearly descent and the days grow shorter until the Winter solstice.

The Druids viewed this day as the wedding of Heaven and Earth, Alban Heruin. The Moon of this month was known as "The Honey Moon" in testimonial to the honey mead that was consumed at the wedding celebrations so common to this time of year. It is interesting to note that the old folk calendars had summer beginning on May 1st and ending on Lammas, August 1st. Consequently the Summer Solstice was called "mid" summer. Just as Christmas was adopted from the midwinter festival of Yule, so the feast of St. John the Baptist was adopted from the midsummer festival of Litha. It is intriguing that St. John was seen as a somewhat pagan figure. Many statues showed him as having horns, he was known as the "Oak King" and his shrines were always very rustic and found in out of the way places.

Historically, this was the time for early harvests; the herbs and flowers harvested on this day were considered to have magical properties. It is said that nine different herbs were thrown into the Midsummer's Eve bonfire to enhance good fortune and divination. Garlands of St John's Wort, lavender, heartsease, chamomile, geranium, thyme, vervain, and pennyroyal were hung around the house for their aroma and the belief that they banished sickness and bad luck.

The customs for this time of year are varied, but all involve light and fire as representative to the Sun/Son. Bonfires burned through the night around which poets and bards told stories, musicians played and dancers danced. All night vigils were common in many cultures. As at the Winter Solstice, mistletoe is sacred at Summer Solstice, when it is in bloom. The Druids gathered it on Midsummer Eve, cutting it with a golden scythe and catching it in a cloth, never allowing it to touch the ground. They believed that mistletoe could open all locks, cure all ills, and was a lightning conductor. In Sweden, mistletoe is believed to be possessed of mystical qualities and, in Wales, a sprig of mistletoe gathered on Midsummer Eve and placed under the pillow is said to bring prophetic dreams. This is seen as the second of the three 'Spirit Nights' and is a good time for all forms of divination. Mugwort is also sacred at this time, as is vervain (and as a later addition, St John's Wort).

A lovely and unusual custom, practiced in South America and in Austria on the Danube River, is the 'burning boat' or 'candle boat'. These paper boats are filled with flowers, set afire and sailed off on the ocean or river, to carry prayers to the Goddess. It is interesting that this custom should appear in two places so far apart, with no explanation or connection. If you are near a body of water, this would be a wonderful addition to your own Midsummer festivities.

How can we celebrate Litha today?

  • Decorate with and wear bright colors.
  • Have lots of fresh flowers, candles or a fire
  • Hot and Spicy foods honor the heat of the day while fresh fruits and vegetables celebrate the abundance that is available at this time.
  • Herbs and Flowers: Mugwort, Vervain, Chamomile, Rose, Honeysuckle, Lily, Oak, Lavender, Ivy, Yarrow, Elder, Thyme, Daisy, Carnation
  • Traditional Incense: Lemon, Myrrh, Pine, Rose, Wisteria.
  • Woods Burned: Oak
  • Gemstone : Emerald
  • Special Activities: An Ideal time to reaffirm your vows
  • Archangel associated with this day: Gabriel
  • Gods are associated with the Sun and the Goddess is of the Earth

Summer Solstice is still observed publicly by modern English Druids, both at Boadicca's Tomb, Parliament Hills, London, and at Stonehenge. All night vigils take place on both sites, and at Stonehenge, there is a second celebration at Noon. Midsummer is not forgotten in today's world, although it may be called by a different name. The bonfires are lit, vigils kept, cartwheels sent blazing down hills. Candle boats are sailed in Brazil and in Florida, as well as on the Danube.

When you light your fire and stay up throughout the night, you are celebrating in the way our ancestors did. Have a wonderful Midsummer and remember, "Imagination is the eye of the soul."

For a Midsummer ritual go to www.northstarastrology.net/Summerritual.html

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