At Summer Sostice the significance of the Sun-God is as literally as clear as day. At the Solstice he is at his highest and brightest and his day is at its longest. Naturally we greet him and we honour him. We celebrate the fact that he has 'put flight to the powers of darkness' and brough fertility to the land. Midsummer rejoices in the full flood of the years abundance and the zenith of light and warmth. However within this climax is the whisper of a return to the Dark. The Sun God may be at his peak but this is also the moment when his strength begins to wane. The days will now begin to grow shorter and the nights grow longer.We are drawn back into the Dark to complete the Wheel of the Year. But before we move toward the Dark side of the year we must celebrate this great turning point of the Wheel and celebrate!
It is traditional to stay up all night on Midsummer's Eve to watch the sunrise and then 'welcome the sun'. It was a time to light Bonfires on top of hills and at places held sacred to honour the fullness of the Sun.The Midsummer bonfire is representative and a reflection of the Sun at the peak of his strength. The wood chosen would often be Oak with aromatic herbs were scattered into the fire. People danced around the fires and leap through them. The ashes from the sacred bonfire were used to bless the animals and fields. Blazing torches were carried sunwise around homes and fields. Coals from the Midsummer fire were scattered on fields to ensure a good harvest.
Bonfires are an essential part of the celebration.“It was the sun that was symbolised at midsummer in the bonfires that were traditional in many parts of the islands. Material for the Orkney bonfires (which persisted until the 1860s) was gathered by the older boys and girls of each district during the fortnight before Midsummer. There was much animation as the young people danced and capered round the bonfire. The boys pulled torches of blazing heather out of the fire and ran over the hill-sides, setting more of the heather alight. In some places memories of the old significance of the Midsummer bonfire remained in people’s minds. Up to the mid-nineteenth century, a few farmers in Rousay used to carry the blazing heather into the byres and, where possible, among the cattle to make them thrive. When cows were not in calf, this helped to ensure procreation. In the preceding century, people were in the habit of walking around the fire several times ‘with the sun’, as if following a ritual; horses which had been sick were led around it in the same way.
There are well-established traditions of houses and fields being circled with the blazing torches. In Birsay, Firth and Orphir – probably elsewhere – a bone was thrown into the fire. Dancing continued until early dawn. Jumping through the flames seems to have been essential everywhere.” (Ernest Marwick in his book The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland records)
Things to Do
When I was little, I learned that if you pick flowers on midsummer night, placed them under your pillow they would bring important dreams, especially dreams about future lovers.
St John's Wort was also traditionally gathered on this day, thought to be imbued with the power of the sun. Other special flowers (Vervain, trefoil, rue and roses) were also thought to be most potent at this time.
Make a herb dream pillow
Making herbal dream pillow is easy. Herbs have various benefits not just their fragrance!. Making herbal dream pillows is easy as well as a fun way to not only encourage restful sleep and vivid dreaming, but also an excellent way to honour Midsummer. After staying up all night to watch sunrise slip into bed with your Midsummer pillow and float off into vivid, wistful and restful dreams.
Fabric cut into 6 Inch Squares – thin cotton is best to let the scent through (I often use old sheets)
Needle & Thread
Herbs of Your Choice (see below for ideas)
Place two squares of fabric with right sides together. Sew three edges together, Using about a 3/8″ seam allowance. Sew the fourth edge together, but don’t finish it, leave about 2″ unsewn and open. Using that opening, turn your pillow case right-side out.
Loosely fill the pillow with your desired dried herb or dried herb combination – don’t overfill, it makes it very difficult to sew up that opening when it’s overflowing. Tuck the raw edges of your opening inside the pillow and sew that opening closed. Alternatively only sew three sides and line with cotton padding, leave the top open. This means you can use fresh flowers and herbs instead of dried.
Tree worship has always played a large role in Midsummer festivities. Trees near wells and fountains were decorated with coloured cloths or clouties.The key to good cloutie making is to be sure you create something that will not harm the environment! Traditionally, clouties brought healing, and so it was common for the petitioner to use some strip of their own clothing for a cloutie. Then, as the strip disintegrates in the tree or bush or holy well, healing would come to the clothing's owner.
Ribbons are also used for clouties. Again, they need to be biodegradable! Colored ribbons can stand for the petitioner's personal needs: perhaps a blue ribbon to heal a chest cold, or a red ribbon to heal pimples. The ribbon color is determined by local culture or the beliefs of the petitioner. Clootie wells are also places of pilgrimage. They are wells or springs, almost always with a tree growing beside them, where strips of cloth or rags have been left, usually tied to the branches of the tree as part of a healing or ritual. In Scots nomenclature, a "clootie" or "cloot" is a strip of cloth or rag.
When used at the clootie wells in Scotland the pieces of cloth are generally dipped in the water of the well and then tied to a branch while a request or petition is said to the spirit of the well which can be a goddess or local nature spirit. This is most often done by those seeking healing, though some may do it simply to honour the spirit of the well. In either case it remains a fitting Midsummer celebration.
Mix some Midsummer Bath Salts
1 cup of salt
8 drops of honeysuckle oil
8 drops of rose oil
4 drops of patchouli oil
Ideas for your Altar
Your choice of colours for draping and dressing your altar are all the colours of summer, so take your pick! Be creative and go wild. Use flowers that reflect the joy of the season. Bright oranges and reds to reflect the energy of the Sun God. Oak, Oak and more oak to celebrate the Oak King who at this this time is rich in abundance. Celebrate and honour him for all too soon but he too surrenders his reign to his brother twin, the Holly King, and the descent begins.
*If you are burning candles, incense, oils or any other naked flame do remember that in the interests of safety they should be attended at all times!
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