perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing,
the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.
~~ James Dent ~~
Summer Solstice on June 21 is a key date in the solar calendar,
for the Sun has reached its highest point in the sky, making this
the longest day in the year, and therefore a time for great rejoicing.
The solar god is now at the pinnacle of his power, having grown
to full maturity; he personifies the Father and the King, who embody
the traditionally masculine qualities of strength, energy and authority.
The Goddess, meanwhile, has reached a similar stage in her eternally
shifting and returning cycle; she is the Full Moon of Summer in
all her glory, the fertile, fulsome Mother Goddess and Queen. This
royal pair is perfectly expressed in the symbolism of the Tarot
as the Emperor and the Empress…
is called Alban Heruin or “the light of the Shore” in
modern Druidism. This festival marks the Summer Solstice and the
longest day. Over Midsummer, vigils, bonfires and gatherings were
usual, with many people jumping through the fire to rid themselves
of illness and so engender health and fertility…
is named after Juno – the Roman Mother Goddess and Queen of
Heaven – consort of Jupiter, the Father God (in Greek, they
were Hera and Zeus). In Anglo-Saxon, June was known as Aerra Litha,
meaning “before Litha”, or Midsummer; in Welsh, Mehefin,
or Midsummer; and in Gaelic, An t’Og mhios, “the young
is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer,
the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as
yet no sign
to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.
~~ Gertrude Jekyll ~~
the Gaulish Calendrical Tablet, the Coligny Calendar, the month
of June-July was called Equos, or “horse-time” –
the season when it was possible to ride out freely in good weather
and a time for horse-fairs and races…
June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single
No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all
~~ Aldo Leopold ~~
June 21 as the twins of Gemini yield to Cancer the crab, we observe
the longest day of the year. Summer Solstice, or Alban Hefin as
it is known in Welsh, heralds solar celebrations across the British
Isles. At dawn, the sun's rays illuminate astronomical markers of
the great megalithic circles at Stonehenge in England, the Ring
of Brodgar on Orkney, and the Callanish standing stones in the Outer
the Summer Solstice, as the Sun climbs as high in the heavens as
he can possibly go, people the length and breadth of Europe form
Atlantic shore to old Russia, from cold north to hot south, have
lit magical fires in a ceremony of union with the luminous God,
in an attempt to boost his power so that he will not disappear too
quickly into the depths of winter…
summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.
Russel Baker ~~
spiral of the year was and continues to be enacted with bonfires,
a tradition revived in the 1920's in Cornwall. The rites hearken
back to the ancient practice of rolling a burning wheel down a hillside.
In the vale of Glamorgan in Wales, crowds once gathered to watch
the spectacle with anticipation. If the cartwheel was no longer
aflame when it reached the bottom, it foretold a poor harvest. If
however it was still blazing, farmers cheered their good fortune...
Midsummer, there were three main ways that fire might be used: huge
bonfires might be lit in prominent places; burning torches might
be carried in procession around the fields; and flaming wheels might
be rolled along the ground or down hills. All these customs are
clearly forms of imitative magic. The light of the bonfires, visible
for miles, recalled that of the Sun’s rolling passage across
the heavens, like the Greek solar god Apollo in his chariot…
Scandinavia, the Midsummer fires were called “Balder’s
balefires”, and were sacred to the Norse god Balder. Naming
these fires after the god suggests that his body, in effigy or in
the form of a living representative, was once given up in the flames,
like some great Viking hero on a sacred funeral pyre…
Beltane traditions were repeated at Midsummer. Throughout Europe,
people trusted their fortunes to the energizing force of the Midsummer
blaze. For example, cattle were driven between twin fires to protect
them against disease; elsewhere, people jumped over the flames,
the height of their leap indicating the eventual height of their
crops. In France, people believed that the Midsummer fires could
banish June rain – as if the flames would call out the Sun,
who would push aside the dark clouds. In Cornwall, it was thought
that if a sufficient number of bonfires could be lit on different
hilltops, the landscape would glow with firelight, like a giant
reflector dish that would strengthen the Sun…
is closely associated with Druidry, and even today the British Druid
Order is permitted to celebrate the day at Stonehenge. The festival
traditionally begins at dusk on Solstice eve when fires are lit
to ritually encourage the sun to rise full, to climb into the sky
and ripen the fruit of the trees, the grains of the field. At the
first light of dawn, celebrants who kept watch through the night
honor the power of the solar deity. And then at noon, the rite switches
tone in recognition of the cycle of the seasons. After the sun hangs
high for three days it begins its descent into the darkness of winter.
The Sun King is fatally wounded at his peak and the process of his
death and rebirth begins anew...
Druid Mog Ruith, whos name means “the servant of the wheel”,
moved through the sky upon a roth ramach or “rowing wheel”,
which was conceived as the shining chariot of the sun. Like the
sadhus of India, he performed miraculous Shamanic feats, including
flying through the air attired in his enennach. or bird headdress,
with magical weapons to smite his enemies. With his daughter, Tlachnga,
he is a patron of wisdom and enlightenment…
question not if thrushes sing,
If roses load the air;
Beyond my heart I need not reach
When all is summer there.
~~ John Vance Cheney ~~
Classical writer, Diodorus Siculus, wrote of the Celtic Gauls, “In
war they carefully obey the Druids and their song-loving poets…Often
times as armies approach each other in line of battle with their
swords drawn and their spears raised for the charge, these men come
forth between them and stop the conflict, as though they had spell-bound
some kind of wild animals. Thus, even among the most savage barbarians,
anger yields to wisdom and Ares does homage to the Muses.”
Celtic texts also speak of the peace-making abilities of the Druids
Celts traditionally made offerings and prayers at wells, a custom
that continues to this day – especially at those wells that
have healing properties. “Clooties”, or strips of cloth,
are dipped in the well, prayed over and hung in the thorn tree that
invariably grows over the well, there to hang and fade until the
prayer, blessing or healing is achieved. All “wishing wells”
started life as primary accesses of healing power. The Struthill
Well in Scotland is remembered in this wishing spell – a remnant
of earlier incantations:
And three black pins,
Three yellow govans (daisies)
Off the green,
Into the well,
With a one, two, three,
And a fortune, a fortune
Come to me.
or Maeve, was Queen of Connacht. She is said to have slept with
or been married to many kings, although her long-term husband was
Ailill. She seems to have been a priestess of the Goddess of Sovereignty,
since no king was considered authentically inaugurated unless he
had first slept with her. She was the cause of the Cattle Raid of
Cooley, since she desired to have the Brown Bull of Cuailgne for
her own herd. This brought about the conflict between Ulster and
Connacht. Medb kept her beauty and youth by bathing in a certain
lake, which is where she was eventually killed. Parts of Medb’s
story are similar to that of the Cailleach’s (Winter Crone’s)…
close, bare-bosomed Night! Press close, magnetic, nourishing Night!
Night of south winds! Night of the large, few stars!Still, nodding
Mad, naked, Summer Night!
~~ Walt Whitman ~~
dispense the healing power of music was one of the many skills of
the poet. Three harp-strains are said to have been instituted at
the three confinements of the Goddess Boann: at her first labour,
she was sorrowful because of the pain; at the second birth, she
was full of joy; and at the third birth, she was sleepy because
of the length of her labour. These three children were called Goltraiges,
Gentraiges and Suantraiges, who give their names to the three strains
that harpers were about to reproduce: the sorrow strain, which provokes
the release of lamentation after grief; the joy strain, which provokes
mirth after sorrow; and the sleep strain, which provokes rest after
Finn, an Irish poet of the late Dark Ages, annotated and possibly
composed The Voyage of Maelduin, which tells of the hero’s
voyage to the Blessed Islands of the Celtic Otherworld. In this
episode, the travelers encounter a hermit on a tiny island; he relates
his coming there and prophesies their safe return:
I cut a turf from the grey-green land of my
Ancestors; a sea-breeze blew me to the play I am
In now, though it was composed narrowly.
did the star-strong King make broad an
Island from the wondrous sod of sea-gull’s hue is
year was another foot added to the
Island; and best of all, a tree grew over the
pure well fountained for me with eternal
Sustenance; by the protection of angels, sweet
Food, a sacred celebration.
of you will come homeward, a fruitful
Company over the wave’s track.
Midsummer’s Eve, young women in Ireland gathered yarrow (Achillea
millefolium) with the rhyme:
morrow, good yarrow,
Good morrow to thee.
Send me this night my true love to see;
The clothes that he’ll wear,
The colour of his hair,
And if he’ll wed me.
It was placed under the pillow to induce dreams of the future beloved…
Ireland, Solstice was understood as one of three nights of the year
in which the spirit world was more accessible. At Samhain, or Halloween,
and at Beltane the veil parted between the domains of the living
and the dead. At Midsummer, it was the fairy folk who joined human
revelers. Knockainey, the hill in County Limerick considered sacred
to the fairy Queen Aine, glowed with torches in her honor. It is
said that Aine revealed herself as the flames died down and lead
the villagers home. Her name translates as "brightness"
and she is likely related to an ancient solar goddess. As late as
the nineteenth century, families in the area still claimed connection
to the fairy queen speaking in endearing terms of her as a woman,
indeed "the best-hearted woman that ever lived"...
is, however, a disheartening side to the celebration. If the Solstice
is the day of the Sun’s greatest power, it follows that the
day after it is the beginning of his gradual decline. From now on,
the days will slowly but inexorably become shorter, as little by
little the darkness swallows the light. Thus the Solstice that greets
the solar god’s zenith is also a goodbye – an ave atque
vale, a “hail and farewell” to the Eye of Heaven…
night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.
~~ Light by Francis William
Bourdillon, 1852 – 1921 ~~
June 24th, when the days begin to get shorter, the celebrations
came to a close. After Christianity took root throughout the Celtic
lands, the 24th was reserved for the feast of John the Baptist.
Preceding Jesus by exactly six months, John was born early to announce
Christ's coming. In Britain, St. John's wort is harvested at Midsummer.
Valued by Celts as an herbal "demon chaser", the plant
is now valued by modern medicine for its anti-depressive qualities.
With its vivid yellow flowers, St. John's wort is a symbol of both
its namesake and the brilliant solstice sun...
summer, the song sings itself.
~~ William Carlos Williams ~~
Celtic Book of Days - A Guide to Celtic Spirituality & Wisdom
by Caitlín Matthews
Magickal Year - A Pagan Perspective on the Natural World by