This is the eve of St. John's Day, which
replaced the more ancient celebrations on Summer Solstice with
a Saint's Day. In a Victorian book of spells and incantations,
I found this divination which is supposed to be performed on
Midsummer's Eve, around sunset. An odd number of women (three,
five or seven) go into a garden and each picks a sprig of red
sage. They put these into a basin of rosewater setting on a
stool in the middle of a room they have set aside for this purpose.
Then they tie a line from the stool to the wall and each woman
takes off her shift and hangs it, inside out, on the line. I
assume this leaves them naked. Then they sit, silently (no matter
what happens), in a row on the other side of the stool. Around
midnight, each one's future mate will take her sprig out of
the water and sprinkle her shift with it.
attributed to, Spells and Incantations of Yesteryear,
from an earlier edition by J Fletcher & Company, 1876, reprinted
by Metheglin Press.
Midsummer's Eve is also called St John's Eve. The official version
says that St John was assigned this feast because he was born
six months before Christ (who gets the other great solar festival,
the winter solstice). Actually it may have more to do with the
story of St John losing his head to Salome. In ancient times,
a ritual sacrifice was made to the goddess of midsummer.
Other midsummer symbols also accumulate around St John. He's
the patron of shepherds and beekeepers. This is a time to acknowledge
those wild things which man culls but cannot tame, like the
sheep and bees. The full moon which occurs in June is sometimes
called the Mead Moon. The hives are full of honey. In ancient
times, the honey was fermented and made into mead. According
to Pauline Campanelli in The Wheel of the Year, this is the
derivation of honeymoon.
This is a traditional time for honoring water, perhaps because
it plays such a vital role in maintaining life while the sun
is blazing overhead. Several of the goddesses worshipped at
midsummer - Matuta, Anahita and Kupala - are associated with
moisture and dampness. St John baptized with water while Christ
baptizes with fire and the Holy Spirit. In Mexico, St John presides
over all waters. People dress wells and fountains with flowers,
candles and paper festoons. They go out and bathe at midnight
in the nearest body of water. In the city, they celebrate at
the bathhouse or pool with diving and swimming contests.
Herbs and Lovers
Midsummer Eve is also known as Herb Evening. This is the most
potent night (and midnight the most potent time) for gathering
magical herbs, particularly St John's wort, vervain, mugwort,
mistletoe, ivy and fern seed. In some legends, a special plant,
which is guarded by demons, flowers only on this one night a
year. Successfully picking it gives one magical powers, like
being able to understand the language of the trees.
This is also a time for lovers. An old Swedish proverb says
"Midsummer Night is not long but it sets many cradles rocking."
According to Dorothy Gladys Spicer in The Book of Festivals,
Irish girls drop melted lead into water and interpret the shapes
it makes. In Spain, girls do the same with eggs. In Poland,
they combine three of the symbols of the holiday for a divination.
Girls make a wreath of wild flowers, put a candle in the middle,
set it adrift on the river and tell the future by observing
This is a great festival to celebrate outdoors. Go camping.
Go out into the woods or up into the mountains or down to the
beach. Find some place where you can build a bonfire and light
it when the sun sets. Bring along plenty of flowers (especially
roses or yellow flowers like calendulas, St John's wort, or
marigolds). Fashion them into wreaths, wear them as you dance
around the fire and throw them into the fire at the end of the
night. Bring along sparklers too (but use them carefully). Indoors,
use whatever symbols represent light and warmth to you: golden
discs, sunflowers, shiny metal trays, chili pepper lights.
Gather magical and healing herbs at night on June 23. Hang St
John's wort over your doors and windows for protection; toss
some on the fire as well. Harvest your garden herbs now so they
will be extra potent.
To acknowledge the gift of water in your everyday life, decorate
the faucets in your house. Z Budapest in The Grandmother
of Time suggests walking to the nearest body of water,
making a wish and then throwing in a rose you have kissed to
carry your wish home. She provides the following wishing poem:
you are here in the soft buzzing grass.
Yes, you are listening among the flowering gardens.
Yes, you are shining from the most royal blue sky.
Yes, you are granting me what I wish tonight.
Grant me a healthy life rich with high purpose,
A true partner to share my joys and my tears,
Wisdom to hear your voice giving me guidance,
Wealth to give to others as you have given to me.
Honoring Your Strength
sun is associated with will, vitality, accomplishment, victory
and fame. As you throw your flowers into the fire, acknowledge
your accomplishments. Write about these at length in your journal,
perhaps while sipping a cup of tea sweetened with honey, or
gather your friends in a circle and go around several times
with each person boasting about their strengths. Assign a different
topic for each round, for instance, aspirations, courage, achievement,
competence. Toast each other (with mead, if you can find it).
This is your night to shine. Source: School of the Seasons.
Britain: Traditional Midsummer. Although Midsummer is celebrated
by most Pagans worldwide on the eve and day of the actual Solstice,
Britain traditionally celebrates on June 23rd. The Neo-Pagan
holiday has been dedicated to the Green Man. The day also commemorates
Cu Chulainn, a legendary Irish hero.
Asatru: Sommerblot. The Midsummer Festival is a century-old
tradition in Scandinavia, celebrating the earth, summer, and
the longest day of sunlight -- the Summer Solstice. In the North
it is the time of the midnight sun. As with most Old World celebrations,
Christianity has influenced some of the traditions. The festival
now honors St. John the Baptist rather than pagan gods. Huge
bonfires are built.
In Finland, the bonfire is called a "kokko". The wood
used is collected throughout the year. Homes are decorated with
garlands of wildflowers and greenery. People dance, visit friends
and relatives all night. In pagan times people would jump over
the bonfires for luck,
rituals and dances were once used to drive away evil spirits
and ensure a fertile land. Today, Maypoles are erected and danced
around. Huge crosses called "midsommarstoeng" are
also built. The branches from birch trees are used to build
the structure, and then covered with leaves and flowers. Young
girls collect wildflowers and place them under their pillows
to dream of their future loves, boys use a copper coin.
Slavic Pagan: Kupala - Kresen (June) 23. In the Old Russian
tongue, Kupala means "bather", and the holiday is
celebrated in remembrance of the human sacrifices made in olden
times to the Master of things Submarine, Jasse, the Dragon.
All through the night, people celebrate, sing songs, hike, and
tell fortunes. A blot is held near water. In times gone by,
fires were lit in preparation for a sacrifice of a young maiden
by drowning in the river. Later, human sacrifice was replaced
by a doll made of bread (a loaf-doll).
GrannyMoon's Morning Feast Archives and School of Seasons