Copyright © 2002 Anna Franklin
The celebration of Midsummer is a global custom. Every culture has, at some point in its history, marked this time of year and held it to be enchanted. The Celts, the Norse, and the Slavs believed that there were three "spirit nights" in the year when magic abounded and the Otherworld was near. The first was Halloween, the second was May Eve, and the third was Midsummer Eve. On this night, of all nights, fairies are most active, and the future can be uncovered. As the solstice sun rises on its day of greatest power, it draws up with it the power of herbs, standing stones, and crystals. In the shimmering heat -haze on the horizon, its magical energies are almost visible. And as the mist gate forms in the warm air rising beneath the dolmen arch, the entrance to the Otherworld opens – Avalon, Tir nan Og, the Land of Youth, where it is always summer, and death and old age are unknown. Shakespeare captured all the magic of the occasion in A Midsummer Night~ Dream, where fairies, magic, and mischief abound on one bewitched night in the forest.
Every ancient religion had its own customs and traditions associated with Midsummer. These appear in the lore of Greece and Rome, the myths of the Norse, the Maya, the Aztecs, the Slavs, and the Celts, the writings of the ancient Egyptians, and the Old Testament of the Jews. Vestiges of these festivities can still be witnessed today In places we may still see the baal fires, the torchlight processions, the rolling of a sun wheel downhill, the casting of spells, divination, love magic, and the blessing of crops and animals with fire.
The cold, dark days of winter and blight are far away, and the time of light and warmth, summer and growth, are here. We naturally feel more joyful and want to spend more time in the open air. The crops are planted and growing nicely, and the young animals have been born. … Midsummer is a natural time of celebration.
The festival is actually the observance of the summer solstice. There are two solstices annually The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and falls around June 21 in the Northern Hemisphere and around December 21 in the Southern Hemisphere. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and falls around December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere and around June 21 in the Southern Hemisphere. The other two solar festivals are the equinoxes.
At the spring equinox, day and night are of equal length, but the light is gaining; the days are getting longer. Then at the summer solstice, the sun is at the height of its power on the longest day of the year. At the autumn equinox, day and night are again of equal length, but the dark is gaining; the days are getting shorter, At the winter solstice, the sun is at its weakest on the shortest day of the year.
The Technical Stuff
The summer solstice marks the zenith of the sun, a time of greater warmth and longer hours of daylight. We experience changing seasons because the axis of the Earth-an imaginary line between the North and South Poles-is tilted from true by 23.5 degrees. As our planet revolves around the sun this means that part of the Earth tilts toward the sun, then away again. Between June and September the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the sun and gets more light, experiencing the season of summer. At the same time the Southern Hemisphere experiences winter. Between December and March the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun and receives less light and warmth, while the Southern Hemisphere enjoys summer (see diagram below). Just how much sunlight you receive depends on the latitude you occupy. By June 21 there are twenty-four hours of daylight above the Arctic Circle, while below the Antarctic Circle (which, if you remember, is experiencing the winter solstice) there are twenty-four hours of darkness. I am sure that you can work out the degrees of gradation between the two.
During spring and autumn both hemispheres experience milder weather, and the two equinoxes mark the junctures when the Earths axis is pointing sideways. Without the tilt in the Earth's axis we would have the same degree of light and warmth-or dark and cold-all year round, and have no seasons at all; the sun's rays would always be directly over the equator.
The word solstice is derived from Latin and means "sun stands still." A little before and during the winter and summer solstices, the sun appears to rise and set at almost exactly the same place. The summer solstice is celebrated when the sun reaches its most northerly position, Throughout the year the sun passes through the constellations of the zodiac, and the summer solstice occurs in the constellation of Cancer, the Crab. If you have ever wondered why a zodiac sign should be named after a crab, it is because the sun seems to travel backward after this point in time every year, descending the zodiacal arch-just like a crab walking.
This informative quick guide to Midsummer can be found here:
by Anna Franklin
Midsummer is one of the most ancient, widespread, and joyful Pagan festivals. The sun rises to the height of its power on the summer solstice, and Midsummer Eve is filled with fairy mischief and magic. Anna Franklin reveals the origins and customs of this enchanting holiday with:
·Myths and lore: The gods and goddesses of Midsummer, rolling wheels, the Midsummer tree, circle dancing, and torchlight processions
·Midsummer magic and divination: Fairy contact, spells, empowering magical tools with solstice sun energy, Midsummer Eve pillow divination
·Traditional summertime treats: Elderflower Fritters, Gooseberry Fool, Coamhain Soup, Strawberry Wine, Heather Ale, Clary Sage Tea
·Seasonal rituals: Rite of the Oak King and the Holly King, Cornish Flower Ritual, Witch Rite for Midsummer Day, Drawing Down the Sun
·Midsummer herb craft: Gathering and drying herbs for magical oils, incenses, inks, and teas; herb recipes, from Amun Ra to Sun Goddess Oil
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