...And the Wheel turns once again...
Midsummer- An Ancient Solar Celebration:
Nearly every agricultural society has marked the high point of summer in some way, shape or form. On this date – usually around June 21 or 22 – the sun reaches its zenith in the sky for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. (December 21 or 22 for our Southern Hemisphere friends.)
This is the longest day of the year, and the point at which the sun seems to just hang there without moving – in fact, the word “solstice” is from the Latin word solstitium, which literally translates to “sun stands still.” The travels of the sun were carefully marked and recorded, by the ancients. All over the World there is evidence of these ancient calanders. Stone circles such as Stonehenge were oriented to highlight the rising of the sun on the day of the summer solstice.
Traveling the Heavens:
Although there are very few primary sources are available detailing the practices of the ancient Celts, some information can be found in the chronicles kept by early Christian monks. Some of these writings, combined with surviving folklore, indicate that Midsummer was celebrated with great gatherings of local people, hilltop bonfires, feasting, mimery and revelry; and that it was a time to honor the space between earth and the heavens. This Sabbat marks the day that the sun is at its peak- and yet, from this day forward, begins to weaken.
Fire and Water:
In addition to the polarity between land and sky, Litha is a time to celebrate the balance between fire and water. European traditions celebrated this time of year by setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into a body of water. This ritual is demonstrative of the way in which water mitigates the heat of the sun.
When they arrived in the British Isles, the Saxon invaders brought with them the tradition of calling the month of June Aerra Litha. They marked Midsummer with huge bonfires that celebrated the power of the sun over darkness. For people in Scandinavian countries and in the farther reaches of the Northern hemisphere, Midsummer was very important. The nearly endless hours of light in June are a happy contrast to the constant darkness found six months later in the middle of winter.
Roman Festivals :
The Romans, who had a festival for anything and everything, celebrated this time as sacred to Juno, the wife of Jupiter and goddess of women and childbirth. She is also called Juno Luna and blesses women with the privilege of menstruation. The month of June was named for her, and because Juno was the patroness of marriage, her month remains an ever-popular time for weddings. This time of year was also sacred to Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The matrons of Rome entered her temple on Midsummer and made offerings of salted meal for eight days, in hopes that she would confer her blessings upon their homes.
Midsummer for Modern Pagans:
Litha has often been a source of contention among modern Pagan and Wiccan groups, because there's always been a question about whether or not Midsummer was truly celebrated by the ancients.
While there's plenty of scholarly evidence to indicate that it was indeed observed, there were suggestions made by Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, that the solar festivals (the solstices and equinoxes) were actually added later and imported from the Middle East. Regardless of the origins, many modern Wiccans and Pagans do choose to celebrate Litha every year in June.
In some traditions, Litha is a time at which there is a battle between light and dark. The Oak King
is seen as the ruler of the year between winter solstice and summer solstice, and the Holly King from summer to winter. At each solstice they battle for power, and while the Oak King may be in charge of things at the beginning of June, by the end of Midsummer he is defeated by the Holly King.
This is a time of year of brightness and warmth. Crops are growing in their fields with the heat of the sun, but require water to keep them alive. The power of the sun at Midsummer is at its most potent, and the earth is fertile with the bounty of growing life.
For contemporary Wiccans and Pagans, this is a day of inner power and brightness. Find yourself a quiet spot and meditate on the darkness and the light both in the world and in your personal life. Take this time to reveiw the workings of your own life.
Which 'crops' did you 'plant' this Spring? ave you 'harvested any of this years 'crops' yet? Do any of your 'crops' and projects need extra attention right now, in order to come to fruition?
What part of life's cycle are you currently experiencing? Are you a Maiden- merely starting out on your life's journey? Learning, growing & gathering information and experience are your 'chores' in this stage. Exploring the universe & yourself, is your path.
Are you a Newlywed- joining forces with your life's partner? Extra compassion & balance is the key to navigating thru this stage in life. Heightened awareness of your partner's needs will help the two of you to combine your two separate paths into a cohesive unit that honors your unique individuaity- while acheiving the unity that will carry you thru the next phases of life succesfully.
Are you a Mother? Either a physical Mother- gving birth to, and raising her young? Or a 'Mother' who is 'giving birth to' ideas and projects; fostering creativity and producing new 'life' in its many forms. Then honor this time and place in your life by nurturing yourself- so that you can continue to grow & give to those around you. This would be your 'work' for this stage of your life.
Are you entering, or living out your Crone years? Have you yet reached the wisdom & awareness that can come from this stage of life? Are you busy fighting your age? Or have you come to revel in the freedom that this phase can offer? Have you reached many of your goals in life? Are you happy, satisfied & content? How can you use your experience and wisdom to help others? Are you an Elder? A Sage? An Adept? What do you have to give? What power & insight have you gathered along your path? Can you use this to help yourself to live the life you dream of? Can yu use it to help others? This is your 'work'.
Celebrate this turning of the Wheel of the Year with fire and water, night and day, and other symbols of the triumph of light over darkness.
Use this time of solar power to lend extra energy to spells, and projects you may be working on. Midummer is a traditional time of year for gathering summer herbs, and making potions & amulets. Take advantage of this time to charge your gemstones in the summer sun.
Litha is a great time to celebrate outdoors if you have children. Take them swimming or just turn on the sprinkler to run through, and then have a bonfire or barbeque at the end of the day. Sprinkle aromatic herbs such as Rosemary, Lavander and Peppermint onto the fire; and burn petitions- either to invoke certain asects into your life, or to banish unwanted energies.
Let them stay up late to say goodnight to the sun, and celebrate nightfall with sparklers, storytelling, and music. Because Midsummer is one of the 'times in between time'; this is also an ideal Sabbat to do magickal work. It is a time for divination and spirit work. Also, since June is the month of marriages and family; it is an ideal time to wok love magick, and to celebrate Weddings & Handfastings.
There is plenty more Midsummer goodness to come. I have a few crafts, spells and oodles of interesting information on the many ways you can use this Sabbat (and everyday), to honor and celebrate your path.
Blessings... ~Danae <(:o)