For those of us residing in the Southern Hemisphere, mid Summer is upon us, marking the time of the year when the sun is allegedly in its glory, being the time of the longest day and the shortest night.
While the term “Mid Summer” indicates the height of the Summer, there is still an undertone of darkness in the light. This is because as the power of the sun is celebrated, from this point, it also commences its decline in power as the Southern Hemisphere begins to rotate away from the sun (as in the diagram below).
The Fire and the Sun The great solar festival of the year is celebrated from North Africa to Scandinavia with fire. This is a traditional time for a bonfire which is lit as the sun sets. People dance around the fire clockwise and carry lit torches. In some places, they even set fire to wheels of hay which are rolled downhill.
Flowers and wreaths created at Bealtaine are tossed into the fire. They burn and die just as the heat of the summer consumes the spring and brings us closer to the decline of autumn and the death of vegetation in winter. As we begin the decline, it is important to remember that the Wheel of the Year is a circle. The spring will come again. The sun will triumph over the darkness again. Thus, the circle is an important symbol. Wreaths are hung on doors.
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 the mid Summer Solstice, Matuta (early Roman), Anahita (Persia) and Kupala (Slavic), 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 Mid Summer’s 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 (Hypericum perforatum), 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 magickal powers, like being able to understand the language of the trees.
Celebrating This is a great festival to celebrate outdoors, whether it be camping, into your local park or even down to the beach. As the Summer Solstice coincides with the fire ban season within Australia it is often difficult to honour the power of the sun with a flame – however watching the sun set, wearing the colour yellow or even making a wreath of flowers that are associated with the Sun (such as calendula, marigolds, St John’s Wort or even yellow roses) can also be made.
In a land which is prone to droughts, the Summer Solstice also makes an appropriate time to ackowledge the sacred resource of fresh water. 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:
Yes, 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 The 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