Litha/Summer Solstice June 21st.
Here we are, we have arrived at the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The Goddess is now full and pregnant with Child, and the Sun God is at the height of His virility. This is the peak of the Solar year and the Sun is at the height of its life-giving power. The Earth is awash with fertility and fulfillment and this is a time of joy and celebration, of expansiveness and the celebration of achievements.
Yet within this climax is the whisper and promise of a return to the Dark. As the Light reaches its peak so this is also the moment when the power of the Sun begins to wane. From now on the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer and we are drawn back into the Dark to complete the Wheel of the Year.
At this time the God, as Oak King, is rich in abundance, but he too surrenders his reign to his brother twin, the Holly King, and the descent begins. But before we welcome the return to the Dark side of the year, and acknowledge this great turning point of the Wheel, we celebrate!
Traditions and Symbols of Midsummer
Traditionally people stayed up all night on Midsummer's Eve to welcome and watch the sunrise. Bonfires were lit on tops of hills, by holy wells, at places held sacred, to honour the fullness of the Sun. At Litha the bonfire really represents a reflection of the Sun at the peak of its strength. The chosen wood would often be Oak and aromatic herbs were scattered into the fire. People danced around the fires and leap through them. Blazing herbs from the sacred bonfire were used to bless the animals. Blazing torches were carried sunwise around homes and fields. Coals from the Midsummer fire were scattered on fields to ensure a good harvest.
Tree worship has always played a large role in Midsummer festivities and trees near wells and fountains were decorated with coloured cloths. The Oak King who has ruled the waxing of the year represents strength, courage and endurance, and the Oak has always been particularly significant at Litha. The Celtic name for Oak is 'Duir' which means 'doorway' - we are crossing the threshold, entering the doorway into the second, waning part of the year.
Mistletoe was and is, highly revered by the Druids. It is regarded as particularly potent when it grows on Oak, the noblest of trees, growing between the worlds of Heaven and Earth. Although it is more commonly associated with Yule and the Winter Solstice, it was often gathered ceremonially at Midsummer when it is regarded as being at the height of its power.
All herbs are reaching their peak at this time of year and thus the fullness of their healing and nurturing potency. Giving a bunch of herbs as a gift on Midsummer Day is wonderful.
All of the flower kingdom is reaching its peak, wide open, full of colour, surrendering their perfume.
Our lovely bees are now making honey. Midsummer full moon is known as the 'Honey Moon' for the mead made from honey now available. This is often part of handfastings performed at the Summer Solstice. Mead is regarded as the divine solar drink, with magical and life-restoring properties. Drink to celebrate and toast the life-giving abundance of the Sun.
Colours of Midsummer.
Well, take your pick! The natural world is full of colour at this time. Choose blue for the sky, green for the grass, yellow for the Sun. Or red, orange and purple to honour all the blooming flowers. Or choose the colours of the four elements - red, blue, green and yellow. We've been discussing this one amongst ourselves and generally agree that what matters is that you choose and work with the colours that speak to you at each Festival - what matters a little more is that you then work with those colours consistently every year.
Ideas for Your Altar
Oak leaves, oak leaves and more oak leaves. All the abundance of all the herbs, flowers and grasses that are so very available at this time. Candles in Sun colours. This is a shrine to honour the Sun - Sunflowers!
Things to Do
Buttermilk Bread Charm
This is a Midsummer Charm to help bring abundance to your kitchen. The sunflower seeds represent the light half of the year and the poppy seeds represent the dark half of the year.
You will need:
3 mugs of strong white flour
500 ml of Buttermilk (available from the supermarket)
I teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda
Sunflower and poppy seeds for sprinking
A sprig of rosemary
Place the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Sieve in the blended salt and soda and pour in the buttermilk. Mix well with a wooden spoon until the dough feels springy. If it feels too sloppy just add a little more flour. Turn it onto a board and cover with a fine dusting of flour. Pat it with your hands until you have a round shape. Take a sharp knife and score lightly into eight sections, one for each festival. Sprinkle half of the loaf with poppy seeds and the other half with sunflower seeds.
Place onto a greased baking tray and pop your buttermilk bread into a moderate oven for about 20-25 minutes. Keep and eye on it. When the bread is ready it will change colour and it will sound hollow when you tap the bottom. Cool completely on a wire rack. When it is cool, place your sprig of rosemary on top and tie the red ribbon across the middle.
Take time to concentrate on the bread you have created and turn the loaf three times saying "From the fields and through the stones, into fire, Midsummer Bread, as the Wheel turns may all be fed. Goddess Bless."
Now take your bread and share it with your family and friends and pass on the generous blessings of this bright and bountiful festival. Eat it fresh, as soon as it is made if you can. Nettle soup goes well with this bread.
Recipe donated by our Counter Enchantress.
A traditional favourite, Elderflowers peak at Midsummer. Pick them in the fullness of a sunny day, ideally on Midsummer's Day. The Elder is sacred to the Mother Goddess and is often called the Witch's Tree, the Elder Mother, or Queen of the Trees. It is protective with wonderful healing properties. It aids transformation, change and renewal, and we are at a major turning point in the Wheel of the Year, so the gift of Elderflowers is welcome.
8 litres water
1.25 kg sugar
8 large elderflower heads
4 tablespoons mild white wine vinegar
Do use screw top bottles - large plastic bottles used for squash etc are perfect. This stuff will fizz and if not bottled tightly it can explode! I keep mine in the garden so should the worst occur it isn't going to make a mess all over the kitchen or larder... Before you begin make sure the elderflowers are clean - no little wandering insects or bugs.
Boil the water and dissolve the sugar into it (Fairtrade is good)
When the water is cool, add the elderflowers, juice of two of the lemons and slices of the other two, plus the vinegar.
Cover with a clean cloth and leave for a day.
Strain through a fine sieve or piece of muslin, carefully squeezing the flowers to extract as much flavour as possible.
Store in clean screw top bottles.
Leave well alone for 10 days or so. Drink within a month. Enjoy and give thanks to the Spirit of Elder.
Bees are so special, and make that golden nectar we know as honey - a reflection of the life-giving Sun. Honey itself is full of life-giving properties, and a Honey Cake is a perfect way to celebrate Midsummer, or to give as a gift. Make it with locally produced honey if you can. But wherever the honey has come from, think of the land and blossoms and bees that made it.
225 gms Butter
250 gms Honey
100 gms Dark Muscovado Sugar
3 Eggs, beaten
300 gms Self-Raising Flour
Cut the butter into pieces and heat slowly, adding the honey and the sugar. When fully melted, turn up the heart and boil the mixture for one minute. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Add the beaten eggs to the cooled honey mixture. Sift the flour into a large bowl and beat the liquid honey mixture into it until you have a smooth batter.
Pour the mixture into a round lined sponge tin and bake in a preheated oven at 160C for about 50 mins - or until the cake is well-risen and springs back to the touch.
Cool on a rack and glaze with a few tablespoons of warm honey.
Moon Bowl Charm
A full moon charm to enhance your natural radiance to celebrate the beauty of Midsummer.
You will need: A glass or china bowl, a glass or china jug and a small white candle. Remember the candle needs to burn away completely so choose a small one.
Draw your water into the jug - rainwater is best, but fresh water from the tap is fine. Take the jug of water, the bowl and the small white candle outside and place them on the ground. Light the candle in a suitable holder and place it at the top of the bowl - at the midnight/noon point of a clock face. Pour the water into the centre of the bowl and say:
"Renewing water shining bright
Weave your charm in my bowl of Light"
Place your Moon Bowl in the moonlight so the light of the full moon is reflected in the water and leave the candle to burn down.
When this is complete take your bowl and dip your hands into the water and as you gently splash the moon water onto your face say
"By Full Moon charm,
By Full Moon light,
May inner beauty shine through tonight.
Brightest Blessings of the Goddess shine through me."
When you have finished, return the water to the Earth. I always pour it on my favourite Holly Tree.
Charm donated by our lovely Counter Enchantress.
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