Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Solstice, June 21, 2014 - "A Kiss of Midsummer Madness"

"If we shadows have offended,
Think but this and all is mended.
That you have but slumbered here
While these vision did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream..."

                             "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
                              William Shakespeare 

What does the term 'solstice' mean?  The word itself comes
from the Latin word, solstitium, which broken down is sol - the sun, and stitium - to stop.  On June 21st, our sun reaches its northern most point for the planetary year, and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer.  For the three days following Summer Solstice, the sun will appear stationary as it begins the infinitely slow trek south.  The 21st also boasts the maximum amount of daylight possible for the Northern Hemisphere, or as we call it, "The Longest Day of the Year."  It's a great time to jog that extra mile, or spend an additional thirty minutes gardening.  In actuality you only get a second or two of additional daylight, but why not enjoy a lingering twilight in honor of Summer Solstice?  Have a glass of your favorite wine, or mead. 

With the turn of Summer Solstice we begin our personal rituals for the season - that first beer after the last college final, or the first hotdog eaten in front of the season opener for your favorite ball club.  We pick the first of our strawberries and hope we get enough for a shortcake, or we look at a field of hay and hope for a few weeks of sunny weather to bring in the first cut.  The benchmarks for Summer really don't change, even although some of the trappings do.

The Lover's from "Shadowscapes Tarot" ©
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
Midsummer nights hold magic in them.  Fireflies wend their way over a field in twilight, their yellow-green glow recalling the magic of childhood when summer days stretched warm and long across three months.  Time was on our side then and days hung heavy with potential.

June is traditionally the favored month for weddings.  This has less to do with the weather, or terrific sales in bridal departments and more to do with the traditions of Summer Solstice, or Midsummer.  If a couple stayed together for a year and a day (a tradition called handfasting - check Diana Gabaldon's famous book, "Outlander") they were often married on Midsummer.  The Moon that ruled the Midsummer period was called the Mead Moon in Celtic tradition, or Honey Moon.  Meade is make with honey after all. Many of the bridal traditions we enjoy, such as tossing garters and the bridal bouquet come from Midsummer traditions.  Marriages made on Midsummer are said to ensure the happiness of the couple, the fruitfulness of their union as well as their material wealth.

Midsummer, like Beltane, is a fire festival. In ancient tradition, the villager's hearth fires were extinguished on the Summer Solstice. Each household then took embers from the village bonfire lit in celebration of Midsummer to rekindle their own hearths. This act reminded each member of the community how dependent they were on each other and how they were symbolically connected because the same fire was banked nightly in each of their homes. Unity and fraternity.

Where Beltane's bonfires were built from nine different sacred
"Shadowscapes Tarot" carries
fae energy.  Here's a reminder to take
easy on the Midsummer mead
types of wood, Midsummer's fire was ignited by rubbing oak and fir sticks together.  Nine different herbs were burned in the fire.  It is said the Midsummer night is the time for prophetic dreams.  To ensure visions of the future, sleep with nine flowers under your pillow, or mistletoe.   Shakespeare used the setting of magical midsummer for one of his best loved plays, "A Midsummer's Night's Dream." Fairy energy is said to abound at Midsummer and many people still put out cake and cream in their gardens for the wee folk.  (Okay, guilty of this one myself).

To celebrate the Solstice, or Midsummer, surround yourself with yellow, orange and red.  Display oranges and lemons in a bowl on your table, mixing in oak leaves and lavender to add interest.  Plant marigolds, nasturtiums or red poppies.  Wear amber or carnelian jewelry to celebrate the wonder of the sun.   Light candles if you don't have a fire pit, or a barbecue.  Get in touch with the rhythm of the planet and use it to set your own.  Celebrate with time-honored traditions, or make up your own.


Good books to check out:

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