Just as we in Australia celebrate Christmas and the festive season with our own summertime adaptation of the ritual heavy cold-weather feasts, many Southern pagans celebrate the Midsummer Solstice rather than the traditional Midwinter Solstice in December. The Summer Solstice is celebrated in the Northern hemisphere on 22 June; so the corresponding time south of the equator is 22 December (but this will depend on your own belief system).
Summer solstice was called Alban Heruin by the Druids and the traditional Druidic Songs of Cycle give “Dalen Gwyr” as the Englyn for Midsummer. This fertility song literally means “green leaves” and has over the centuries become the well known “Greensleeves” which most of us learned at school.
Cassandra Carter in her book “Every Day Magic” says about Midsummer…..
”Litha - Summer Solstice - is the festival of the Sun’s power, the longest day of the year. After this point, however, the year begins to wane. A good time to look at what brings light to your life and to think how you can nurture it, and yourself, as the darkness approaches.”
Cassandra also gives a recipe for a Summer Solstice Delight pudding which sounds ideal for an Australian midsummer feast. And talking of feasts, Paddy Slade offers three beautiful Midsummer rites in her book “Natural Magic”. The dawn ceremony asks Bel, the Sun God, to bless the Earth with warmth and light so the crops will make a good harvest.
When Summer’s ripe and days are full
And Sun comes early to claim his throne
Walk before dawn to a silent height
And set three stones in an eastern line.
Stand behind them while his light
Is rising over the distant land
When he is in the Eastern sky
Offer these words and understand.
Sun of the Year
I move the Earth
To greet thy sign
And set myself
To honour thee
In Earth’s design
Perfect the stones to mark his face
Follow their shadow twelve short paces
Pluck some leaf for an amulet
And wear on your coat, lest you forget.
You will have noticed that most Celtic charms and spells are written in rhyme. This was to help people remember the teachings, as the Celts (like the North American Indians and the Australian Aborigines) followed an oral rather than a written tradition.
The midday rite blesses the Sun in his height. The sunset ceremony is the customary revelry, celebrating the longest day when the Sun has reached his full strength.
Paddy Slade’s sunset ritual invites everyone to bring flowers and fruit, preferably red and preferably native to the area in which you live. Her ritual uses honey cake and golden wine and every participant is given a ribbon from the ceremony and two pieces of fruit - one to eat and one to return to the earth as a thank offering.
If you prefer ceremonial magic, DJ Conway believes the Summer Solstice is the time for rededication to the Goddess and God, when the Sun casts three rays to light the world. She offers a rededication ceremony in her book “Celtic Magic”. If you decide to follow this ritual for Midsummer you will need a red candle (set to the right of the cauldron), a cup of fresh water set in the cauldron with a green or a blue candle on the left. The green or blue candle is used to welcome the Goddess in the form of the Green Forest Mother, while the red candle is used to invoke the God in the form of the Mighty Sun God. When you have lit both candles, you may pass your arms between both to make wishes for the coming season.
Whatever ritual you choose to follow, and however you celebrate the Summer Solstice, the main purpose, as Cassandra Carter reminds us, is …..
” to look at what brings light to your life and to think how you can nurture it, and yourself, as the darkness approaches”.
Surely one of the greatest joys of following a Nature religion is the opportunity we are given to nurture ourselves and to feast regularly with our friends as part of our celebration - or as part of our ritual says
“Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again”.