Midsummer/Litha

(JUNE 20 - 23)

 

 

The longest day of the year. Light is triumphant, but begins itís decline. The Earth in now fertile and a lush green. The Sun King embraces the Queen of Summer, the Maiden Goddess. Their love and ecstasy is his death. The Lord of Light must die soon and change to the Dark Lord. We accept the passing of the Sun, itís waning, as we accept all changes that the turning of the "Wheel Of Life" brings.

Midsummer is a lesser Sabbat as are the Eqinoxes and the Winter Solstice. Witches and pagans alike will greet and honor the Sun God at his peak in the annual cycle. He is at his mightiest and his brightest. He will be invoked now to banish darkness from our lifes. Midsummer can be the most celebratory as we rejoice in the fullness of the yearís abundance, the peak of light and warmth.

Again we watch the Oak King and the Holly King do battle. From Midwinter the Oak King has ruled, but now he will fall in battle to his brother. The Holly King, God of the Waning Year will rule for the next six months. The Oak King has been sacrificed in many forms. He has been burned (appropriate), blinded by mistletoe, crucified, and in ancient times a human enactor was sacrificed in actuality. The Oak King will withdraw to the Corona Borealis, The Celtic Caer Arianrhod, to turn the wheels of the heavens so that the stars will not dip below the horizon. Here he will wait for his inevitable re-birth. The Norse God Balder figures prominently in this as he was slain by a branch of mistletoe and burned in a great fire.

The Goddess, sensuous and fertile, greets and makes love to her consort the Sun God. She precides over his death, the enthronement of his dark twin, and dances the magnificent dance of life.

Dance, Lady, dance - on the Oak Kingís tomb Where he lies half a year in thy quiet womb. Dance, Lady, dance - at the Holly Kingís birth, Who has slain his twin for the love of Earth.

Dance, Lady, dance - to the Sun Godís power And his touch of gold on field and flower. Dance, Lady, dance - with thy blade in hand, That shall summon the Sun to bless thy land.

Dance, Lady, dance - in the Silver Wheel, Where the Oak King rests, his wounds to heal. Dance, Lady, dance - for the Holly Kingís reign, Till his brother the Oak shall rise again.

Dance, Lady, dance - in the moonlit sky, To the Threefold Name men know thee by. Dance, Lady, dance - on the turning Earth, For the Birth that is Death, and the Death that is Birth.

Dance, Lady, dance - to the Sun on high, For his burning splendor, too, must die. Dance, Lady, dance - to the yearís long tide, For through all change must thou abide."

Midsummer is both a fire and water festival. Fire representing the God aspect and water the Goddess. Midsummer is falsely called Beltane by some. This was due to the fact that "Bonfire Night" was moved by St. Patrick from Midsummer to St. Johnís Eve to play down the pagan implications of Beltane (May Eve). Quite suspect is the fact that "Bealtaine" is Irish for May. Midsummer is a principal fire festival through-out Europe, the Arab States, and Bebers of North Africa. It is a lesser festival and was later to develop in the Celtic countries, as they were less "solar" oriented and influenced.

Fire, a major feaature of many witches Sabbbats, is used here in many forms. The most common is of rolling a flaming wheel, a powerful solar symbol, down a hill. This ceremony imitates the sunís course in the sky. It is highly appropriate at Midsummer when the sunís annual declension begins. In the Vale of Glamorgan it is said that if the fire is extinguished before reaching the bottom of the hill it will be a bad harvest, the opposite meaning heavy crops for the year. Some Hungarian swine-herds make fire on Midsummer Eve by rotating a wheel round a wooden axle wrapped in hemp, and drive the pigs through the fires thus made.

The bonfire, with all itís magickal properties, is jumped for luck as it is done on Beltane. When jumping the fires, it is said that the higher the jump, the higher that crops at harvest. In Morocco, childless couple will jump the fire to obtain offspring and in Ireland a girl jumps in order to get a husband. In Flanders a women jumps to ensure easy delivery and in France a girl will run around the fire nine times in order to find a husband within a year.

Cattle as well were driven through the bonfires in many countries in order that they stay fit and produce. Burnt sod is used as a protective charm and paste of ashes is rubbed into the hair, in Morocco, to prevent baldness. In France the ashes are placed in hens nest in order that they produce more eggs and in Germany the ashes are mixed with the cattles drinking water in order that they thrive. In the Vosges Mountains the people believe that the Midsummer fires help preserve the fruits of the earth and ensure good crops. In Sweden the warmth or cold of the coming season is inferred from the direction in which the flames of the Midsummer bonfires are blown. If they blow south it will be warm and if north it will be cold.

Another widespread custon is to look through bunches of Larkspur held in the hand to improve the eyesight. Women anxious to concieve can walk through the garden nude and pick some St. Johnís Wort on Midsummer Eve. This mirrors rituals where women walk nude through fields to ensure a plentiful harvest or run and jump with broomsticks, the height indicating the height of the crops at harvest time. Mistletoe is collected, especially from Oak trees on Midsummer day and used as medicine for healing wounds, as an antidote to poison, and to cure epilepsy and falling sickness. Mistletoe picked on this day is also used on this day for protection from fire, lightning, nightmares and to bring luck. It was also used for itís mystic qualities by the druids to bring about visions.

In Russia on Midsummer the mythic figure of Kupalo is made of straw and dressed in womenís clothes with a floral crown. A tree is felled and decked with ribbons, near which the straw figure is placed. The tree is named "Marena" meaning winter or death. A bonfire is lit and spirits placed on a table beside it. All the young men and women will jump the bonfire carrying the figure with them and a celebration is had by all. The next day the figure is thrown into the stream. This custom as well as similar ones in Austria and Germany are known as "Carrying out Death." The death of the spirit of vegetation is celebrated at Midsummer because of the solstice and the decline of summer.

The death that is birth theme is used in many countries. In Aachen a man clad in pea-straw acts so cleverly that the children actually believe he is being burned when he is set on fire. At Jumieges in Normandy a man clad in green is chased by his comades and thrown into the fires. The titular King of Aix, who reigned for a year and is first to dance round the Midsummer bonfires, may have in days of old had the duty of serving as fuel for the fires. In Wolfeck, Austria, on Midsummer day, a boy in green goes from house to house to collect wood for the bonfire. In parts of Barvaria he is led on a rope from house to house. At Moorsheim in Wurtemberg, the firelast for 14 days, ending on the second Sunday after Midsummer day.

Another feature of Midsummer is the wicker giants of the Druids. These were used as a means of sacrifice in times of old, as criminals, animals and others were burned alive inside. Today the giants still figure in Midsummer processions in many areas but are burned in the fires without anyone inside. It is said that in 1648 Louis the Fourteenth, crowned with a wreath of roses kindled the fires, danced around them and partook of the feast afterwards. This custom was banned in France in 1743 but can still be seen in places such as Douay, Dunkirk, Brabant, Flanders and Antwerp as well as most of the major cities in Great Britian which still hold Midsummer celebrations.

Red and White Heather makes great decorations on Midsummer. Red Heather is the passionate flower of Midsummer, while White Heather represents a moderating influence, will controlling or directing passion. Oak and Holly crowns can be made if acting out the rite and ladies can be decorated with bright summer flowers. The High Priest, representing the Sun God, should have a gold colored crown and other decorations to enhance the solar symbolism.