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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Midsummer

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Sacred Skinnydip

Me, when I hear “Midsummer's,” I tend to think "Bonfire."

But of course, that's not the whole story.

Because on Midsummer's Eve there's not just a blessing on the Fire. There's also a blessing on the Waters.

They say that on this night the Sun and the Moon come down to bathe in the waters. For Christian folk it's John the Baptist's night, and what does “baptize” mean in Greek but “dunk” in plain old English? People may have different reasons, but they all agree on what you're supposed to do.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Summer's Oldest Song

It's the oldest song in a European vernacular language to which both words and tune survive, dating from circa 1250.* You can hear it here.

The original Irish Samhradh, Samhradh (“Summer, Summer”) references Bealtaine—it refers to the traditional gathering and bearing-back of wild greens with which to deck the home—but around here we sing it at Midsummer's, the Bealtaine of the North.

I initially learned the song from my friend singer-songwriter (and Dianic priestess) Ruth Barrett; it was released, with original Midsummer verses, on her 1994 album, The Heart is the Only Nation.

I love Ruth's new verses, but thought I'd try my hand at rendering the original Irish words into singable English. Here they are, just as we'll be singing them on Midsummer's Eve on the highest hill in Paganistan, a-conjuring Summer in.

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  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Just a point of information -- the translation from the Gaelic that Ruth Barrett uses in her version of this song, which I love, w

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

The summer solstice has been honoured around the world for millennia. In Britain and Ireland its marked by hundreds of earthworks, henges stone circles and rows, and it has a history of celebration from the Neolithic going through the Iron Age druids, through folklore and into the present day where it is honoured by pagans and heathens of many varieties. Solstice means solar standstill, and at this time the suns position from dawn to dusk does its highest arc in the sky, from its most north  easterly at dawn to its most north westerly at sunset, before gradually rising further south day on day until the winter solstice. During this time when it is at its most northern arc, its position at dawn  appears to 'stand still' until its journey south becomes discernible again. In many ways this can be seen as time where life force and the solar energies are at their height- a time of enthusiasm, celebration and empowerment, but also a time out of time, when the spirit world and our connection to our own souls may become more apparent.

Lighting fires has always been a popular practice at the summer solstice, and one that survived through to the modern era before being taken up with increasing enthusiasm in recent years. In Ireland there are many hills and ancient monuments sacred to or astronomically aligned to the summer solstice, but there are two especially famous hills, Knockainey, sacred to the fire goddess Aine, a faery queen, and Knoc Gréin, sacred to the solar goddess Greine. These two hills near each other in county Limerick were likely to have been beacon hills long ago, with twin fires honouring the sun at this time. Across Britain there are also many 'beacon' hills which are likely to have been used for the same purposes.  An agricultural tradition across Britain and Ireland was to drive cattle in between two fires at this time to purify and bless them, and a custom among young men in particular was to leap the flames as well to be blessed and as a sign of fiery prowess.

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Pagan News Beagle: Watery Wednesday, June 10

Community; it's what brings us together and helps us define our lives. What does community mean for Paganism and other minority religions? What purpose does it serve? Today for Watery Wednesday we take a look at some of the central pillars of community, from public gatherings to social services. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
How to Make an Oak Leaf Crown

Across the North, the two preeminent sacred trees of Midsummer's are the ("male") oak and the ("female") linden.

On the linden, whose spicy flowering perfumes the longest nights of the year, more in a future post. But for today, the oak.

The Oak is the tree of Thunder, most virile of gods,* whose thunderstorms rumble spectacularly across the prairies at this time of year—the Ojibway call July "Thunder Moon"—and, they say, "holds fire in its heart." (In his youth, the Horned hid the fire of the gods there after he had stolen it from Thunder's hearth, but that's another story.) Fire drills used to be made from oak, and their "cradles" from linden wood. Extinguishing all the fires in the village and kindling the New Fire from wood on wood is an old, old Midsummer's tradition.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Summer Yule

Yule : Midwinter :: Lithe : Midsummer.

8th century Anglo-Saxon historian Bede of Jarrow calls it Líða: Midsummer. Along with its winter equivalent, Yule, it was one of the two hinges of the Old English year.

Like Yule, we don't know what Líða meant originally. According to Bede, the word denotes “gentle” or “navigable” because at this time of year “the calm breezes are gentle, and they were wont to sail upon the smooth sea” (Shaw 49). Likely this is just a guess; it's certainly not a particularly compelling explanation.

In the English-speaking pagan world, many today refer to the summer sunstead (solstice) by its Anglo-Saxon name. If the word had continued in current use, as Yule did, we would today speak of Lithe. (Rhymes with scythe.)

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks Janette and Greybeard both: the OED confirms that well into early Modern English "lithe" retained its old association with
  • janette nash
    janette nash says #
    As a Brit, I have no trouble believing it means smooth, and refers to the water - a lot of old sayings relate to the weather, and
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Our best guess is that Litha was a Saxon word that essentially meant June. And "after-Letha" meant July.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Sing Oak and Ash and Thorn

A Victorian nationalist wrote the lyrics. The king of British folksingers wrote the tune. The father of modern witchcraft made it part of the Book of Shadows. And across the English-speaking world, pagans sing and dance to it every Midsummer's Day.

How good is that?

Poet Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) first published the poem A Tree Song in his childrens' novel Puck of Pook's Hill in 1906. Folk-singer Peter Bellamy (1944-1991) wrote a musical setting for the poem (you can hear it here), retitled Oak and Ash and Thorn; it was released on the album of the same name in 1970.

Meanwhile, some time in the 1950s, Gerald Gardner (1886-1964) had written the last verse of the song into the liturgy for Beltane. How did a Midsummer's song (“Sing Oak and Ash and Thorn, me love/all of a Midsummer's morn”) end up at Beltane? Well, the cross-quarters were the original sabbats of Gardner's revived “witch-cult,” as in Murray, and the quarter-days (solstices and equinoxes) didn't come in until later. That explains the truncation of the lyrics in the BoS version as well.

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