Saturday, June 20, 2009
Happy Summer Solstice
Since pre-Christian times, the Summer Solstice has been celebrated with seasonal rituals of major importance. Here are six things you might not know about the Summer Solstice:
- The Summer Solstice occurs June 21, 2009 at 1:46 A.M. EDT. This is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. A scientific explanation of the solstice.
- In earlier times, the Summer Solstice was called Midsummer – not the start of summer as it is now.
- The eve of Summer Solstice was considered among the year’s scariest days -- a time when fairies and evil spirits ran amuck. “Midsummer Eve is counted or called the Witches’ Night: and still in many places … they make Fires on the Hills.” John Aubrey, Remains of Gentilism, 1688
- A time of great revelry, it was customary to build giant bonfires on the solstice. People danced around the fires, and led their livestock, sons and daughters over the flames to keep them safe. Wheels of fires were often rolled down hills to represent the sun. Even King Henry VII and Henry VIII of
had solstice fires in the great halls tended by pages and grooms. England
“…there were usually made bonfires in the streets,
every man bestowing wood or labour towards them:
the wealthier sort … would set out tables …
furnished with sweet bread and good drink.”
John Stow, 16th century
- The timing of the solstice (late-June) was key.
- Certain flowers and herbs were said to have protective powers.
wort, mugwort, elder, plantain, ivy and yarrow were some plants made into garlands and hung on the door to keep the home safe. St. John’s
“The virtue of
Wort is thus.
If it be put in a man’s house, there shall come no wicked sprite therein.”
Banckes Herbal 1525