Tuesday, June 20, 2017

For Midsummer (Litha)

Here we are on the eve of Midsummer, also called the Summer Solstice or Litha. Tomorrow is the longest day of the calendar year, the Sun poised at its zenith or highest point and seeming to stand still for a fleeting interval before starting down the long slope toward autumn, and beyond to winter. This morning's image was taken near the gate of our Two Hundred Acre Wood in the Lanark highlands some time ago, and it is one of my favorites, capturing the essence of midsummer beautifully with tall trees and hazy sky in the background, golden daisies, purple bugloss and silvery meadow grasses dancing front and center.

Whither has the year flown? Summer has just arrived, but it's all downhill from here, at least for six months or so. After tomorrow, daylight hours will wane until Yule (or the Winter Solstice) around December 21 when they begin to stretch out again. Longer nights go along on the cosmic ride during the latter half of the calendar year, and that is something to celebrate for those of us who are moonhearts and ardent backyard astronomers. The Old Wild Mother (Mother Nature) strews celestial wonders by generous handfuls as the year wanes, spinning spectacular star spangled tapestries in the velvety darkness that grows deeper and longer with every twenty-four hour interval. Night skies are a vast cauldron filled with brightly twinkling stars in the last half of the calendar year, and they are absolutely magical. 

How does one go about marking this sunlit moment between the lighter and darker halves of the year? The eight festive spokes on the old Wheel of the Year are all associated with fire, but the summer solstice more than any other observance. Not so long ago, all Europe was alight on Midsummer eve, and bonfires climbed high into the night from every village green. Midsummer festivities included morris dancing, games of chance and storytelling, feasting and candlelight processions after dark.  Prosperity and abundance could be ensured by jumping over Midsummer fires, and its embers were charms against injury and bad weather at harvest time.  Embers were placed on the edges of orchards and fields to ensure good harvests, and they were carried home to family hearths for protection.  Village doorways were decorated with swags and wreaths of birch, fennel, St. John's Wort and white lilies. Summer arrived late this year, and our St. John's Wort will not bloom for a few weeks.

Midsummer observances here are simple. I make it a point to be outside or near a window with a mug of Jerusalem Artichoke (or Earth Apple as it is sometimes called) tea and watch the sun rise.  There's a candle on the old oak table and a lighted wand of summery incense in a pottery bowl nearby. The afternoon holds an hour or so of pottering in local flea markets, a quiet meal as the sun goes down and night falls, a little stargazing and moon watching later. We cherish the simplicity of such small doings, and the quiet pleasure of being surrounded by kith and kin. This year, our sweet Spencer will not be physically present, but he is here with us in spirit, and so is his big sister Cassie.

Happy Midsummer to you and your clan this year, however you choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) the occasion.  May the sun light up your day from sunrise to sunset, and your night be filled with stars from here to there.  May all good things come to you.


Barbara Rogers said...

Happy solstice to you and yours! I always enjoy my morning cuppa enjoying your beautiful photography and comments. May the blessings of all good things come your way.

christinalfrutiger said...

And may all good things come to you as well! As you look up in to a star filled evening this summer..look at the one that seems to be twinkling the brightest toward you. That is Spencer, sending you his love filled light....

Shell said...

Happy Summer to you and may many blessings come your way. I know you are missing Spencer. I know he still walks with you in spirit.