Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Midsummer (or Litha) Thoughts

Here we are, just a few days away from Midsummer, the Summer Solstice or Litha. Thursday night is midsummer eve, and Friday 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 slippery slope toward autumn, and beyond that to winter. This morning's image was taken by the front 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.

Summer was late coming this year, and it feels as though the golden season has just arrived, but things are all downhill from here, at least for six months or so.  After Friday, 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 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.

How does one mark this sunlit moment between the lighter and darker halves of the year? The notion of midsummer night skies as a vast cauldron of twinkling stars is appropriate and magical too.  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. Centuries ago, all Europe was alight on Midsummer eve, and ritual bonfires climbed high into the night from every village green.

Long ago midsummer festivities included morris dancing, games of chance and storytelling, feasting and pageantry 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 at the edges of orchards and fields to ensure good harvests, carried home to family hearths for protection.  Doorways were decorated with swags and wreaths of birch, fennel, St. John's Wort and white lilies.

Alas, my days of jumping  midsummer bonfires are over. I try to be outside or near a window with a mug of Jerusalem Artichoke (or Earth Apple) tea and watch the sun rise.  There's a candle on the old oak table and a lighted wand of Shiseido incense in a pottery bowl nearby. The afternoon holds a few hours of pottering in the village, a quiet meal as the sun goes down, a little stargazing and moon watching later. We cherish the simplicity of our small festive doings, and the quiet pleasure of being surrounded by kindred spirits at such times.

Happy Midsummer, however you choose to celebrate (or not to celebrate). 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.

1 comment:

Barbara R. said...

And happy Litha to you too. May you continue to find joy in the beauties around you! Many thanks for all that you share here.