Friday, June 19, 2020

Friday Ramble - Midsummer (Litha)

Here we are on the eve of Midsummer, the Summer Solstice or Litha. Tonight is midsummer eve according to astronomers, and tomorrow is the longest day of the calendar year, the sun poised at its zenith (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 towering trees and hazy sky in the background, golden daisies and orange hawkweed, 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 tomorrow, daylight hours will wane until Yule (or the Winter Solstice) around December 21 when they begin to stretch out again.

Longer nights rule 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 will be outside with a mug of Jerusalem Artichoke (or Earth Apple) tea as the sun rises tomorrow. There will be a candle burning on the old oak table, a lighted wand of incense in a pottery bowl nearby. In other years, the day held a few hours of pottering in the village or a ramble in the woods with my soulmate, but not this year. There will be tea and munchies here with a dear friend this afternoon, a quiet meal as the sun goes down, a little stargazing later. A new lunar cycle begins this evening, so no moon watching tonight. This is our first Midsummer observance without Irv, and Beau and I are both thinking of him. We miss him so much.

Happy Litha or Midsummer, however you choose to celebrate (or not 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 Rogers said...

Happy Litha to you! I'm also missing a dear one, who's birthday was yesterday. She's a trickster, and every time I dropped something I was sure she'd grabbed it. May your long night be the best and bring many blessings.