A Midsummer’s Celebration

 by Mike Nichols

The young maid stole through the cottage door, And blushed as she sought the Plant of pow’r; — “Thou silver glow-worm, O lend me thy light, I must gather the mystic St. John’s wort tonight, The wonderful herb, whose leaf will decide If the coming year shall make me a bride.”

In addition to the four great festivals of the Pagan Celtic year, there are four lesser holidays as well: the two solstices, and the two equinoxes. In folklore, these are referred to as the four “quarter days” of the year, and modern Witches call them the four “Lesser Sabbats”, or the four “Low Holidays”. The summer solstice is one of them.

Technically, a solstice is an astronomical point and, due to the calendar creep of the leap-year cycle, the date may vary by a few days depending on the year. The summer solstice occurs when the sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer, and we experience the longest day and the shortest night of the year. Astrologers know this as the date on which the sun enters the sign of Cancer.

However, since most European peasants were not accomplished at reading an ephemeris or did not live close enough to Salisbury Plain to trot over to Stonehenge and sight down its main avenue, they celebrated the event on a fixed calendar date, June 24. The slight forward displacement of the traditional date is the result of multitudinous calendrical changes down through the ages. It is analogous to the winter solstice celebration, which is astronomically on or about December 21, but is celebrated on the traditional date of December 25, Yule, later adopted by the Christians.

Again, it must be remembered that the Celts reckoned their days from sundown to sundown, so the June 24 festivities actually begin on the previous sundown (our June 23). This was the date of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Which brings up another point: our modern calendars are quite misguided in suggesting that ‘summer begins’ on the solstice.  According to the old folk calendar, summer begins on May Day and ends on Lammas (August 1), with the summer solstice, midway between the two, marking midsummer. This makes more logical sense than suggesting that summer begins on the day when the sun’s power begins to wane and the days grow shorter.

Although our Pagan ancestors probably preferred June 24 (and indeed most European folk festivals today use this date), the sensibility of modern Witches seems to prefer the actual solstice point, beginning the celebration on its eve, or the sunset immediately preceding the solstice point. Again, it gives modern Pagans a range of dates to choose from with, hopefully, a weekend embedded in it.

Just as the Pagan Midwinter celebration of Yule was adopted by Christians as “Christmas” (December 25), so too the Pagan Midsummer celebration was adopted by them as the Feast of John the Baptist (June 24). Occurring 180 degrees apart on the wheel of the year, the Midwinter celebration commemorates the birth of Jesus, while the Midsummer celebration commemorates the birth of John, the prophet who was born six months before Jesus in order to announce his arrival.

Although modern Witches often refer to the holiday by the rather generic name of “Midsummer’s Eve”, it is more probable that our Pagan ancestors of a few hundred years ago actually used the Christian name for the holiday, “St. John’s Eve”. This is evident from the wealth of folklore that surrounds the summer solstice (i.e., that it is a night especially sacred to the faerie folk), but which is inevitably ascribed to “St. John’s Eve”, with no mention of the sun’s position. It could also be argued that a coven’s claim to antiquity might be judged by what name it gives the holidays. (Incidentally, the name ‘Litha’ for the holiday is a modern usage, possibly based on a Saxon word that means the opposite of Yule. Still, there is little historical justification for its use in this context.) But weren’t our Pagan ancestors offended by the use of the name of a Christian saint for a pre-Christian holiday?

Well, to begin with, their theological sensibilities may not have been as finely honed as our own. But secondly and more  mportantly, St. John himself was often seen as a rather Pagan figure.  He was, after all, called “the Oak King”. His connection to the wilderness (from whence “the voice cried out”) was often emphasized by the rustic nature of his shrines. Many statues show him as a horned figure (as is also the case with Moses).  Christian iconographers mumble embarrassed explanations about “horns of light”, while modern Pagans giggle and happily refer to such statues as “Pan the Baptist”. And to clench matters, many depictions of John actually show him with the lower torso of a satyr, cloven hooves and all! Obviously, this kind of John the Baptist is more properly a Jack in the Green! Also obvious is that behind the medieval conception of St. John lies a distant, shadowy Pagan Deity, perhaps the archetypal Wild Man of the wood, whose face stares down at us through the foliate masks that adorn so much church architecture. Thus, medieval Pagans may have had fewer problems adapting than we might suppose.

In England, it was the ancient custom on St. John’s Eve to light large bonfires after sundown, which served the double purpose of providing light to the revelers and warding off evil spirits.  This was known as “setting the watch”. People often jumped through the fires for good luck. In addition to these fires, the streets were lined with lanterns, and people carried cressets (pivoted lanterns atop poles) as they wandered from one bonfire to another. These wandering, garland-bedecked bands were called a “marching watch”. Often they were attended by morris dancers, and traditional players dressed as a unicorn, a dragon, and six hobbyhorse riders. Just as May Day was a time to renew the boundary of one’s own property, so Midsummer’s Eve was a time to ward the boundary of the city.

Customs surrounding St. John’s Eve are many and varied.  At the very least, most young folk plan to stay up throughout the whole of this shortest night. Certain courageous souls might spend the night keeping watch in the center of a circle of standing stones. To do so would certainly result in either death, madness, or (hopefully) the power of inspiration to become a great poet or bard. (This is, by the way, identical to certain incidents in the first branch of The Mabinogion.) This was also the night when the serpents of the island would roll themselves into a hissing, writhing ball in order to engender the “glain”, also called the “serpent’s egg”, “snake stone”, or “Druid’s egg”. Anyone in possession of this hard glass bubble would wield incredible magical powers. Even Merlyn himself (accompanied by his black dog) went in search of it, according to one ancient Welsh story.

Snakes were not the only creatures active on Midsummer’s Eve. According to British faery lore, this night was second only to Halloween for its importance to the Wee Folk, who especially enjoyed a ridling on such a fine summer’s night. In order to see them, you had only to gather fern seed at the stroke of midnight and rub it onto your eyelids. But be sure to carry a little bit of rue in your pocket, or you might well be “pixie-led”. Or, failing the rue, you might simply turn your jacket inside out, which should keep you from harm’s way. But if even this fails, you must seek out one of the “ley lines”, the old straight tracks, and stay upon it to your destination. This will keep you safe from any malevolent power, as will crossing a stream of “living” (running) water.

Other customs included decking the house (especially over the front door) with birch, fennel, St. John’s wort, orpin, and white lilies. Five plants were thought to have special magical properties on this night: rue, roses, St. John’s wort, vervain, and trefoil. Indeed, Midsummer’s Eve in Spain is called the “Night of the Verbena (Vervain)”. St. John’s wort was especially honored by young maidens who picked it in the hopes of divining a future lover.

And the glow-worm came With its silvery flame, And sparkled and shone Through the night of St. John, And soon has the young maid her love-knot tied.

There are also many mythical associations with the summer solstice, not the least of which concerns the seasonal life of the God of the sun. Inasmuch as I believe that I have recently discovered certain associations and correspondences not hitherto realized, I have elected to treat this subject in some depth in my ‘Death of Llew’ essay.  Suffice it to say here, that I disagree with the generally accepted idea that the Sun God meets his death at the summer solstice. I believe there is good reason to see the Sun God at his zenith—his peak of power—on this day, and that his death at the hands of his rival would not occur for another quarter of a year. Material drawn from the Welsh mythos seems to support this thesis. In Irish mythology, midsummer is the occasion of the first battle between the Fir Bolgs and the Tuatha De Danaan.

Altogether, Midsummer is a favorite holiday for many Witches in that it is so hospitable to outdoor celebrations.  The warm summer night seems to invite it. And if the celebrants are not, in fact, skyclad, then you may be fairly certain that the long ritual robes of winter have yielded place to short, tunic-style apparel. As with the longer gowns, tradition dictates that one should wear nothing underneath—the next best thing to skyclad, to be sure. (Incidentally, now you know the real answer to the old Scottish joke, “What is worn beneath the kilt?”)

The two chief icons of the holiday are the spear (symbol of the Sun God in his glory) and the summer cauldron (symbol of the Goddess in her bounty). The precise meaning of these two symbols, which I believe I have recently discovered, will be explored in the essay on the death of Llew. But it is interesting to note here that modern Witches often use these same symbols in their Midsummer rituals. And one occasionally hears the alternative consecration formula, “As the spear is to the male, so the cauldron is to the female.” With these mythic associations, it is no wonder that Midsummer is such a joyous and magical occasion!


Document Copyright © 1983 – 2009 by Mike Nichols. Text editing courtesy of Acorn Guild Press. Website redesign by Bengalhome Internet Services, © 2009

RHYMING CHARGE OF THE GODDESS

I am the harmonious tune of the songbirdAnd the laughter of a gleeful child. I am the bubbling sound of the running brook And the scent of the flowers wild.

 

I am the floating leaf upon the breeze And the dancing fire in the forest glade. I am the sweet smell of rains upon the soil. And the rapture of passion when love is made.

 

I am the germination of seed in the Spring And the ripening of wheat in the Sun. I am the peaceful depth of the twilight That soothes the soul when day is done.

 

I am found in the twinkling of an aged eye… And found in the birth of a newborn pup… Yes…Birth and Growth and Death, am I I am the gracious Earth, on whom you sup.

 

 

I am your sister, your mother, the wise one. I wrap you gently in the warmth of my love. That which your seek you shall find within: Not without…not below…not above! Remember always, my children, be reverent. Be gentle, loving and kind to each other And hold sacred the Earth and its creatures: For I am the Lady: Creatrix and Mother!

 

-Kalioppe-

June 7 – Daily Feast

Confession may be good for the soul, but it seldom makes the one that heard it feel good. The nee to clear the air or get something out in the open can cause a bigger rift than the reason for confessing in the first place. Words cannot be retrieved once they are spoken. They are gone and calling them back is impossible. Some weigh on people’s hearts like hi lv s gi nv ya, many stones or heavy rock. Some are flung, like di ga it s di, a spear, to wound. And most should never have been spoken. Life and death are in the use of words. If we feel the need to confess something, we should do it where the listener knows how to handle what we say. It is an unthinking person that needs to be relieved of a burden to the point of putting it on someone who may find it hard to bear.
~ He knew his words were bad; he trembled like the oak whose roots have been wasted by many rains. ~

KEOKUK
‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler
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Daily Motivator for June 7th – Disappointments of the past

What has already happened before is not what will happen next. Because right  now, you have the opportunity to change direction.

If you’re moving in a positive and fruitful direction, you can choose to keep  going that way, and even to accelerate your progress. Or, if you’ve experienced  difficulty and disappointment in the past, this is your time to make a  change.

When you focus on what’s already happened, it can be easy to feel permanently  stuck in a bad place. So focus instead on the fact that you can, right now,  choose a more positive direction.

Today is a new day, and it is your day to live in the best way you can  imagine. It is your day to move in precisely the direction you choose.

Though rising above a difficult past will require great effort and commitment  on your part, you certainly can do it. And there’s no better way to spend your  time than making your way forward and permanently locking your disappointments  in the past.

The disappointments of the past will begin to fade away as soon as you let go  of them. Let go, look forward, and know that you can make this next day the best  one yet.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator 

Aridu

Aridu

Based On The Hymn To Ishtar From Acadia

Lord of sun and lady moon Bright at night and bright at noon See my offering, hear my call Lord and lady guard us all.

Sky god an, earth goddess ki All do honor unto thee Spread your seed upon the ground Bring forth life fecund and round

Holy queen of living things She whose bloom the summer brings Bless us lady give us cheer As we wander through the year

Royal shepherd, mountain king Lofty bull of whom we sing Fill our bowls with waters sweet Spread the seeds of corn and wheat

Bless our lips and bless our breast Guide us gently to our rest Bless our sheep and bless our corn Ease our grief when we must mourn

Sing the song and join the rite Praise the day and bless the night Thank the gods for what they bear Earth and water, fire and air.

Good Tuesday To You, My Beloved Friends & Family!

Have a Good, Great Day Images, Quotes, Comments, Graphics
Good afternoon, dear friends and family! I am so sorry for running late but right now my son has moved back home. So my life is tore all to pieces. His heart is broken and I beg of you my dear friends, please include him in your prayers and thoughts. I never have known the heartache I have experienced in the past 24 hours. Keep all of us in your prayers please. I have asked the Goddess to comfort him and ease his broken heart. I have faith She will do exactly that. But please remember us, in your prayers. I would be eternally grateful.

Now let’s start this day off on a much lighter note. A Celtic blessing from me to you. Good day, my dear friends & family!

Brighid of the Mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
Beneath your mantle, gather us,
And restore us to memory.

Mothers of our mother,
Foremothers strong.
Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how
To kindle the hearth.
To keep it bright,
To preserve the flame.
Your hands upon ours,
Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light,
Both day and night.

The Mantle of Brighid about us,
The Memory of Brighid within us,
The Protection of Brighid keeping us
From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness.
This day and night,
From dawn till dark,
From dark till dawn.

 

Celtic Blessings

A Celtic Blessing To All My Dear Friends, Blessed Be!

Celtic & British Isles Graphics
May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

 

Peace to you and yours, all your days long,

Lady A

Magickal Graphics

Calendar of the Sun for Saturday, June 2

2 Lithemonath

Juno Regina’s Day: Queenship Rite

Colors: Purple and gold
Element: Air
Altar: Upon cloth of purple and gold set two purple candles in gold holders, a woman’s crown, peacock feathers, and eight golden stars.
Offerings: Take on a leadership position, if you are female. Follow a woman’s lead, if male.
Daily Meal: Whatever the women in the House want, if they can agree.

Juno Regina Invocation

Great Queen of Heaven,
Ruler of all the Gods,
Lady clothed in light,
You name, Juno, once meant
The indwelling spirit of inspiration
That lives in every woman.
And in every woman is the inner Queen
That you embody and enspirit,
The feminine hand of authority
That is Mother, and yet not mother,
That is Virgin, and yet not virgin,
That is both power and compassion,
Both beauty and strength.
Queen of heaven, we celebrate your Queenship
As it gives us our inspiration;
Have mercy on us as we go through our days,
And judge us lightly in the end.

Chant:
Juno Regina Domina

(One who has been chosen to do the work of the ritual takes the crown in their hands and walks around the circle. If any woman feels moved to take on a leadership position, she can on this day step forward and kneel. The crown is placed on her head, and this is a symbol that she is asking to take on more responsibility. This offer cannot be refused, although the House Mama or Papa has discretion as to her future duties.)

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Water Magick – Holy Waters

Holy Waters

 

The Water Witch puts great store in the powers of her holy waters. Natural waters on which she performs a blessing are usually the best for use as holy water, as they are pure. Clear quartz is often added to boost the power of the water even more. A blessing from a Water Witch removes all negative vibrations and recycles them within the water. In effect, she is using the power of water to cleanse the water. The Water Witch knows that all water is blessed from the start by the Goddess. All that is required of a Witch to bless water is a simple statement of intent, something along the line of, “I cast out all negativity and proclaim this water as pure and good. Blessed am I to have access to it, and blessed is it, for it is my mother’s tears and love.” She might choose to be more eloquent at times, but usually she goes with the flow and follows her instincts.

Water collection methods can be elaborate or simple. A jar placed outside during a thunderstorm, a special gourd dipper used to pull water from a crystal-clear brook, or simply cupping your hands under a natural spring-all of these methods are proper. 

I Am A Witch! Hear Me Roar!

I Am A Witch! Hear Me Roar!

Author: Diana Midnight

 

I remember when I was a little girl; I used to ask my mother why we never went to church like other families. My mother used to come up with various excuse, and I kept asking anyway.
Later in life I became friends with the little Christian girl down the street. If I wanted to spend the night on Saturdays they told me I had to go to church with them the next day. I didn’t mind, it was a new experience in my life, and I had always wanted to go. Since we were younger kids, we got to go to youth group. They talked about god and did booklets; by the end of the class they did trivia.

Being stuck watching OPB all my life, I learned a lot about all religions and they had lots of stories from the Bible. Anyway, while my friend goofed off I listened to the teacher. For some reason things didn’t feel right. It felt wrong as soon as I stepped inside the building, I couldn’t breathe and I felt judged. Despite my discomfort, I was respectful and used my manners. I helped my friend answer all the questions, even though she should of known the answers herself. At the end of class, before we were allowed to leave, the teacher asked us a very personal question. “Have you excepted Jesus Christ into you heart?”.

It was said to the whole class, but seeing as I was the new kid, I knew it was directed at me. She told us that if anyone hadn’t that we should all close our eyes and raise our hand. I slowly raised my hand. I knew that for me that this was a brave move. I was the only one. She told us to put down our hands and open our eyes. Our eyes met and she told the class (Well, just me really.) that if we wanted to accept Jesus into our heart we could stay after class and talk to her.

When my friend and I were at the door she looked at me and gave me the meanest most judgmental look I had ever seen. I was glad to get out of there; I knew that I could never be a Christian. After that experience, I was ashamed to claim any religion as my own. I felt that they were all to judgmental and that I’d rather spend my time out in nature.

I’ve always loved nature. Night or day, sunny or cloudy, wet or dry…It’s all so beautiful, so MAGICAL. I could sit in one spot for hours, just laying in the grass and listening to the animals or playing in the water and making images in the sand. In a way, I was always a Pagan, a Witch. But I never put a label on my love for nature, for the Earth.

Watching the moon and stars was just a hobby: hikes and walk in the park just something I did for fun. Gardening. That was what first got my interested in Wicca and Paganism. I could make anything grow, and the results were amazing. I wanted to learn more. I started reading books on herbs and natural medicine. I went online a lot, because I often kept library books too long and my late fees were amazing (and not in a good way.) . I often stumbled onto a few Wiccan websites talking about using herbs for magick as well as medicine. I was…intrigued. I just couldn’t help myself.

Herb lore was an important thing in natural medicine. We wouldn’t have figured out more then half of the things in modern medicine if it weren’t for fork lore. Well, after a while I started to read about the other parts of Wicca. I read everything I could find or put my hands on. The library was limited for Wicca. Judaism and Christianity books filled the shelves, and I found only three books. Sad, I know.

The web was my only unlimited source. But before you get the good you must first sift through the bad. Which is a lot of work, and takes hours upon hours to work through. If I saw sites that spelled magick as “magic”, I ignored them. I ignored websites with free love spells and that told you if you buy their services you could get back your ex or become rich. I focused on the spiritual part of the religion, and that cut out all the weirdoes and creeps. I studied and studied, never stopping, always reading and learning.

Finally, after much study, I decided to call myself a Pagan. It felt as if a great weight was lifted from my shoulders, and as if my spirit was lighter. It felt RIGHT. It was if I was always meant to be Pagan. I was 13 years old by then. 2 years had passed before I was brave enough and sure enough of myself to claim such a strong connection to the Earth and others. I kept telling myself, you’re a WITCH! My passion for my religion made my heart sing, it was the deep bass of thunder, a lions roar. It could never be contained!

Of course I had to tell my family, I was so proud of myself. My father took it well; he wasn’t surprised at all. My mother…well, she was raised Catholic. I don’t think she even took me seriously, or if she did she thought I was crazy. My little brother was (and still is) rude and told his friends that I only thought I was a Pagan and didn’t even celebrate the holidays. Little did he know, I had been celebrating them for years. As for my big brother, he thought I was an idiot. I knew he wanted me to be a Christian, and like my childhood friend, probably thought (and still thinks) I’m going to Hell.

Personally, I not worried. I’m not sure if my big brother ever found out, but his wife (now his ex) after finding out, gave me a small spell book. “The little book of spells” was cute but very cliché. I loved it, it had novelty and it showed that not all Christians thought the same about Wiccans/Pagans. It showed that I had the love and respect of my sister in law.

I’ve been a Pagan for 6 years now, and I will be forever more. I am proud of myself and what I’m apart of. I shall never be ashamed to be me. We are all Earth’s children, and all of us have a need for faith. Even if we hear our wisdom from different voices. That little Christian girl and me are still best friends, despite religious differences. She listens instead of tuning out when I mention something involving my religion. I do the same for her, and I believe no matter what we need to listen to others even if we don’t want to hear it.

I’ve been working on a Book of Shadows for a few months now. My love of poetry has really helped with that, and with all I know about herbs my book is filling fast. I’m hoping that one day I can share the Earth’s wisdom with my children and grandchildren, and hopefully they do the same.

May the Goddess bless you and light your path in your times of darkness.

Blessed Be! XOXO