“Over hill, over dale, through bush, through brier, over park, over pale, through flood, through fire, I do wander everywhere”, Fairy, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare
Great poets and artists, dreamers and writers have been vastly influenced and inspired by the fairy tales surrounding the longest day of the year, Midsummer, also known as Litha. Deeply based in Celtic lore, stories and remembrances of the midsummer fairies and festivals have echoed through the ages, grandparents recollecting the most intimate and bountiful time of their childhood. Honeysuckle, violets, roses and jasmine fill the air and our senses while we pick the fruits and offerings of the first harvest; The Summer Equinox.
The exact dates of the summer solstice depend on astronomy and vary from culture to culture but typically land somewhere between June 19th and 25th, the longest day of the year, Northern Hemisphere. One of the major sabbats and a Fire Festival, lavishly decorated altars would be set to entice the magick of the realm of the fey or fairies. People dressed in fairy style garb and carved wands from sacred trees. Offerings of milk, honey, seeds and flowers are made to the fairy realm and if one was lucky and of a kind nature, you might glimpse one of these mysterious beings. Sage, mint, basil, sunflowers, St. John’s wort and lavender would be displayed on altars, in homes and woven into crowns.
The Point of the Play
Reenactment and role playing have always been an important part of many sabbats, but Litha takes the cake when it comes to the art of the act. Many plays and costumes would be heralded at this most exciting time. Parades of humans dressed as fairy Queens and Kings, elves, satyrs, goats and other beasts would end at lavishly adorned tables of flowers, dried herbs, seashells, and delicious baked treats. As a way to honor and hopefully gain favor from the other worldly beings, these plays and feasts were offered with sincerity throughout the night and the longest day of the year.
The Mid Summer Fire
The energy of the major fire festival is one of transformation, as we see the power of transformation reflected in the world around us, through our crops and labors transforming into the bountiful foods that sustain us. As we see young women budding with babes in the womb and children growing before us. As a butterfly is to the cocoon, the Litha Fire is the center point of transformation in the midsummer fire ceremonies. Many people would gather in circle around the fire to sing, dance and often go naked under the sun and moon. In honor of the sun and it’s source of energy, red, orange and yellow candles would be burnt day and night. Also, protective amulets are created at this time and charged up with the sun’s protective energy. The fire, being ever so important was fed offerings as well, frankincense, benzoin, amber, copal, sandalwood and other dried resins and herbs were thrown into the fire while chanting intentions for manifestation through the year. Old amulets were offen burned in the sacred fires and new ones created.
What Dreams Are Made Of
Truly a time of enchantment and magic, many would look to their dreams at this time as a form of divination. Certainly divination was performed during midsummer rites as pagans believed the fairy realm would offer insights into the future. Pendulums, cards, runes, tea leaves and dream interpretations were all commonly used forms of divination. Lose yourself in a midsummer nap and maybe a fairy would whisper in your ear and touch your dreams.
Kim Anderberg, for Kheops International
The White Goddess, by Robert Graves
The Wheel of the Year, by Pauline Camponelli
The Grandmother of Time, Zsuzsanna E. Budapest