MIDSUMMER DAY WITH HERBS



Midsummer's Day is 24 June, about three days after the Summer Solstice itself.

On the Summer Solstice, many ancient Celts would pick summer grasses & toss them into the sea thanking Manannian Mac Lir for allowing the land to remain above the water for another year.
Many Druids consider this time a time of great Healing - as we gather our strongest herbs at this time.
So many will recite the story of Dian Cecht as a part of their rituals: Dian Chect was one of the Tuatha De Danann. He was a healing deity who slew his own son, Miach, out of jealousy for surpassing his healing power. Since Dian could not re-attach the arm of a King of the Tuatha De Danann after it was cut off in battle- & Miach accomplished it. After Miach's death it was said that 365 healing herbs - one for every human ailment - grew from his grave. His sister, Airmid, gathered the herbs & laid them in an outline shaped like a body, so that the healing knowledge could be passed down from generation to generation. But Dian scattered the herbs so that the knowledge of how to cure all ailments was lost to us.

In ancient times, the Summer Solstice was a fire-festival of great importance when the burning of bale-fires ritually strengthened the sun.
It was often marked with torchlight processions, by flaming tar barrels or by wheels bound with straw, which were set alight & rolled down steep hillsides. The Norse especially loved lengthy processions & would gather together their animals, families & lighted torches & parade through the countryside to the celebration site.

St John's Wort was traditionally gathered on this day, thought to be imbued with the power of the sun.
Other special flowers like Vervain, trefoil, rue & roses were also thought to be most potent at this time & were traditionally placed under a pillow in the hope of important dreams, especially dreams about future lovers.

Different plants are associated with Solstice in different countries, everything from carnations & chamomile in Italy,
to violets & vervain in Germany,
to cornflowers & water lilies in Latvia.
In Provence, five aromatic herbs-rosemary, thyme, marjoram, hyssop & sage, are gathered on the eve of Saint Jean to make an "infusion aux herbes de Saint Jean."
The Scandinavians have a great idea of how to incorporate magical herbs into rituals. They add them to vodka to make schnapps which is drunk at the Midsummer festival.

Roses are particularly associated with the Summer Solstice & Midsummer’s Eve is especially potent for love magics.
You may want to make a rose petal infusion to add to wine or strew your bed with rose petals before retiring to help you dream of your soul-mate.

Plants associated with Midsummer celebrations are oak, mistletoe, lemon, frankincense, copal, saffron, sandalwood, heliotrope, laurel, galangal & ylang-ylang.

Particular herbs are also associated with the Summer Solstice: mugwort, roses, thyme, verbena, chamomile, elder, hemp, lavender, male fern, pine, St. John's wort, wisteria, cinquefoil, fennel & larkspur

In addition to Midsummer plants & herbs, similar incense varieties are used in Midsummer rituals.  These incense varieties are frankincense, sandalwood, lemon, jasmine, lotus, myrrh, pine, rose, or wisteria. They are either used alone or in combination to create a general ambiance & scent.

Garlands of St John's Wort, lavender, hearts ease, chamomile, geranium, thyme, vervain & pennyroyal were hung around the house for their aroma & the belief that they banished sickness & bad luck.

If you eat a piece of angelica root on midsummer night it'll cure any ailment.
As at the Winter Solstice, mistletoe is sacred at Summer Solstice, when it is in bloom.
The Druids gathered it on Midsummer Eve, cutting it with a golden scythe & catching it in a cloth, never allowing it to touch the ground. They believed that mistletoe could open all locks, cure all ills & was a lightning conductor.
In Sweden, mistletoe is believed to be possessed of mystical qualities & in Wales, a sprig of mistletoe gathered on Midsummer Eve & placed under the pillow is said to bring prophetic dreams.

RECIPES:

Summer Solstice Mead:

1 l of water
1,5 kg honey
30 g fresh yeast
2 handfuls of herbs such as meadowsweet, lemon balm or other
Simmer water with herbs for up to an 1 hour to really infuse the flavor of the herbs into the water.
Remove boiling water from heat & then stir in the honey until it's dissolved.
Strain the honey water into the clean jug or container in which you will be fermenting the mead. 
Add the yeast when your honey water is at room temperature.
Cover your container of midsummer mead with a towel & allow standing at room temperature for 1½ - 2 days.
Strain the midsummer mead into a clean container & chill until ready to serve.

Candied Ginger:

500 g ginger root
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup white corn syrup
Peel the skin from the ginger root & chop into small pieces.
Combine 2 cups of sugar, the water & the corn syrup in a crock pot & bring to high heat, stirring occasionally.
Once the sugar has melted, add the ginger to the liquid. 
Cover, reduce heat & allow to simmer for ca 12 hours.
Drain. 
Place ginger in a bowl with the remaining 1 cup of sugar & toss so that it's completely coated. 
Pour on a sheet of wax paper to cool. 
Store in an airtight container.

Herbal Lemon Cookies:

1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup lemon grass,lemon balm,lemon basil - chopped
Cream the butter & 1-3/4 cups sugar. 
Add the eggs & vanilla. Beat well. 
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt & herbs. Add to the creamed mixture & mix. 
Drop dough by teaspoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly. 
Sprinkle lightly with the remaining sugar. 
Bake at 220 C for 8-10 minutes or until barely browned. 
Cool slightly, then remove to a rack.


MAGIC:

St John's Eve (like the eve of many festivals) was seen as a time when the veil between this world & the next was thin & when powerful forces were abroad.
Vigils were often held during the night & it was said that if you spent a night at a sacred site during Midsummer Eve, you would gain the powers of a bard, on the down side you could also end up utterly mad, dead, or be spirited away by the fairies.
Indeed St Johns Eve was a time when fairies were thought to be abroad & at their most powerful.

One of the customs at the Summer Solstice is the practice of tossing wishes & offerings into wells & springs. For a wish or offering of thanks, hold a special stone, feather or sprig of herb in your hands as you focus & meditate on your desire. Pour the desire or gratitude into the stone, feather or sprig & when you have filled it, toss it with power & intention into the well or spring.

The use of fires, as well as providing magical aid to the sun, were also used to drive out evil & to bring fertility & prosperity to men, crops & herds.
Blazing gorse or furze was carried around cattle to prevent disease & misfortune; while people would dance around the bale-fires or leap through the flames as a purifying or strengthening rite.
The Celts would light bale-fires all over their lands from sunset the night before Midsummer until sunset the
next day.
Around these flames the festivities would take place.

People used to say in Ireland that if you have something you wish to happen, you "give it to the pebble." 
Carry a stone in your hand as you circle the bonfire & whisper your request to the stone. After your third turn around the fire, toss the stone into the flames.

After fire has burned out & the ashes gone cold, use them to make a protective amulet. You can do this by carrying them in a small pouch, or kneading them into some soft clay & forming a talisman.
It is believed that the Midsummer ashes will protect you from misfortune.
You can also sow the ashes from your bonfire into your garden & your crops will be bountiful for the rest of the summer growing season.

According to folklore, Midsummer Eve was a night second only to Halloween for its importance regarding the Fairy Folk, who especially enjoyed riding about on this night hoping to catch the unwary. To see them you had only to gather ferns at the stroke of midnight & rub them onto your eyelids, however be sure to carry a piece of Rue in your pocket to guard against capture. For protection & to evade capture simply turn your jacket inside out, which should keep you from harm’s way.

When traveling through the woods on this night, you should seek out one of the “ley lines”, the old tracks used to link ancient landmarks & places of worship, & stay upon it until you reach your destination. Ley lines were popularly associated with mystical powers of protection & should keep you safe from any malevolent power, as will crossing a stream of running water.

Midsummer is not only a time for working herbal magic,but herbal divinations as well.
One old method to make the vision of one’s future husband or wife materialize called for a handful of hemp seeds to be sprinkled while walking nine times clockwise around a church & reciting a special incantation.
In order for the divination to work, it needed to be carried out at the midnight hour as Midsummer began.

Sunwheels were used to celebrate Midsummer in some early Pagan cultures. A wheel or sometimes a really big ball of straw -- was lit on fire & rolled down a hill into a river. The burned remnants were taken to the local temple & put on display. 
In Wales, it was believed that if the fire went out before the wheel hit the water, a good crop was guaranteed for the season.


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