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© Lady Dairhean

History of Midsummer I

Titled: Midsummer

June 22

Because of the sun's role at midsummer, the element fire is a large part in ritual and spell making. The Celts would light balefires all over their lands from sunset the night before Midsummer until sunset the next day.

The Norse word for balefire is "biiken" and it is still used today in reference to the Midsummer fires. The Norse loved lengthy processions to and from the ritual site and would gather together their families, animals, and lighted torches. They would parade through the countryside to their sacred circle. The torches were placed around the circle in lieu of the balefires. "biiken"

In Ireland Midsummer was dedicated to the faery goddess Aine of Knockaine.

In Scotland the use of the cauldron, a Celtic symbol of life, death, and rebirth, is important to the Sabbat celebration that honors Cerridwen the Crone Goddess, who tends the cauldron. The cauldron is present to remind revelers that the sun is not truly dead, but will be reborn from the Goddess at Yule.

In Greece and Rome mock funerals were held the night after Midsummer for the now waning sun and for celebration of the start of the harvest season.

In Wales, Midsummer is called Gathering Day because most wild herbs are fully mature and this is the traditional time for harvesting magickal and medicinal plants for winter use.

The Celtic Druids also gathered their sacred plants at Midsummer especially their mistletoe, called "The Golden Bough," which they cut with a golden sickle reserved just for this event. When found on the sacred oak tree it was especially valued because it was believed to have been blessed by God. The Oak Tree is the Supreme Druidic symbol of the Solar Brotherhood. It also is at its peak at this time.

www.pagandragon.home.att.net/sabbats/midsummer/midsummer_page.html 5/6/01

© Lady Dairhean

History of Midsummer II

Titled: The High Holy Days

Mid-Summer Festival

The Summer Solstice

by SpringIce, Inc

Like Ostara, the Mid-Summer festival was not one of the original Sabbats honored in early Celtic days before and during the realm of the Druids. In that context it is a relatively new celebration honoring the abundance of summer and ringing in the waning celestial year. The holiday is more of a Welsh tradition that has been slowly incorporated into many craft traditions. For sure there were most probably festivals in early Celtic days. After all the solstice is an important time of the growing season. But this holiday probably got it's start from Bendigeid Vran (also known as Bran) who is often associated with this holiday as the representation of the Oak King. Bendigeid is often confused with Brân, who is not a God, but a Hero of Ireland.

Bendigeid was the giant son of Llyr and Penardun and patron of Britain. His name means 'raven', which is often associated as a messenger from the Great Spirits. Not always a messenger of forbidding events. Bendigeid legend begins when he gave his sister Branwen to Matholwch, King of Ireland. As a wedding present he gave them a magik cauldron. Unfortunately, while in Britain, Matholwch was insulted by Bendigeid's half-brother, Efnisein. After Matholwch returned to Ireland with his new bride, he took his revenge for Efnisein's insult out on Branwen. Hearing of his sisters distress and suffering, Bendigeid crossed from Wales into Ireland and a mighty battle erupted.

At first Matholwch held the upper hand as a result of the magik cauldron. At the end of a days fighting, he ordered the collection of the dead. He placed each soldier into the cauldron which restored them to health and a new day of battles. Sneaking into the Irish encampment during a fierce day of fighting, Efnisein was able to destroy the cauldron. It was not long before Bendigeid's army gained the upper hand and won the day. Bendigeid was mortally wounded by a poisoned dart and ordered his men to cut off his head and bury it on White Mount in London. The head was to be placed facing North as a magikal guardian for Britain. Bendigeid becomes the wise old king who forever more watches over his realm. It is this last act that associates Bendigeid as the wise Oak King.

The God comes in two forms in this festival as the Holly (often associated with Bel who is honored during Bealtaine) and the Oak King (Bendigeid). Just as these two battled for supremacy during Yule, they do so again during the Summer Solstice. Only this time the Oak King wins the battle to represent the waning of the celestial year.

www.paganspath.com/magik/midsummer.html 5/7/01 © SpringIce, Inc 1996-1999

© Lady Dairhean

History of Midsummer III


Summer Solstice

By Robin DuMolin

Solstice [Fr. from L. solstitium; sol, the sun, and sto, to stand;] The time of year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator. - Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary. The summer solstice occurs on June 21st. It is a time distinctive on an astrological level and also a time of year celebrated by ancient civilizations with their unique traditions to mark the summer season.

Nearly every religion of the world shows traces of astrological influence. The old Testament of the Jews, its writings by Egyptian culture, is a mass of astrological and astronomical allegories. Nearly all the mythology of Greece and Rome may be traced in star groups. The ancient systems of measuring the year were based upon the equinoxes and solstices.

The summer solstice was celebrated when the sun reached its most northerly position. It is regarded as occurring in Cancer (the Crab). It is evident that the constellation of the Crab is represented by this particular creature because the sun, after passing through this house, precedes to work backwards, or descend the zodiacal arc.

As for the history of the summer solstice, for centuries people in Europe celebrated springtime by lighting fires. These might have been fires kindled at hillsides to drive away witches and to help the sun with its task of warming the earth. On May Day the Celts, who had lived in Scotland and Ireland since ancient times, would make a fire out of gorse to burn out the witches. This was part of the Celtic fire festival called Beltane. Beltane means "Bright Fire." When the Celts decided to celebrate the solst ice they simply extended their fire rituals to Midsummer Eve. In Sweden a Midsummer Tree was set up and decorated. The villagers danced around it, lit fires and jumped over them. On Midsummer Day it was also the custom for women and girls to bathe in a river. Long ago this bathing was considered magic for bringing the life-giving rain. In a river the water is always moving, always renewed.

The sun, as supreme among the celestial bodies visible to the astronomers of antiquity, was assigned to the highest of the gods and became symbolic of the supreme authority of the Creator Himself.

The Natchez Indians in the southern part of the U.S. worshipped the sun and believed their ruler was descended from him. Every summer they held a first fruits ceremony. No one was allowed to touch the ripe ears of corn in his own field until the ceremony was finished. The Hopi Indians of Arizona would have masked men wearing bright paint and feathers who danced their special rituals. They represented the dancing spirits of rain and fertility called Kachinas. The Kachinas were messengers between man and the gods. At Midsummer the Kachinas leave the Hopi villages to return to their homes in the mountains. While they are there, for half the year, they are believed to visit the dead underground and hold cermonies for them. The Catholic Church chose Midsummer for celebrating the birth of Saint John the Baptist and called it Saint John's Day. John was the forerunner of Jesus and baptized Him in the river Jordan. Jesus had once called him, "A burning and shining light." The Church told people that Midsummer fires should represent St. John instead of the sun, however the rites and their meaning for the people changed very little until recent times.

www.celestia.com/alpha/SRP/JJ95/Html/SummerSolstice.html 5/8/01

History of Midsummer IV

Titled: Midsummer Eve
Midsummer Eve, also Saint John's Eve, June 23, night before the festival of the nativity of John the Baptist. Throughout Europe peasants often celebrated this night by lighting fires in streets and marketplaces. Although the fires were often blessed by priests, the celebration was generally conducted by the laity. Midsummer eve celebrations were a continuance of the Teutonic pagan festivals and fertility rites associated with agriculture at the time of the summer solstice.
"Midsummer Eve," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001
http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

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