First day of Summer
ditch completely dry–
emptiness is form.
— Short Poems by Michael P. Garofalo
We begin the final countdown to the Solstice, which arrives next week. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the Summer Solstice, the Lesser Sabbat of Litha. Our friends in the Southern Hemisphere will be celebrating the Yule Solstice.
As Mike Nichols of the University College Cork (Ireland) Folklore, Ethnology, and Celtic Civilisations Society writes, “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,” he continues, “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.”
It is during this time that the Good Folk are very active. While often seen at Beltane, it is at Midsummer that the human and Faerie races are very likely to meet.
As I have noted many times before here, please do not be deceived by the Victorian fantasies of what the Fey are like. While it is true that many plants and herbs have an Elemental guardian who may somewhat resemble the diminutive sprites that were popular romantic figures at the turn of the 20th century, for centuries prior, the Faerie races were known as strong, powerful and not always pretty. And certainly, they are not the charming, mischievous children with wings that Victorian “pop culture” invented.
The Gentry are a proud, independent race – not human, but related closely to us. Our future and theirs are intertwined, as are our pasts. So now, at the time of Midsummer, working with our alliances in the Green Worlds, we stand at a threshold, from which we may invite the Fair Ones into our lives. Over the next several days, as we move towards the crescendo of the Light, let us create together a bridge that may begin to resolve the wounds in our mutual histories.
For our fates are bound together, and we both face an uncertain future. We surely need one another, if we hope to heal our worlds.