Hand in hand, with Fairy grace,
Will we sing, and bless this place.
~ Titania, from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, today is the last day of Spring. This is Midsummer’s Eve, the night before the sabbat of Litha (Summer Solstice). Besides Samhain and Beltane, this is one of the most magical nights of the year.
Solstice translates from Latin words meaning the stopping of the Sun. At this time, the Sun appears to pause, the daylight hours no longer grow, but for just a day or two, neither do they yet begin their slow decrease.
Instead, we stand on the sacred pinnacle, a moment of stillness in the eternal arc of waxing and waning Sunlight. The days are now the longest, and our Sun now shines with its most dazzling power. The seed of the dark time of year is now planted and will be quickening soon.
Go outside at noon, and see how small your shadow is. Taste the rich fruit that has come of Spring’s blossoming; feel the subtle shift as we celebrate the crescendo of the Light’s journey that we began at Yule.
The dew gathered as shadows fall on Midsummer Eve restores sight. And tonight, those of us who love our herbs will be out at midnight, harvesting the plants that are most sacred at this time.
For instance, fern, which confers invisibility, was said to bloom at midnight on Midsummer Eve and is best picked then. The unopened fronds of a male fern should be gently dried over the Midsummer fire and then kept for protection and magic throughout the year.
In fact, any magical plants plucked on Midsummer Eve at midnight are especially efficacious and keep better.
In particular, St. Johnswort, mullein, wormwood, yarrow, and mistletoe should be gathered either at midnight tonight or noon tomorrow, to use as a charm to protect your house from fire and lightning, your family from disease, negative sorcery and disaster. I always bring in my first and most powerful harvest of mugwort on this night, as long as it is not wet with rain.
Always remember to ask the plant’s permission first, never harvest endangered, stressed plants, or the last bit of one, and be sure to give an offering in return.
In addition, vervain is ideally gathered at Midsummer, as well as burned for offerings. On this day, Pagans in many parts of England celebrate the Day of Cerridwen, the ancient Celtic Goddess of fertility, and Whose most sacred herb is vervain. With green ribbons tied to trees and green candles lit on altars for Her, celebrants burn vervain in their cauldrons and Litha bonfires in Her honor.
And speaking of the Litha fire, this is the time for burning your Yuletide wreath and greenery, as well as any old amulets and charms that you may wish to dispose of (as opposed to re-charging).
The timing for this is exceptionally good this year, as tonight is also a powerful blue New Moon in Gemini (meaning it is a second consecutive New Moon in the same zodiac sign). New Moons are powerful times for clearing, purging, and making way for a new beginning.
And there is even more to celebrate at this time. Midsummer’s Eve is an especially powerful time to contact the Faery Folk, if that is something you dare to do.
For instance, one of my favorite rituals is based on The Greater Key of Solomon, which contains instructions for making an aspergillum using nine holy herbs. Mentioned in a number of old texts, there is some debate about exactly which ones are being referred to.
But one Green Witchcraft tradition that I practice suggests lighting a cauldron fire and sprinkling it with wood betony (Stachys officinalis, also known as bishopswort), chamomile, either chervil, fennel or lavender, lemon balm, mullein, rue, St. John’s wort, thyme and vervain. Because wood betony is not readily available for me, I ordinarily am obliged to forgo it, but I have not noticed any reduction in good effect.
Caution – you should only burn this mixture outdoors with lots of ventilation; and people with sensitivities or women who may be pregnant should avoid this powerful smoke.
But otherwise, burning these lovely herbs together is one of the most delightful, simple, and truly Fae experiences one can conjure! Scrying with the smoke is especially powerful, and in my experience, its magic is very enticing to the Shining Ones.
However you and your beloveds celebrate this magical night and the Longest Day tomorrow, take your sweet time, and feel this stillness, this mysterious opening that is between the rising and falling.
May you blessed be.