The grass long and lush
Humidity hangs heavy in the air
Rain endlessly falling
The north wind visiting occasionally
A harsh reminder of what may come
Will that grass become dry
Ready to burn
Will we have a gentle summer
That eases us into autumn
Will we be fleeing for our lives
Praying all will survive
At the mercy of the elements
In this land of harshness
This land of beauty
This land we open our hearts and souls to
This land we choose to live in
This land our home
The most beloved place of all
- Lady Cú
In the Southern Hemisphere, at the time of the summer solstice, the sun rises in the south east, sets in the south west, and reaches 75.5 degrees above the horizon at noon (compared to 28.5 at winter solstice and 52 degrees at the equinoxes). The Earth’s South Pole is tilted towards the sun and it is usually the longest day of the year.
At Winter Solstice we acknowledge ‘the dark’; at Summer Solstice the light that arose from that dark is at its apogee. The Summer Solstice is the time of maximum light and the most extravert of the 8 celebrations. During the dark days of winter, we turn inward and dream. Then during the light-filled days of summer, we give such dreams form. Our Summer Solstice Celebration provides an opportunity to celebrate our worldly life in a sacred manner. Through our celebration we acknowledge the potential of life on Earth and what we can accomplish while we are here.
In our Winter Celebration, our potential is acknowledged as the Mabon: the Hope of the World. Just a tiny light then; by summer it has reached a point of strength. Another potent image of our spiritual potential is the ‘Oak and Mistletoe’. In our Winter Solstice Ceremony our focus is on the Mistletoe that grows on the Oak. In our Summer Solstice Ceremony, our focus is on the Oak per se, which is at the height of its glory, just as the sun is.
Opposite us, in the Northern Hemisphere, Summer Solstice falls on the 21st or 22nd of June. We know that it has been celebrated there at least since the days when the megalithic stone circles were built because there are typically markers of the event. In later years, the Christian Church dedicated this ancient festival to St John, whose birthday is celebrated on June 24. A small herb, flowering at this time, was named after him: St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum). Locally we have two species of Hypericum: Small St John’s Wort (H. gramineum) and Matted St John’s Wort (H. japonicum). There may be other sunny-coloured flowers blooming at the Solstice but this one is particularly suitable as a symbol of the season because its tiny golden star-shaped flowers, filled with the energy of the sun at its peak, contain the power to ward and dispel darkness, doubt and depression. That’s important at any time but especially at the summer solstice when we celebrate our ability to take centre stage, like the sun, and ‘shine’.
During the ceremony we are given the opportunity to stand in the centre of the circle and make a dedication to the year ahead. Witnessed by everyone else in the circle, this is a powerful thing to do, especially when you say it like you mean it! The next step spiritually is the most frequent dedication made and that’s a very personal thing. Put some thought into this because we have noticed that this is definitely a ‘be careful what you ask for’ zone. Think about how love, peace, the land and all of her children factor into your Dedication.
When you return from the ceremony, your Dedication spoken, you might like to plant some St John’s Wort (or whatever plant you align with your Dedication). It can then serve to remind you of your Dedication throughout the year. Planting it in a carefully chosen spot and tending its growth are then a part of the process of manifesting your Dedication.
From the OBOD supplementary gwers and Traditional Ceremony: “Listen at the portals – for the world is large and many are seeking. Open the gates for them, and portal after portal shall open unto you”.
- Elkie White, Summer 2012