It's the Summer Solstice, the longest day, the sun will stand still for a short time and then its light time will begin to diminish. Now I know us in the UK are now saying . 'What Sun?' There has certainly been an absence here in Shropshire as stormy, rainy skies have been our weather pattern for weeks now. But regardless of our weather the Sun has reached its zenith today so if you get a peep of it go out and enjoy ! It doesn't mean summer is over, far from it, more that the light time now changes bit by bit every day to lead us towards winter's darkness.
On Midsummer's Eve people lit bonfires on hills, in villages, on commons and on farm land. In some places this was known as ‘setting the watch’. Many purposes have been attributed to these midsummer fires: to keep evil spirits and the fey folk at bay, to bring fertility, to purify, to give power to the sun and to mark the change in the year. Often fire was taken from one bonfire to another by lighting torches. There was a tradition of jumping the bonfire which was said to bring good luck. It was also thought that the highest jump indicated the height the crops would grow to during the year.
‘Sun wheels’, which were made from circles of any flammable material and often soaked in pitch to make it burn longer, were made and ceremoniously lit and rolled down hills. It is thought the spinning disk of fire hurtling downhill was symbolic of the beginning of the sun’s declension as we move towards a reduction of daylight hours as our sun has reached its annual zenith. Wyrely in Walsall is one of the last known places to observe this custom.
‘Push the wheel up Woreley bonk, Comin’ up, comin’ up, Push the wheel down Whorely bonk, Comin down, comin down. Singe the tails of imp and witch, burn them up in deepest ditch, Uh ! Uh! Uh!'
You can make lovely symbolic sun wheels using coloured fabrics & wool. Last year I was at Boundary Way Community Allotments and make a collaborative one as a group.
I finish this short Blog by including a couple of images of the beautiful day we have spent in our local patch. All that rain has brought the meadows on a treat. It's hard to think that the long days will begin to shorten but after the deluge of the last few weeks I feel grateful that on this the solstice that the sun has smiled upon us. Hoping the sun is in your lives too. Litha blessings x