‘Then following that beautiful season…Summer.
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape lay as if newly created in all freshness of childhood.‘ Longfellow
At midsummer people made sunwheels which were generally large pitch covered hoops that were rolled down hill as part of festive gatherings. No one really knows the true significance or reasoning behind this tradition but it is thought to represent the declining sun as it now begins its journey to its winter sky position. After the Summer Solstice on Monday our sun has seemingly been still, giving us a maximum daylight hours here in the Northern Hemisphere, but as from today we lose a fragment of daylight until we reach the Winter Solstice.
Smaller sunwheels (shown in the photo) can be made as decoration but also to acknowledge our sun and celebrate its life giving power and its light giving joy that we enjoy during the summer months.
You could make spiral patterns, traditional sun shapes or circles by planting yellow and orange flowers or placing stones or shells in your garden or on the beach or even in a container in your home.
Bonfires were lit at this time and were known as ‘Aestival’ fires. Margaret Baker wrote in her book Folklore and Customs of rural Britain that ‘they are lit to honour and strengthen the sun…circled by dancers moving ever sunwise, their(the fires) smoke drifting over uneasy cattle penned nearby, wreathed in St John’s wort against the witches power at the solstice.’
in South Staffordshire it was believed that witches would hold a parliament at which they decided the fate of mortals on this day. The local custom was to hang St.Johns wort with other protective fliers and herbs on their houses and barns.
St John’s wort is very much the plant of the moment, it’s name deriving from its proximity to St.John’s feast day on 23rd (midsummer’s eve). it was carried in pockets and pinned on clothing as a protectorate against the evil eye, witches, demons, sprites, faeries and lightning.
It was believed that just smelling the leaves would stave off midsummer madness.
Its flowers heliotropic nature (sun following) meant people considered it magical and having healing properties.
Some people would put a sprig of the plant under their pillow to be ‘visited’ by St John as they slept and so bringing a blessing upon them. It was also associated with faeries and believed that an offering of the plant to the fey folk would mean they would grant you special favours.
Wishing you a merry midsummer and hoping you will in some way mark the day as our ancestors once did.