Summer Solstice, Alban Heruin
Summer Solstice otherwise known as Alban Heruin to the Celts falls on the 21st December. This festive day of joy and happiness is one of the great solar festivals and celebrates the peak of Summer. It is the longest day of the year when the great Sun stands proudly at his highest point in the sky. All across the world great monuments can be found across hundreds of cultures that mark the exact moment of the Solstice sun. Great stones, megaliths, tunnels and monuments have been constructed to honour this specific astronomical moment in time. The Solstice is the great joyous celebration of light at its brightest.
For me it is the time when the electrical storms fill the sky and the song of cicadas and geckos echo through the night. The Suns warmth and light brings brightness all around us and within us. We walk more outside, meet more with friends, have BBQ’s and enjoy the beach. Sunshine brings strength and inspiration. He warms the Earth and through his strength and energy, life in the Earth Mother is born and nurtured, and She is able to bring fertility and beauty to land and sea, to the depth of Earth soils and to our hearts.
Timing of Solstice
Solstice is derived from Latin and means ‘sun stopping’ or ‘sun standing still’, as midsummer day is the day in which the sun rises and falls in exactly the same position on the horizon, then reverses its path from this day forward as the season changes. The solstices occur because the rotation axis of the Earth is tilted by an angle of 23.5 degrees from the vertical. If the Earth’s rotation was at right angles to the plane of its orbit around the Sun, there would be no solstice days and no seasons. The celebration of the Solstice falls on the cusp between Gemini and Cancer (between 21st-23rd December).
Stories of Summer Solstice
Summer Solstice is the celebration of the peak of Summers beauty. It is the climax of the Suns power, when the beauty of the union of the Sun and Moon (God and Goddess) shift the seasons. The Sun God Bel-awn dies in ecstasy with the Summer Goddess. Their power invokes a trance that moves and shifts the world and the seasons from this day forward. Tides turn and his warmth leaves as he departs for the underworld. He sacrifices his life and his energy for the Goddess. It is the turning tide as both God and Goddess have their place and their time for bringing fertility to the land. The Great Mother claims her power, after the energy of the Sun has warmed the Earth, and she now brings fertility to the land. Summer Solstice is also associated with Taranis, King of the Oak Thunder God who brings the Summer rains.
To the Celts Summer Solstice is one of the ‘spirit nights’ (with Samhain and Beltaine). These nights are considered strong nights in which spirits and the faerie realm are most active.
Midsummer fires were lit on hills (closest to the sun) and were viewed as protective to the land, crops and livestock and brought strength and fertility in love. Images of the past winter (such as the Winter Goddess or the Holly King) were burnt on the midsummer fires. Sometimes a mock fight between two men in front of the High Priestess and community took place. The Holly King and Oak King symbolically struggle and the Oak (light) wins.
Dancing in circles is often associated with honouring the Sun. The great Celtic Sun God Bel (Bel-awn or Belinos) and Lugh are often honoured. Also due to the turning of light and dark many Gods and Goddesses that represent both polarities of light and dark are celebrated such as Danu, Anu, Macha, Epona, Aine and Rhiannon.
St Johns Wort or Bels Flower is sacred to the Sun and used widely at Summer Solstice. The beautiful bright Yellow flowers are often used to decorate sacred space. St Johns Wort is considered a common plant and is often growing out of control in several city and country areas. In old times women would pick the yellow flowers at Solstice dawn. If they placed the dew on their faces from the Suns flower this dawn it was believed they would find love within the year.
Water on Solstice Day
For centuries the old people have bathed in fresh water on Solstice morning, as the Goddess is said to bathe herself in freshwater streams on Solstice eve, blessing all the waters. Some people offer herbs to the water, throw wishes spoken into roses to be carried downstream, or take water from streams to bless their homes and animals. Wash their faces in the morning dew or take and early morning swim. A gold dish of water left out Solstice eve, is called Sun water and considered blessed by both the Water Goddess Sulis and the Sun God Bel.
Rites of dawn focus on honouring the Father and the Sun .Thanking him for his sacrifice, warmth and energy in nurturing the Earth Mother. Some people burn herbs for the Sun at dawn, and wait for first light welcoming the Solstice Sun with a candle or lantern.
Farwell the Sun at the exact same point on the horizon and welcome the Moon and the Mother with milk, honey and herbs. Feast together and celebrate abundance, fertility and beauty.
Herbs for Summer Solstice
Lavender-Thrown into the Summer fire ensures a good year: stability, calm, blessings
St Johns Wort-Gathered mid-Summer, herb to honour Sun/Bel, protection, fire
Verbena-Gathered on Midsummer Eve- soaked in water overnight, relieves stress, aphrodisiac, dreaming, protection, honour the sun & inspiration.
Lavender, St Johns Wort and Verbena: Traditionally bound together as a solstice fire offering. Can make wishes for the coming season, or burn something you wish to change.
Chamomile- traditional herb of the sun, relaxing
Elder, Birch, Oak, Ash and thorn- traditional herbs to see Faeries on Solstice night
Fennel- Protects Home, family and Fertility, alibility to face danger/adversity. Gathered Midsummer Eve and hung in the home.
Mistletoe- Mistletoe berries were gathered on Solstice night, legends said the berries infused with the suns power of this night would turn golden and were prized for their healing ability.
Rosemary-enhance memory, protection and purification
Mugwort- Midsummer herb for protection, ritual bathing, women’s herb, dreaming & visions, protection of home and safety in journeys (comp. moonstone & pearls)
Offerings-yellow, orange flowers, sun flowers and fruits, incenses
Things to do on Summer Solstice
- Burn herbs for the Sun and to make wishes for the coming season
- Leave out a dish for Sun water (preferably gold) on Solstice night and bath in the water on Solstice morning
- Throw coins or offering into water or streams on Solstice morning
- Go for a swim in the Solstice waters
- Leave crystals out for cleansing under both the Solstice Sun and the Moon as the season changes
- Light a candle or lantern with the Solstice Sun at Dawn, Welcome his light and his nurturing to the Earth Mother and give thanks at Sunset as he departs
- Write letters to special men in your life and tell them how they nurture your life
- Watch the sunset and burn herbs in thanks to the Sun God
- After dark place milk, honey and herbs into the ground to welcome the Mother
- Place herbs, cake, honey and incense in the garden for the faeries
- In Celtic tradition some people spent the night before Solstice out on the hills awaiting the dawn and seeking inspiration
- Have friends over and enjoy food and celebrations
- Dance, drum, sing and enjoy
- Get some elderflower cordial (found at most shopping centres and health food stores) and mix with champagne or use for jellys to bring the fun and the sacred together
- Decorate the house with orange and yellow flowers
- Put a big sunflower by your bed or on your work desk
- Light torches, have bon fires or roll a sun wheel lit on fire down a hill
- Light a bonfire to encourage and honour the light of the Sun- do fire jumping for cleansing and new beginnings
- Decorate your altar with sunflowers, marigolds, gold material, orange and yellow crystals and images of the Sun
- Children often enjoy activities such as making decorations with golden tinsel and images of the sun, making a sun dial and planting sun flowers
- Have a picnic with friends and children and bathe in the sun
- Place mugwort and any other midsummer herbs under your pillow on Solstice night to encourage dreams on this strong night
- Celebrate the light and joy of the sun by hanging lanterns around your home, lighting candles or hanging fairy lights
new ritual space
dedicated to Her service,
with a concert
home of PaGaian Cosmology - http://pagaian.org
17th December 2008.
Bookings essential: email Glenys for details – email@example.com
The MoonCourt is being built by local craftsperson, Jason Dash, using recycled building materials to produce a cob wall with Solstice windows and an Equinox marker. Its reciprocal roof frame has just recently been put in place. It is a sacred Court for Her rituals of never-ending renewal – the eternal Re-Creation which is represented in the Wheel of the Year, the phases of the Moon and all Being. For the latest photo of the emerging MoonCourt see: http://pagaian.org/forum/viewtopic.php?id=250
History of Beltaine
Beltaine is a Gaelic word for the month of May (meaning bright/shining fire or sun fire). Shining one or bright one is also a term used for Great Bel, Sun God of the Celts. The festival is also referred to as Cetsamhain, meaning “opposite Samhain”, Beltaine’s direct opposite festival in the dark half of the year. It is the luscious fertility tide of the year; it is the celebration of life. It is Bridget’s fire festival, Goddess of fertility, purification, midwifery, fire and sexuality. Eight holy days and tides of the Earth grace the Mothers body. By weaving ourselves into her rhythms we work with the energy of the Earth and speak her song. The rhythm of this season is Beltaine.
As the Earth sprouts forth in deep pregnancy, flowers and seeds bursting from her flesh, she waits…in her most sensual self…the abundance of birth and fertility of the Earth is coming. The ancient ones watched this tide to help the Mother transform from sensual Maiden to fertile Mother to birth; they offered their own fertility to nourish Her. It is the time where union between people and the land brings fertility and abundance to all. We nurture Her and She in turn nurtures us. The fertility is circular, sensual and beautiful.
The old ones at this tide would make love directly on the land under the light of the purifying Beltaine fires. Across the landscape the hills would be alight with fires and love making as couples left their houses and were considering ‘gone-a-maying’, returning at dawn washing their faces with the Beltaine Dew. Rites of pleasure are however no arbitrary act. By offering your body, your pleasure, your fertility and your love, the Earth is nurtured and She breathes in the passion to heal and rejoice. The Priestesses and Priests of the Celtic tribes would invoke the Gods through mortals, and through the ceremony of the Great Rite they would make love under the apple branches to honor and bring love to the Earth. Traditionally within certain ceremonies the Priestesses asked the Priest to kill the King Stag and return to them for the rite. No King could be crowned in Britain without passing this rite of passage with the Priestesses. Children conceived on this sacred night are considered children of the Gods.
It is also a time a unions. Handfastings (Celtic marriage) or renewals of love were often performed this day. Ribbons are bound with promises and tied onto lovers hands. It was also a time of separation between lovers and cutting the binds the no longer bring love.
Beltaine is a time of deep pleasure and joy. Great fires are burnt for purification; sweets and fruits offered to the Earth and burning everything that is no longer needed in your life- so that only pleasure remains.
Beltaine starts when the Sun enters Taurus and the season turns to light. In the Southern hemisphere Beltaine is October 31st in the Northern hemisphere is fall on April 30th, followed by May Day. The month following Beltaine is a time of joy. Beltaine is a cross-quarter day, marking the midpoint in the Sun’s progress between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Beltaine begins the light half of the year. All fear has been released and for this next month (the mead moon or honeymoon) is the best time for marriage and all sexual taboos are lifted. Newlyweds were given honey to eat during this time to encourage fertility.
Roses- sexuality, love and beauty
Oak- thunder gods, guardians, wisdom and fertility, Sky father
Willow- fertility, Lunar, Goddess, water and love
Neroli- for seduction
Marigolds- to cleanse, bless and decorate the Beltaine circle
Almond- love magick
Apples- given to the Goddess as a symbol of her wisdom and love
Pigs- which feed on acorns the symbol of the Goddess wisdom
Hares-for fertility and luck
Bulls- have been associated with Beltaine. As the community used to walk all their livestock between two fires on Beltaine night for purification
Hawthorn –wreaths placed on top of the maypoles to represent the Goddess
Activities of the Beltaine Tide
Make love, feast, drink and dance and deeply enjoy sensuality, pleasure and beauty
Burn purification fires or do fire jumping if you have the ability to have a bonfire, to cleanse your spirit for the Beltaine season. Or you could burn a small fire in a fire proof container and burn writings or symbols of things you would like to let go of.
Indulge in rich wonderful foods that bring you pleasure and joy
Water or fertilize the plants around you, bring them richness and joy
Leave nuts, fruits and apples out on Beltaine night so the animals can also indulge in pleasure and joy to nurture the Earth
Dress in red and fill your home with flowers and beauty
If you have a partner have a romantic dinner at home and tell them from your heart why you are with them. It is a great time for reaffirming relationships and love.
Leave offerings for faeries (milk, cake, honey, herbs and incense burning throughout the garden) Beltaine nights is considered one of the high tide nights in which the veils between the faerie realm and physical world are thin.
Maypole dancing (or November pole dancing in the southern hemisphere) is a traditional fertility dance of Beltaine performed by men and women dancing in opposite directions. Red ribbons held by women (representing their blood and fertility) white ribbons held by men (to represent their semen and fertility) spiraling together to bind fertility magick for the Earth Mother.
Bind red and white ribbons together as a symbol of fertility and tie them to trees with wishes of things you would like to birth in your life
In Britain Hawthorn or Rowan branches which are flowing at this time are brought into the home. If you are in the southern hemisphere watch your local area. For me is the Jacarandas that blooms and burst forth in the week of Beltaine and bring a carpet of lavender to the city floor.
Whatever ever activities you choose in your life, make sure in this tide of Beltaine you are having some serious fun and pleasure!
The fair maid who, the first of May,
Goes to the fields at break of day
& washes in dew from the hawthorn tree,
Will ever after handsome be.
- English folk rhyme
When the fire of Beltaine is lit in flame and in our bodies -we wake up the fiery heart of the Earth Mother… we nurture her birth and allow her fertility and passion to transform us all
I am back from the Goddess Conference, Gold Coast Australia, filled with joy and tears. Still covered with ochre over my womb, in the marks of Gaia, the blood of the mother. From the moment we walked out in song Priestesses and initiates wearing our deep red cloaks and veils to meet the other great women attending, to the closing spiraling and shrieking witches dance that exploded into laughter and then deep resonance and song to the Earth Mother we were transforming, shedding and working with the Earth. We learnt a lot about drumming the elements and the rhythm and heart beat of the Earth, we heard about the power of Priestessing the Earth. I had the joy of watching how great Priestesses from around the country I have never met before called in the elements, singing in water, laughing in Air. We heard from an Elder Bilawara Lees about Song Lines and Aboriginal culture and the importance of people of Celtic decent stepping up and working their own Indigenous Law to bring balance. Many speakers talked about self love, and a sense of unity and love for both self and Earth. We heard about PaGaianess. Restoring these relationships, learning to receive the love of others and the Earth as well as nurture her. Understanding the relationship is circular and intention is powerful. We danced, we drummed, we chanted, we painted each other and exploded in our wildness. We learnt from Lucy Cavendish that one of the most powerful things you can do is simply grow food. Work with the Mother and begin the relationships with community of sharing food, working with each other. We walked the labyrinth into the Goddess and into ourselves to the great High Priestess and weaver of the conference and GAIA Patricia Corner. A simple yet powerful journey deeply spiraling in, and in, and in again. Now all over for another year until we spin again…
Events in Brisbane
Sheela-Na-Gig Goddess Ceremony
An Open invitation to you to come & join other
good women of Brisbane and environs to celebrate, honour & share
this very special occasion and ceremony of placing a
in the Garden at Womenspace.
The Sheela is an ancient symbol of Sovereignty, Mother Earth,
Womanhood. She is known as a Goddess of Transformation.
The ceremony will honour Her anew.
On: Sunday October 19th
At: Womenspace 12-14 Homebush Road Kedron
Time: 1.30 for a 2pm start - 4pm
Cost: $5.00 p/ person This is a fundraiser for WS
Dress: As a beautiful Goddess that you are!
Bring a plate of delicious afternoon tea to share.
And a flower or herb to honour this Goddess
Bookings: Tess Elliott 0417 141212 or 3355 9370
The Goddess conference GAIA Earth Alchemy will take place on the Gold Coast 10th-12th Oct 2008
The Open day will be on the Friday including markets, music and ritual, followed by two days of workshops.
For more information go to http://www.pomegranategrove.org/index_files/2008ConferenceProgramme.htm
What a wonderful Spring Equinox it has been. Spring Equinox, also known as Alban Eiler or Ostara, the time when day and night stand equal and spring birth explodes through the landscape. The time of light is growing and the Sun Gods warmth upon the Mother brings new growth. It is a time for new beginnings, to weave yourself into the landscape and grow with her. As the Earth Mother explodes with her fertility and light-how are you growing with her tide? Spring is a time of new ventures and sprouting new ideas. This Spring I sow the seed of Oakwillow into the fertile hands of GAIA at the Goddess conference in October. I bury my painted eggs into the deep rich earth of Danu and breathe deep into the new sweetness in the air. It is the time of the powerful Maiden and the young Horned God, dancing in their youth, awaiting the union of Beltaine as the fertility of the Earth reaches her crescendo. Enjoy the nectar and sweetness of your springtide and may the seeds you sow be fruitful .