Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Midsummer Magic

There can be a bit of confusion or even arguments about when Pagans should hold their Midsummer or Litha celebration. I prefer to think that this means we have some flexibility, allowing us to choose a date which is more suitable or significant to our own beliefs.
     The Summer Solstice is as astronomical event which happens around the 20-22nd of June in the Northern hemisphere. It varies a little from year to year because of the way the Earth wobbles on its axis. Some groups stick to the astronomical date and their celebration will also vary to follow this.
    The Druids always use the astronomical date to time their celebrations at Stonehenge.
     This will mean that midsummer's eve will be the night before the Solstice.
     However in the UK Midsummer's Day has been celebrated on the 24th of June for centuries, and this is also the case in other countries too. This means that the evening of the 23rd of June is Midsummer's Eve, and the night that traditional folklore relates to.
     Although if you take the UK calendar reform into account*, when William Shakespeare wrote his play 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', then Midsummer's eve would fall on the equivalent of the 5th of July, and there are traditional groups who adhere to the Old Calendar.
     This year the next Full Moon is on the 28th of June, and there are yet other groups who use the Full Moon nearest to celebrate their festivals.
     I know some people do find this confusing. I call it 'being given a choice'. It also means that you can pick one date for your private Witchy celebration, and another one for a more inclusive ask-the-neighbours-round party.
     It is said the on midsummer's eve the doors to the Fairy Mounds open, and the Fairy Queen and her court ride the land. In Witchdom we say that around the times of the festivals the doors between the world grow thin. In other words it is easier at these times for spirits to cross from their worlds into ours and vice versa. This is not a single day happening, it is a time of around a fortnight or so during which it is easier to access these alternate worlds.
     Around the Solstice the magical fern flower is said to appear and glow in the darkened woodlands. If you can find it and catch the fern seed in a pewter dish, it can grant you the power of invisibility.
     Litha is a fire festival, and is celebrated by having an outdoor bonfire. Barbecues can be the modern equivalent of this, so why not have a midsummer barbecue party!

* In 1752 the English parliament decreed that we should move from the old Julian calendar to the new Gregorian calendar, simply by missing out eleven days in the year, which did cause rioting in the streets by people thinking they had somehow been robbed of eleven days..

Wednesday, 13 June 2018


We were sitting in the front garden at the weekend. It was lovely and warm underfoot, and I was seated on a Graham-made bench, under the overhanging cotoneaster.
     This is a shrub we got from a cutting, years ago, from Graham's mum. It doesn't really look a lot, it is mainly green and branchy, but it is covered with tiny pink, spherical flowers. So tiny they really aren't worth mentioning, except that the bees love them!
     It was lovely seeing the bees, and there were a lot of them, flitting from flower to flower, and it is nice to think that we have a garden which is good for all sorts of wild life.
     Mind you the wild life does seem to like the house too. The other night there was a thud from the kitchen, it was the sound of a young starling trying to nut its way out of the front window. Graham managed to get it to flutter upwards to the open small light, and out it flew.
     Today Graham was cutting the lawn, and round the back, under the shade of the Belladonna, he noticed a hole in the dry earth. It looked like the entrance to a vole's hole, but as he watched, a bumblebee emerged and flew off. He called me out to look just as another bumblebee flew in, and while I watched, yet another little bee flew into the hole. So they definitely have a nest under there, and they do look like some of the bees which were on the cotoneaster.
     We do get a lot of different kinds of bees in the garden, lots of different sizes and colours. It isn't until you start looking closely that you realise that bees come in quite a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are like a hairy honey colour, others are stripy and can have a red, white or a black bum. Some are tiny things the size of a baby's fingernail, others are great flying fluffy zepelins, with the directional control of a balloon. Those seem to be mainly the ones that blunder into the house and make rumbly farting noises in the window, until we get them in a glass and take them outside again.
     We had a lovely teasel grew in the garden one year and early one morning we got up to find a large bumblebee asleep on the teasel. It looked so fluffy that I very gently stroked it, and in its sleepy state the bee lifted a back leg and waved it around as if to say, 'Gerroff!'
     In ancient Greece the souls of the dead were sometimes believed to take the form of bees, and bees are believed to be very magical creatures, probably because they produced the first sweet stuff humans ever came across, honey.
    It is said that bees should be told of any death on the house, or they will leave their hive and fly away. It used to be believed that you should never sell or buy bees for money, but should offer goods of the equivalent amount. In the 18th century the price of a hive of bees was a small pig.
    Bees are also only supposed to stay in a place where there is peace and harmony - and one should especially avoid having a row anywhere near a bee hive, or the bees will go and find a home elsewhere.