The Earth is warming. The sun is shining. The plants are rejoicing! Ahhh…it must be time for the Summer Solstice! It kind of snuck up on me! Feels like just yesterday we were dancing the Maypole…
It’s hard to say what the old Celts actually did at this time of year. Some customs seem to have been brought in by immigrants and invaders. Others are localized festivals not celebrated on a Pan-Celtic scale. Certain regions of Ireland, such as County Limerick, have celebrations associated with Áine. Her influence seems to be sovereignty (big surprise), light (possibly the sun), and the Otherworld (Freeman, 178). In some places, burning wheels were rolled down hills and used to predict whether or not there would be a good harvest (Hutton, 311). Bonfires were common in many places this time of year (Ellison, 178). The Manx practiced a tradition of paying rent to Manannán mac Lir, lord of the sea (179).
|Some of my herbs.|
At Muin Mound Grove, we tend to honor two of the Tuatha Dé Danann – Airmid and her brother Míach. The story goes that their father, Dían Cécht, a healer God, killed Míach in a fit of jealousy for making an improved prosthetic arm for the king God Nuada (Dían had already made one of metal, but Míach’s was of flesh and bone). From the ground in which Míach was buried, all the healing herbs grew in the shape of a man. The herbs grew according to the body parts they could heal, thus revealing the mysteries of the plant world to his sister Airmid. She gathered them in her cloak. Again, Dían became mad and scattered the herbs to the wind. Some say that this act is why we do not fully understand the magic of herbs and continue to suffer illness. Others say that Airmid is the only one who knows their secrets. We remember and honor Airmid and Míach at Midsummer in Upstate NY because it is when herbs start to come back to full strength in our gardens. This is an especially important time of year for gardeners such as myself!
Last year, I gifted my grove with a handmade Airmid mantle. During ritual, we place herbs that we research upon the place it may heal before giving the herbs as an offering to the Nature Spirits. Should you wish to add this tradition to your own Midsummer Rites, I suggest not putting the offerings in the fire unless you know, without a doubt, that the herbs are safe to burn.
While the herbal harvest is underway, my favorite fruit is also ready for picking here in Upstate New York: the strawberry!
I started my celebration a few days ago with some strawberry muffins. They were so delicious that I’m making them again – heat and humidity be damned! I used local strawberries and the basic muffin recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Very easy and perfect for breakfast!
- 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (look for local flour! We have North Country Farms near my home!)
- 1/3 cup sugar (I use sugar in the raw)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 beaten egg (use local if possible!)
- 1/4 cup milk (I used almond milk both times and it worked well)
- 1/4 cup cooking oil
- about 1/2 cup of chopped strawberries – halved or quartered depending on size
Grease your muffin tins. This recipe claims to make 10-12 muffins, but they would be very tiny. I used a six-cup muffin tin and made really large muffins. I like them that way! Mix your dry ingredients together in a medium bowl and create a well in the center for the liquid ingredients. Mix the liquid ingredients in another bowl then pour it into the dry mixture all at once. Mix together until it’s moistened yet lumpy. Add your berries and spoon everything into your tins. Bake in a 400° F oven for 20 minutes or until brown. Cool and enjoy!
However you celebrate the Summer Solstice, take some time to check out what is locally available. So many of the high days are intimately connected to the agricultural cycle, and Summer Solstice is known for the “first fruits.” While what is happening in Upstate NY, for example, may not match up with what the ancient Celts were doing in their various regions, the most important thing is that you’re connecting with your local nature spirits and your local agricultural cycles. Head over to your farmers’ market to explore!
|My Summer Solstice lunch today- locally made Greek yogurt with organic oats and a strawberry. Nom!|
Resources: The Solitary Druid: Walking the Path of Wisdom and Spirit by Rev. Robert Lee (Skip) Ellison Kindling the Celtic Spirit by Mara Freeman The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain by Ronald Hutton