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Midsummer marks the time of the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, and the xenith of the Sun's power. From Midsummer on, the Earth enters the waning year, and each day the sun will leave the skies a bit earlier.
At Midsummer, the Goddess is heavy with pregnancy, just as the Earth is pregnant with the coming harvest's fruits. The cattle in the fields await calving. The rituals of Midsummer focused on nurturing new life in the ground as well as in the womb.
The Sun God, at the peak of his power awaits his fatherhood, and so he is a focus of Midsummer, and is glorified. The Sun is a symbol of protection, and many Pagans make protective charms in the week before the Sabbat and empower them in the Midsummer balefire.
The element of fire is more prominent in the rituals of Midsummer than in any other Sabbat. Because of its heat, fire is, of course, associated with the hot Midsummer Sun. In past times, balefires would be lit from sunset the night before Midsummer until Sunset the next day. Balefires still figure prominently at modern Midsummer rites. The festivities and rituals often take place around these fires.
Two Christian holiday which feature balefires occur on or near Midsummer. The feast of St. John's Day was begun at the insistence of St. Patrick to draw attention away from the celebrations of Midsummer. Whitsunday, the fiftieth day after Easter, was traditionally celebrated with lit bonfires.
Most wild herbs are completely mature by Midsummer and this is the traditional time to gather magickal herbs and plants to dry and store for winter use. Midsummer is in some places referred to as Gathering Day. The Celtic Druids gathered their sacred mistletoe at this time, as it was used in all sorts of healings, divinations, and spells. Lavender, a strong catalyst of love magick, vervain and pine cones(both powerful amulets of fertility and protection), are Midsummer favorites. To put fresh herbs up to dry, bundle and tie the bases of bunches, and hang them in a warm, dry spot. They will be ready in thirty to ninety days.
Midsummer is the time when faeries were thought to be at the height of their power. Faery raids have been seen and reported frequently at Midsummer and protective herbs were hung on individuals who might be vulnerable to be carried off by them. In England, dancing around a Mulberry bush or tree was strong faery protection. This was the source of the children's nursery rhyme, "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush".
Leaving food out for the Little People at Midsummer is as common as setting out bird feed in winter in some places. Milk, water, butter, honey, wine, and bread are set out respectfully for the faeries. In parts of Russia, it is an old folk custom to never scold a child for spilling milk, since this was seen as a gift to the faeries. Perhaps this was the source of the saying, "Don't cry over spilt milk". And speaking of milk, Midsummer Sabbats often substitute milk for wine or water. Rituals are performed to ensure the continued production of milk by goat and cattle herds.
June is the traditional month for weddings. It was considered unlucky to marry during May because it was the month of the Sacred marriage of the God and Goddess at Bealtaine. May was a time when no mortal should marry. Many engagements were made at Bealtaine, and the couple would marry after the next full cycle of the Moon.
Many of today's marriage customs have Pagan origins. The sharing of the cake, tossed rice, and flowers , are all part of fertility magick. The white dress equates the bride with the Virgin Goddess; the wedding ring is a symbol of the magick circle; the garter is a wreath; carrying the bride over the threshold is a ritual to bring fertility and prosperity.
At Midsummer, prophetic dreams play a large part of folklore, for this is a night for general divination and vision questing.
You can make a dream pillow to enhance your psychic dreams. Take a piece of blue or purple cotton fabric, about 4"X8" in dimension. Fold it over to form a square, and sew it up, leaving one side open. Turn it inside out and fill with herbs. St. John's Wort, and Mugwort, are traditionally used. Sew up the final side. Place this pillow inside your pillow case on your bed, so the fragrance will reach you. Before you go to sleep, fix in your mind what you wish to dream about, and recite a chant of your choosing until you sleep.
The sun is now waning, and we move towards the harvests, and the death of the God.