“The importance of midsummer does not derive from any specific cultural tradition, but from an objective occurrence in the environment-the shift in the ratio of light to darkness- and it’s universal effects on human psychology.The human response to this is to focus on preserving and storing as much of the nourishing light as we can…” since the darkness soon returns.
To me, the tale that stands out as midsummer lore is the story of Miach the healer. The son of Dain Cecht, he fell into the healing well and surpassed his fathers skills. So jealous was Dain Cecht that he stuck Miach 4 times. Miach withstood the 3 blows and was able to heal himself but the fourth struck deep into his sacred head and killed him. From his grave grew 365 herbs one to cure every ailment. His Sister, Airmed picked them and arranged them on her cloak, according to what disease they could cure. Dain Cecht was furious his son would continue to parade his skills, even in death. He was still unable to recognize his son’s ability and overturned Airmed’s mantle and confusing the herbs positions and combinations. Now herbalist have to labor to find the correct formulas.
Looking to nature for signs of the time we often see St. Johnswort ( Beathnua, irish for live-giver). Beathnua blooms around the solstice every year and could be considered the plant of the this season.The welsh called this plant the “leaf of the blessed” It was understood to be an ideal combination of water and fire, the healing essence.
This is also a time where the veil between worlds is equal and easier to penetrate- it was a time to be watchful for tricky spirits. For this purpose the Mallow leaves were carried from the marshes to families and friends. They were later thrown into the midsummer fires burning in the fields to add protection in the smoke.
As fire is a pure representation of the sun’s power so bonefires were often raised in the fields to give the crops the power of the sun throughout the night. Torches and embers were often spread throughout the fields and the community would often stay up thru the night. When the fires got low and the young were feeling brave, they would jump the flames for blessings of strength.
Greetings, Sun of the seasons, as you walk high in the heavens;
with your strong steps upon the high void you are the joyous mother of the stars.
You lie down in the abyss of destruction without suffering harm or scathe,
you rise up on the peaceful wave like a young queen in flower.