Thursday, June 20th at 10:04pm PDT
Friday, June 21st at 1:04am EDT / 5:04am UTC
The Sun Reaches 0 degrees Cancer
Posted Monday, June 17, 2013
It’s summer solstice this week for those of us who live topside on Mother Earth. Marked by the Sun’s entry into the cardinal, water sign of Cancer, it is the culmination point of the Sun’s yearly journey north. At this Northern Hemisphere peak of life-giving solar power, the masculine Sun just so happens to glide right into the arms of the feminine Moon, entering Cancer, the sign she rules — a blending of our male-female luminaries, adding to the potent love magic at this almost too heady time of year.
The June solstice was called Midsummer by the Celts because it fell exactly in the middle of their summer season, which started on Beltane or May Day. The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), and explains quite clearly what a solstice is: the Sun appears to come to a halt and for three days rises in the same spot on the eastern horizon. There are two solstices each year and they mark the two “Sun extremes” — the Sun has reached its furthest point north at the Cancer or June solstice, and furthest south at the Capricorn or December solstice.
Magic crowns this time of year for Midsummer has long been considered a night when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, when the green spirits of the dark hollows and lonely woods venture out. It is said on this night the fairy host once again roams Middle Earth to wreak havoc and remind all that the forces of nature are powerful, unpredictable, and not to be trifled with. Because of this, much of associated Midsummer herbal lore has to do with protection, but of equal importance is love, for fiery passion and benevolent magic also abound at this invigorating time of the year. The Druids refer to the summer solstice as Alban Heruin, which translates, “The Light of the Shore” and consider it one of the few times each year when the bond between Heaven and Earth is at its strongest.
In Ireland and other parts of Europe, people built huge Midsummer bonfires for fertility and good luck; and farmers actually drove their cattle through the flames, sprinted around the animal pens and fields with smoking embers from the blaze, all to ensure health and fertility. Lovers held hands and leaped the flames in tandem, while those without partners performed all sorts of love divination. Young women placed little bouquets under their pillows on Midsummer Eve for dreams of love, as it was thought certain flowers and herbs, like St. John’s wort and mugwort, would induce a special vision of one’s future mate. Divining rods, healing herbs and flowers harvested on Midsummer Eve were said to be much more potent and powerful, and all dreams, whether about love or not, more likely to come true. Dew gathered on the Eve was supposed to restore sight and perhaps one’s lost youth as well. The woodland ferns were said to bloom* at this time, and if picked on this night would grant invisibility to their wearers.
The place where the sun rises at summer solstice, and other critical stages in the solar year, have been marked since neolithic times. From openings in earth mounds that receive that first ray of solstice sunrise, to massive stone monuments, like Stonehenge, they exist the world over. Years ago when we moved to our current home, we discovered we had our own “Stonehenge” via a gap in the woods that surround our house. A view to the northeast, it precisely frames the point where the Sun rises each year around Midsummer.
So at solstice, we celebrate the LIGHT of the SUN — and its glorious effects: the ripening and greening of Mother Earth that warms our heart and soul. Our wildly growing gardens are spilling over with fragrant blooms, while butterflies, hummingbirds and bees are busy collecting nectar. The return of light and life, so welcome at this time of year is however bittersweet, tempered as it is with the knowledge of the perpetual turning of the wheel. For after summer solstice, little by little, our days become shorter and shorter until the dark of the year, the winter solstice, arrives.
Oberon: I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
— A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 2, Scene 1
If the mood strikes, rise before the dawn one of these mornings around solstice and see if you can glimpse the sunrise from some lovely spot in your neck of the woods, and take note of what’s growing and blooming where you live. These are your own sacred spaces and magical Midsummer flowers.
Roses bloom in many places this time of year — a flower associated with Midsummer and ruled by Venus, the Goddess of Love. Wild, species roses, like the one pictured here, sport five petals, a number sacred to Venus and also reflected in the pentacle, that age old symbol of feminine wisdom and power, that Venus actually inscribes in the sky in her orbital patterns. If you harvest rose petals from bushes that have not been sprayed, you can add them to tea, jellies, honey and sugar, scenting each and also adding a little love magic. You can scatter them in your bath water or dry them to use in love charms. You can drop rose petals to steep slowly in culinary oil to increase the love you deliver with each meal. You can also make your own rose water, which you can add to your bath or use in cooking. I’ve included a recipe at the end of this article.
The Herb of Midsummer: Hypericum or St. John’s Wort
With a name that connects it to both Christianity and its shadow, Witchcraft, for centuries it was thought that burning St. John’s Wort would provide protection from evil spirits. Its genus name Hypericum is from the Greek meaning “above an ikon,” a symbolic reference to the transcendant, the heavenly eternal realm, beyond all form and matter, and also a mundane reference to the literal practice of placing sprigs above statues and religious icons to help drive off malevolent spirits. In Wales, St John’s wort was used as a kind of herbal divination for one’s health. Sprigs were named for each family member and hung from a rafter overnight, possibly on Midsummer Eve, or on St. John’s Day, June 24th. The less shriveled your sprig was in the morning, the better your health.
Another Flower of Midsummer is Lavender
Where I live lavender blooms at summer solstice every year and one of the ways I celebrate midsummer is to harvest long stems of this aromatic flower on the day of solstice, when the sun is still waxing towards zenith in late morning, for flower wands, to use in scented oils, and for drying to use in sachets to tuck in your pillow or among the clean linens.
Lavender wands are pretty easy to make (if you are NOT a perfectionist). I like to use 13 stems in my wands, weaving a magic Venus and Blue Moon number into the wand). It is best to use one of the long-stemmed varieties whose stems are not too thick and inflexible. You’ll also need a 3-foot long piece of quarter-inch satin ribbon. One of the best lavenders to use in making wands is L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote,’ a super fragrant variety with compact blooms on long, sturdy stems. The finished wands will last for years. Lavender is not only a lovely fragrance, it is also calming: a natural stress-reducer.
Here’s a video from Peaceful Valley Farms with all the steps, clearly shown, to make your own lavender wands.
Homemade Rose Water
Use only petals from roses that have not been sprayed, and ideally harvest them early in the day as soon as the dew has dried. Pinch off the white section at the base of each petal as it can be bitter.
- 2 cups of fresh petals
- 1½ cups of distilled water
- ½ cup of vodka in a glass container
Cover and store in a sunny spot (such as on a window sill) so that the mixture can steep for several weeks. Strain and return the liquid to the jar, adding 2 more cups of fresh petals.
Repeat the steeping process. After several weeks strain again and discard the petals and store the liquid in small tightly covered little bottles in a cool dark spot.
Rosewater makes a lovely fragrance and you can add a tablespoon to simple desserts like rice or other kinds of pudding, sugar cookies, or homemade vanilla ice cream for a unique and subtle flavoring.
Solstice Sun Tea and Tisanes
A enjoyable way to literally drink in the energy of the Sun at this special time of year is to make sun tea or tisane (herbal infusion) on the day of solstice. You can use dried black, green or herbal tea bags, loose dried leaves, or best of all, fresh herbs from your own garden. At sunrise on the morning of solstice, when the dew is still on the bloom, I like to collect fresh sprigs from my mint, catnip, chamomile, and lemon balm plants, adding edible flowers as well: violets, lavender, pansies, calendula, borage, and rose petals. You can also add various roots, peels, barks and seeds as well: cinnamon, citrus rinds, ginger, fennel, cardamon, and chicory. There are many choices, too many to list, just be sure they really are edible before experimenting, as some plants are toxic.
Arrange your fresh herbs and flowers in a large glass jar so the light can stream through, add fresh water, put a lid on to keep insects out, and place in direct sunlight for about 4-5 hours. You can also add crystals to charge the water even further. If you are using fresh herbs a ration of about 1:3 herbs-to-water works well; if you are using bags, one per every 1.5 cups of water is sufficient. After steeping, remove the herbs or tea, sweeten to taste, add ice, and serve right away. Sun teas and tisanes have a more mellow flavor, and the slow steeping at a lower temperature seems to bring out interesting and unique flavors. What you don’t drink right away, refrigerate. Sun tea lasts only a day or two, compared to teas made with boiling water.
Drink in the abundant beauty of our little planet at this inspiring time of year. If you light a bonfire, campfire, hearth fire, or even a simple candle, in honor of this “turning of the wheel” of the solar year, you are reviving a practice that stretches back through millennia. Observing and honoring these ancient, natural “holy days” helps the entire world revive and heal a split that has gone on way too long between Mother Earth and her human children. May this solstice bring blessings of peace and happiness to you and your loved ones, and to Mother Earth herself.
Thanks to: http://ascendingstarseed.wordpress.com