summer traditions

ANCESTRAL TRADITIONS

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VESTALIA
(ANCIENT ROME)

Vestalia was a Roman religious festival in honor of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, home, and the sacred fire. The festival was held from 7 - 15 June.
During this time, the temple of Vesta was opened to the women of the city, who could come and leave offerings and prayers, in order to be blessed by this powerful Goddess. Normally the temple was closed off, home to those few young maidens who were sworn to protect the sacred fire - called Vestal Virgins. The Vestal Virgins were chaste, wore the garments of both a bride and a matron, and had many duties as well as privileges. The sacred fire of Vesta was seen as a representation of the Goddess herself. Anyone who needed fire for their own home could come to the temple, and could take some of the sacred flame back to relight their hearth.

VESTA -
Vesta was also amongst the twelve Dii Consentes, and her honor and renown was very great in Rome.
Like Juno, she was seen as a protectress, a mother goddess who watched over the citizens of Rome. She is one of those rare Goddesses that is associated with fire, often thought of as a more 'masculine' element.

"Vesta is the same as the earth, both have the perennial fire: the Earth and the sacred Fire are both symbolic of home." ~ Ovid

JUNO -
The month of June is named for the Goddess Juno, sovereign and mother of gods. Juno is part of the Dii Consentes - the twelve most honored Gods and Goddesses of the Roman pantheon. In Roman myth, Juno is the mother of Mars, Vulcan, Bellona and Juventas. She is a protectress, not only for her own children but also for the communities that worshipped her. Her protection even alluded to some warlike aspects of her rule. As a queen, a wife of Jupiter, and as a mother, she is also associated with marriage, motherhood, vital life force, childbirth, fertility and new beginnings.

 


KLIDONAS
(GREECE)

June 24th

This is a tradition wrapped up in both ancient and Christian influences, lately revived in some of the smaller towns. The Greek word klidon means: the predictor sound, a sign or an omen. It was traditionally used to described the random sounds and words used during divination ceremonies.

During Klidonas, the young girls of the village gather at the well or aquifer, as one of them draws water with a jar. She is the water bearer. The water bearer then has to remain silent while she makes her way to the central square with her jar of water. Then each girl places a rizikari- a small token - in the jar, and it is covered and left under the stars. The boys on this day collect the dried up wreaths from May Day, and light these to make a small bonfire, which they jump over three times. The bonfire is a time for music making, fun and general light-heartedness.

The next day, the water bearer collects the jar, which is imbued with the power of the stars, and each girl picks a rizikari from the jar at random. It is held up for all to see, while somebody will make up a small poem on the spot, which is interpreted to foretell the future of the girl whose rizikari it is.

 


ENVOYDEN
(BULGARIA)

June 24th

This solstice festival was possibly inherited from the Thracians, a mysterious group of peoples who lived in the Balkan areas during the Roman Empire.

According to Bulgarian tradition, the solstice sunrise is a sight to see! On this morning, the sun might perform all manner of strange tricks - winking, spinning and changing colours. Anyone who stays up to see the sunrise will be blessed with health by its rays. 

Enyovden is also called the Day of Herbs, because at sunrise on Enyovden the herbs have the most healing power. Bulgarian tradition advises to pick herbs early in the morning in order to maintain good health during the winter. Sorceresses and enchantresses wake before dawn, and go to gather special herbs for their cures and charms. Another “must” on the morning of Enyovden according to Bulgarian tradition is to wash oneself with running water or tumble in the morning dew, as all water after sunrise on Enyovden is believed to have gained curative powers.

As elsewhere, fire is an important part of the festivities. Nestinarstvo - a traditional dance - is performed barefoot on smouldering embers.

A typical Bulgarian tradition on the eve of Enyovden is for unmarried girls to drop bunches of flowers and rings in a jug of “silent water”. It was called “silent water” because of the special powers it possessed and therefore, was guarded through the night by a fortune-teller. At the morning of Enyovden a girl would be dressed as a bride and with her eyes tied would take out posies and rings, predicting the other girls’ futures.

 


SÂNZIENE
(ROMANIA)

June 24th

Sânziană  is the name for a type of gentle fairy, important to the local folklore of Romania.
It is also used to denote the flowers of bedstraw, or Galium Verum.
And finally, it is the name of an annual festival in the western Carpathian Mountains of Romania!

This festival is held in honour of the fairies

On the day of Sânziene, the young maidens of the village dress in white and go out in the early morning to search flowers, one of which one MUST be Galium verum, (Lady's bedstraw or Yellow bedstraw), which in Romanian is also named Sânziànă. Using the flowers they picked during the day, the girls braid floral crowns which they wear upon returning to the village at nightfall. There they meet with their beloved and they dance around a bonfire. The crowns are thrown over the houses in an act of divination. If the crown falls, it is said that some misfortune may enter that house; if the crown stays on the roof of the house, then good harvest and wealth will be bestowed upon the owners.

The bonfire is also central to the celebrations, and jumping over the embers is traditional. Fire is considered to be a purifying element, and by jumping over it a person can cleanse themselves. In some areas of the Carpathians, the villagers would set alight a huge wheel of hay, then push it down a hill.

Another folk belief is that during the Sânziene Eve, the heavens open up, making it the strongest night for magic spells, especially for the love spells. Men are warned not to go walking about at night, as this is a time when the fairies are dancing, blessing the crops and bestowing health on the people. It is said that the fairies do not like to be seen by males. Other strange occurrences will happen this night to anyone who goes walking, especially in old growth woodlands - such as Bāneasa forest and Baciu forest.
 


VARDAVAR
(ARMENIA)

This festival, now Christianised, is celebrated 14 weeks after Easter, around the middle of July. Vardavar comes from the root word: ward - for ‘water,’ while var means ‘wash’. The name is fitting, as the festival centres around water and its purifying properties. In the past, the festival honoured Astghik, the goddess of fertility and love, who presided over water sources and springs. She was later equated with Aphrodite, and was said to be born of the sea. In myth, she liked to bath, and would surround her bath with mist when the local villagers tried to light fires to see her naked beauty in the night. On the day of the festival, around the middle of summer, people would release doves, and would sprinkle water on one another with wishes of good health and luck. This could be seen as an act of sympathetic magic, as they possibly hoped that the pouring of water would evoke the rains to come.

Nowadays the festivities are more concerned with the refreshing and rejuvenating properties of water, in the middle of the scorching hot summer.

 


TIRGAN
(IRAN)

This is a midsummer festival, held around the beginning of July (between the 3rd and the 5th).

The celebration is dedicated to Tishtrya, an archangel who appeared in the sky to generate thunder and lightning for much needed rain. It is celebrated by splashing water, dancing, reciting poetry, and serving traditional foods such as spinach soup. The custom of tying rainbow-colored bands on wrists, which are worn for ten days and then thrown into a stream, is still popular amongst children.

 


ISAIAH
(YAKUTIA - RUSSIA)

Traditionally held on June 22.

Isaiah - from the Yakut word for “abundance”

Because the winter is long and dark in this region of Russia, this festival is one of the most important holidays for the Yakut peoples, when they can gather in the summer sun. Isaiah is a traditional New Year celebration, and it happens around the end of June - during a period of short summer. Like other pastoral Turkic peoples, the Yakut divide the year into two halves - two New Years. Isaiah is like a line between the old and the new, between the past and the future.

The festival is dedicated to the deities of Ayia, and associated with the cult of the solar deity and with fertility. This is a time of awakening nature, a time to also recall the ancestral traditions. In this manner, games are organised, as well as sporting competitions. People feast and drink kumis (fermented mare’s milk). The fire is sprinkled out with Kumis, in an act of ‘feeding the fire’ that represents the birth of all things.

One of the most beautiful parts of the celebration is the dance... everyone joins in a great circle, moving slowly, the circle follows the movements of the sun. They dance like this until the sun rises on the next morning. It is believed that the participants of the dance become charged with energy that will last throughout the year.

 


KUPALA
(UKRAINE + POLAND + BELARUS + RUSSIA)

held on the eve of June 24th

While this solstice celebration is widespread, and each area has its own small customs, there are many unifying elements that appear in all the festivities of Kupala.

The Kupala figure: 
A straw or willow figure is made and decorated with ribbons and necklaces. This figure represents Kupala. Sometimes, a young person stands in as the Kupala figure, or a tree is decorated with fruits to represent the generosity of the season. Then songs are sung in a circle around the figure. In the rituals that follow, the Kupala figure is taken along for the ride - it is bathed in the same manner as the people, and even jumps the fire alongside the lovers.

The wreaths:
In the early morning on the 23rd of June, young girls go to gather herbs in the sunrise, to weave them into wreaths before the evening. They gathered flowers from the forest, and in the meadows and gardens:  daisies, thyme, cornflower, poppies, spinach, blackberry, peppermint, clover, buttercups, roses, and irises. In some places, the finished wreaths would be included in a dance. The women would hold them up to the sun for blessings, while singing in a circle.

Then down to the river they all went.
In the river waters, the wreaths are floated, sent out like boats filled with wishes and hopes. Depending on the way it floats, each wreath will reveal its maker's fate - thus, they are used as tools for divination. Each movement is watched: it floats quickly, or slowly, or if it is eventually caught by a young boy! The boys and girls of the village may pre-arrange their union on this day, and the girl will send some sign out in the wreath - a token that it is hers. The boys can swim or boat out to try and catch their lover's wreath. These couples will later jump the bonfire together.

The water:
On the eve of Kupala, is customary to swim before midnight, either in bathhouses or lakes. There is a huge emphasis on bathing on this day - it is almost compulsory. In areas where the waters may be dangerous (where there are tales of mermaids), or the cold was too much to bear, the bathhouse was heated and herbs gathered that day were steamed or stewed in the waters. The Kupala figure was sometimes washed along with the people.

The fire:
Again, fires were lit on hilltops before sunset. This was done in the traditional method using hand drills - called ‘living fire’ it was carried home to relight the hearths. Old and unnecessary things were burned. Oftentimes, a pole with a burning wheel would be placed in the middle of the fire, to represent the sun.
Later, when the fire burned down a little, oftentimes after the search for the fern flower had been undertaken, couples would attempt to jump over the fire while still holding hands. If they were successful, it was a good sign for their coming marriage. Others would jump the fire to gain good health, to purify their spirits, and in the hopes that if they jumped high, so would the season's harvest. In some regions, a fiery wheel representing the sun would be rolled down the hill.

The Kupala fire symbolised the sun seed in the mother’s womb. It was very important that the fire would burn the whole night, until the sunrise - so that the light may transfer into the new year.

The Fern Flower:
Fern flowers are a mythical flower that grows only in a single moment on the eve of the solstice. This flower is supposed to be difficult to find, and it is said that not everyone can see it. It is important to note, here, that ferns are not a flowering plant, as they reproduce using small spores in a similar way to mushrooms. But the difficulties in finding the fern flower do not end there: many spirits are set around to protect the mythical fern flower, and some wish to find it and take it for themselves. In times past, a seeker would have to cut open their fingertip and hide the flower there, but the tradition is now a little less gruesome, and a finder can simply hide the flower under their shirt by the heart, or under a hat on their head. Then it would be safe. Why would anyone go to all this trouble? Well, the person who finds a fern flower will be able to hear the animals speak, the trees whisper, and will see treasures buried in the Earth.

Young people would set out alone in the dark to try and find the flower, in a kind of personal quest. Oftentimes, they would return to the bonfire in pairs.

The sunrise:
It is customary, in almost all traditions, to stay up to watch the solstice sun rise above the land.
In some places, this is an act of superstition, as local folks believe that the veil is thin and all manner of things may be roaming about - spirits and ghosts and the fae. Staying up till sunrise then is an act of protection, to ward off any unwanted energies. In this case, protective herbs such as burdock may be added to the fire, or used as a smudge around the house.

In other cases, staying up to see the sunrise is an act of gratitude and wonder. The sun is said to be different on this day - and watchers look for jumps, flashes, stops, spins and the chaning of colours in the solstice sun.

After sunrise, many ancient traditions would have people roll in the morning dew, as an act of cleansing and gathering the potent energy of the waters that were touched by the morning rays. Then they might climb the nearest hill, to give thanks to the Sun and Dajbog - the Sun God, who changes from a young man to an old one as he travels across the sky each day.

*A note on the Goddess Kupala:
Some scholars believe that Kupala is an ancient Slavic goddess/ god, worshipped at this time. The straw figures named after her would seem to attest to this. But the historical record is not clear on this. It might be more accurate to say that Kupala is a personification of the festival itself, and her attributes stem from the solstice customs. She is said to be a figurehead of love, joy and the harvest, associated with both fire and water - as elements of purification and divination. Her name is closely related to the word for 'bathing,' as the name Kupala or Kupalo is etymologically related to the verb kupati, "to wet". Some scholars have even suggested that she is the Slavic equivalent of the Roman Cupid (Kupidyn). Later, Kupala was Christianised and became associated with St John the Baptist. In some areas, the festivities are also associated with myth of Marena - a mermaid like water goddess.

 


JĀNI
(LATVIA)

23rd - 24th June

Līgo Day - the 23rd of June.
Jāni is still a major holiday in Latvia, and many people will go to the countryside to gather, eat, drink, sing and celebrate the solstice.
On Līgo Day, herbs were traditionally used to make a healthful tea, for both people and livestock. People will also collect plants for their wreaths on this day. Rye and clover, oak and birch, mountain ash and lime are all used. Then that evening, the bonfire is made and songs are sung. Fires were lit and burned from sunset till the next morning, reflecting the belief that the light from the fire would continue into the next solar year, making it a sunny one. These fires are lit on hilltops and in high places, so that the light will bless all below it, especially all fields and crops. The songs sung around the bonfire are called Līgo songs, and are only allowed to be sung on this night.

Then, tradition holds that it is best to stay up the whole night, dancing, eating and having fun. The feast will always include a traditional caraway cheese and lots of beer! It is thought that the more you eat, the better the harvest will be that year! People will go swimming in nearby lakes or rivers, while young couples go looking in the woods for the fern flowers. In Latvia, so far north, it hardly gets dark on the summer solstice. But as the dawn comes, it is customary to wash your face with morning dew from the grass.

"On Jāņi Night, jump eight times around eight while on a broom handle, which is hoisted from a ground. During this time do not talk and do not laugh. Once you have done so, then hop on the broom shaft astride to the nearest fern patch, but only on your own, then you will see the blossoming of a fern flower"
~ Latvian folk beliefs, Peter Schmidt

 

Jāni Day - the 24th of June.

( Jani is the most popular name in Latvia, equivalent to "John")

Sometimes called the day of medicine, this day is spent cleansing oneself and one's home. Dawn is seen as very special, one must stay up to witness it. Then there is a bit of cleaning - washing and purifying the house. The house is often decorated, too! People collect plants - bedstraw, vetchling (much like sweet pea) and clover are all popular - these plants are used to decorate the rooms, as well as courtyards. Birch and oak branches are also collected, as well as rowan and linden. These were tied to doors and gates. Thistles, nettles and thorns were hung to ward off evil spirits. Smudges were made of rowan, which when burned could ward off childhood sicknesses, anxiety, or bad vibes (the evil eye).

Overall the whole house is in bloom and awash with medicine and herbs.

Then comes some kind of special carols, with children going house-to-house to sing to the hosts, who act as St John’s mother and father, and who present the children with cheese in exchange for small wreaths. A bad host could be punished by putting nettles in their bed.

Traditionally this day would honour Saule - the Sun goddess who drives across the sky in a carriage pulled by a falcon. In the evening she sinks into the sea and takes a boat to the place of sunrise. She was honoured in song, and her memory is kept alive in the old Līgo songs still sung today.
 

*Note - the celebrations are very similar in Lithuania, where the day is named Rasos, after the morning dew.

 


UKON JULHA
(FINLAND)

This holiday is celebrated in a very similar way to the Latvian and Lithuanian celebrations. Following older customs, people will light bonfires at crossroads or on the shores of the water - sending the purifying energies of fire into the water. The largest fire is called the Ukko-kokko, in honor of the God Ukko. Originally the whole festival was held in honour of Ukko - god of the weather, the harvest and thunder. 

The current celebrations echo those of the past. It was said that the more you ate, the better the harvest would be, and that all the noise and revelry would drive away bad spirits. This proclivity towards excessive food and noise has carried over into the parties that are now customary!

 


SANKTHANSAFTEN
(DENMARK + NORWAY)

The eve before St John’s Day is a time of celebration in Denmark. Traditional celebrations, dating back to the Vikings, included large bonfires, and visits to healing spring waters. On this day, wise men and women would go to gather the special herbs they needed for the rest of the year. The celebrations were very similar to those in Poland, and Latvia.

 


LA NOCHE DE SAN JUAN
(SPAIN)

The parties held around midsummer in Spain follow a similar pattern to those in the Slavic and Balkan countries - centred around fire, water and herbs. Bonfires are lit at midday, and are jumped over in the late evening. It is also customary to swim in the ocean after midnight, as the water has purifying powers at this time. Fountains also have healing powers around midnight. 

Medicinal plants: Traditionally, women collect several species of plants on St. John's eve. These vary from area to area, but mostly include fennel, fern, rue, rosemary, dog rose, lemon verbena, St John's Wort, mallow, elder and foxgloves. In some areas, these are arranged in a bunch and hung in doorways. In most others, they are dipped in a vessel with water and left outside, exposed to the dew of night until the following morning, St John's Day, when people use the resulting flower water to wash their faces.

Water: Tradition holds it that the medicinal plants mentioned above are most effective when dipped in water collected from seven different springs. Also, on some beaches, it was traditional for women who wanted to be fertile to bathe in the sea until they were washed by 9 waves.

Fire: Bonfires are lit, usually around midnight. Young and old gather around the fire and feast mostly on pilchards, potatoes boiled in their skins and maize bread. When it is relatively safe to jump over the bonfire, it is done three times for good luck.

 


LEYLET EN NUKTAH
(EGYPT)

In Egypt, the Summer Solstice is associated with the rising of the Nile.  In ancient times, the day was marked by the coming of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. The coming of this star would bring the floods of the Nile, and replenishment for the land. They celebrated Leylet en Nuktah, “the first teardrop” in mid-June. In the great love story of Egypt, it is Isis’ tears of sadness that filled the Nile and flooded the land.  This time is celebrated and anticipated because the flooding brought water and fertilizer to the fields preparing them to be sown. If it were not for the death of Osiris, Isis would not weep, bringing the much-needed water. 

 


MIDSUMMER + ST JOHN'S EVE
(ENGLAND + IRELAND + SCOTLAND)

In rural England, during the Middle Ages, villagers built bonfires on the eve of Midsummer to set watch and keep evil at bay.  The fires were lit all throughout the land and people would wander from one bonfire to the next. The streets were lined with lanterns, and people carried cressets, (pivoted lanterns atop poles), as they went between parties. Just as with many other cultures, it was also seen to be lucky and bring fertility to jump over the bonfires.

Fairies also played a big part in Midsummer celebrations. It was believed that if you sat in the center of a stone circle for the entire night, the fairies would reveal themselves.  Another charm to see fairy folk is to gather the seeds of ferns at the stroke of midnight. By rubbing this on your eyelids, you will be given the powers of clairvoyance. Other customs were protective in nature, for instance: to guard yourself against the mischiefs of the pixies, who often led people astray on this night, you could carry a bit of rue in your pocket, or simply turn your jacket inside out.

On this night in County Limerick, Ireland, people processed up the hill of the faery queen Áine, whose name means 'Brightness,' and who was probably once a goddess of the sun. They set light to bunches of straw and hay called cliars that they waved among the fields and grazing cattle to ensure good crops and healthy beasts. When the great fire was lit at the top of the hill, Áine and her faery tribe came out to join in the revelry. 

The power and magic of Midsummer meant that herbs and spells enacted on this night would have even more potency. Fern seed gathered on midsummer's eve could make one invisible; elderberries warded off enchantment; stonecrop, vervain, and yarrow were hung in special places around the house for protection against the evil eye and death. Above all, this was the time for the plucking of St. John's wort, the golden, star-shaped flower that was first of all herbs to be gathered on St. John's Eve. Called the 'blessed plant' in Wales, it was renowned throughout the Celtic lands for bringing peace and prosperity to the house, health to the animals and a bountiful harvest. It was cast into the midsummer bonfires in Scotland, and placed over the doors of houses and farm buildings for its protective powers. Birch, fennel, orpin, white lilies, rue, roses, vervain and trefoil were also thought to be particularly magical at this time. All of these plants were filled with the energy of the sun at its peak.

Flowers and fire were not the only symbols associated with Midsummer. The Midsummer full moon was sometimes known as the 'Honey Moon' for the mead made from honey was now available. Mead was regarded as the divine solar drink, with magical and life-restoring properties.


ST JOHN'S DAY

The celebration of the birth of St John the Baptist falls on the ancient festival of the summer solstice. In the bible, St John is said to have been born six months before Christ, (Luke 1:76) and as Christ's birthday is currently celebrated on December 25th, around the time of the winter solstice, then St John's birthday must fall around the time of the summer solstice. (However, it is important to note that the actual birthdates of these two figures were not in December and June, as is commonly thought, but were probably around September and March.)
Yet, the timing of St John's day is somewhat fitting, as St John himself proclaimed that "he [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease." So, St John's day falls on the beginning of the 'lessening days' when the Sun will begin to gradually get lower in the sky, while Christmas falls on the beginning of the 'growing days' when the Sun (son) is born again. It is no coincidence that the church chose these dates for their festivities.

The festivities of this day also took on some of the popular pagan elements, with bonfires, flaming wheels, the burning of herbs and the decoration of the house with herbs and branches. This was also a popular time for baptisms, in honor of St John who baptised Christ in the river Jordan. The parallels to ancient traditions concerning water - bathing, washing, splashing and dew rituals - were easily transferred to an association with baptism.

 


GOLUAN
(CORNWALL + WALES)

This was a time fires were lit all over the country - in the form of bonfires, torches, lanterns and flaming barrels. Boys and girls, bedecked in garlands of flowers, went dancing and spinning around the great fires. Young men whirled flaming brands around their heads to form sun-wheels, balanced blazing barrels on top of poles or performed feats of daring such as jumping through the tall flames - perhaps to encourage the corn to leap up too. When the flames died down to glowing coals, dancers held hands and skipped through them, being careful not to break the chain, which would bring bad luck. The ashes from the fires were believed to have magical powers, and farmers carefully collected them to scatter around their fields or the animals' barns. Nowadays the fires are much more contained. The traditions of Goluan have been revived in some small towns, where greenery is used to decorate the town, and a mock mayor is elected.

The throwing of the flaming wheel:

“People conveyed trusses of straw to the top of the hill, where men and youths waited for the contributions. Women and girls were stationed at the bottom of the hill. Then a large car wheel was thickly swathed with straw and not an inch of wood was left in sight. A pole was inserted through the centre of the wheel, so that long ends extended about a yard on each side. If any straw remained, it was made up into torches at the top of tall sticks. At a given signal the wheel was lighted and set rolling downhill. If this fire-wheel went out before it reached the bottom of the hill, a very poor harvest was promised. If it kept lighted all the way down, and continued blazing for a long time, the harvest would be exceptionally abundant. Loud cheers and shouts celebrated the progress of the wheel.”
~ 1909, an account from the Vale of Glamorgan

 


PIXIE DAY
(OTTERY ST. MARY - ENGLAND)

This is an annual tradition, held on the Saturday nearest to midsummer day in June. It is a relatively recent festival - Dating from 1954, the event commemorates a legend in which the pixies are banished from the town, where they caused havoc, to a local cave known as 'Pixies' Parlour'.

At 6 pm the celebration begins, in Ottery's town square. Hundreds of 'pixies' (small children dressed in fairy clothing) capture the church bell ringers and drag them from the church to the square, where a reenactment of the pixies' banishment takes place. The bell ringers are saved and restored by the local Vicar, and the pixies are sent away, to live in a new area. The celebrations end with fireworks.

 


JÓNSMESSA
(ICELAND)

Jónsmessa is named after John the Baptist, and is widely celebrated throughout the Christian world, but apart from the name there doesn‘t seem to be any other religious connotations to the day in Iceland. Instead this was the time when the lambing season was over, and most of the spring chores around the farms had been completed. That meant that the chiefs were free to go to the Althing, a kind of governmental meeting which took place for two weeks in the summer, around the solstice. Thus, it was a time for rest, reflection, and reconvening.

Jónsmessa is one of the four most powerful nights for supernatural activity in Iceland. Since witches and ghouls are better suited to the darkness, it's the fairer creatures that you can expect to see out and about on Jónsmessa: the Huldufólk - the elves.

 If you're lucky enough to be travelling in Iceland on Jónsmessa, be extra careful around crossroads, as this is the time when the Huldufólk are on the move. It is said that if you sit on the crossroads, elves will come to you from all four directions and offer you riches beyond your wildest dreams. But no matter what they offer, you should not go with them, as they may whisk you away to their realms, or drive you mad. However, if you manage to resist them until dawn, then they will vanish treasures will be left behind.

Jónsmessa is also the night when cows gain speech and seals throw off their skin. Wishing stones and magical herbs are especially potent on this night. It is said that if you roll in the dew naked on Jónsmessa night, it will cure whatever ails you.

 


SUNDANCE
(NORTH AMERICA)

Certain Native American groups celebrate the Summer Solstice with the Sundance. For instance, the celebrations of the Lakota people last for the whole of the lunar month just before the Summer Solstice. It is a time of dancing, feasting, spiritual journeys, and meditation. Many different Sundance traditions are held within the Omaha, Arapaho, Kiowa, Crow, Gros Ventre, Hidatsa, Sioux, Plains Cree, Plains Ojibwa, Ponca, Ute, Shoshone, Cheyenne, and Blackfoot peoples.

 


WUKO'UYIS
(THE HOPI PEOPLE)

The Hopi mark the solstice with Wuko’uyis.  During this time, the Katsinam, Hopi spirit messengers, appear in the village almost daily. This is a time for planting, especially for the planting of the corn. The beginning of Wuko’uyis is marked by the appearance of Katsinam at sunrise. These dancers bring with them the joy and excitement of the planting season, as they represent the success of the harvest to come. Throughout the month of June, a wide array of Katsinam will travel through the Hopi villages with gifts of food. These Katsinam will dance in the different village plazas during their visits, as the Hopi people plant crops and teach farming techniques to their children.

June is typically the time when rain begins to fall, strengthening the crops and helping them grow.

At the end of the planting season, it is time to take a break and celebrate!


A QUICK NOTE ABOUT SOME MODERN TRADITIONS:

ALBAN HEFIN
(MODERN DRUIDS)

 Alban Hefiun - 'the light of the shore, where the shore meets the sea.'

Modern druidic practices are often taken from the ancient Celtic traditions written about in historical texts. However, there is some controversy about the celebration of the summer solstice, as the historical data on this time is somewhat lacking. The lack of information is not in itself an indicator of a lack of tradition, it simply means we do not know much about the actual customs of Celtic peoples at this time.

 In spite of the lack of hard evidence, scholars have a few tentative ideas of what may have happened around the solstice:

  • Gatherings at sacred sites which were built in alignment with the solstice sunrise. 
  • The picking of mistletoe.
  • The use and honouring of oaks, the Celtic name for which is ‘duir’ meaning doorway - an allusion to the thinning of the veils between the worlds.
  • The Celts used natural time, determining their seasons and calendar around the solstices and equinoxes.
  • This day may have been dedicated to the Mother Goddess, known as: Etain in Ireland, Rhiannon in Wales, and Epona in Ancient Gaul.
  • Wheels of fire were probably thrown down hillsides, representing the descent of the sun into winter.

 

LITHA
(NEOPAGANS, WORLDWIDE) 

Many neopagans call their summer solstice festival "Litha" - a name taken from Bede's writings in De Temporum Ratione. Bede noted down the Anglo Saxon names for the months roughly corresponding to June and July as "Liþa."

This word could be derived from a similar root as the word for 'light,' but it is more likely taken from the Indo-European languages, as a simple word for the season of summer. We can see its direct relationship to the words for summer in:

Serbo-Croatian - ljeto = summertime 

Czech - léto - summer

Polish - lato - summer