The longest day is approaching, Midsummer, and like the missing girls from Picnic at Hanging Rock, I feel entranced by the seductive and mysterious formations of nature, day-dreaming of nothing more than wanting to escape, escape, escape. Along with the solstice, we enter the mothering, all-encompassing water sign of Cancer ending the week with a New Moon on Friday. Mercury and Mars will also be in Cancer, brave sailors navigating the soothing and turbulent waves of blue. With all this palpable lunar energy swirling around, I’ve been finding myself listening to Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys on a daily basis. It’s no surprise that Brian Wilson, who penned the emotional classic exploring the contemplative nature of summertime, is a Cancer born right around the Summer Solstice. For the rest of the month, be prepared to surrender to the lessons found in waves and let yourself be engulfed, nourished and healed by the element of water.
Midsummer is not a high holiday in traditional Wicca, yet it is universally regarded as one of the most potent times for all kinds of magic; love spells, manifestation, fertility and abundance. Everything is fecund and alive, with flora and fauna at its peak expression of beauty and bounty as Midsummer yields the second harvest. Children, and many adults alike, take a break from the mundane world of work and responsibilities to play, explore and live. Summer is a time of adventure and reflection, whether through traveling to new places, meeting new lovers or deepening the bonds among current partners. Midsummer is a time to cast spells of manifestation as well as to thank the earth for what she has already provided. The heat forces us to feel everything whether it is a pleasing sensation or not, which cannot be avoided even with modern luxuries like air conditioning. I love feeling the heat on my skin, like Maggie the Cat, I am alive in summer and enjoy the opportunity to release toxins and pheromones, my body restoring all its levels.
At Midsummer, the Oak King, who is the king of the Waxing Year, battles and loses to the Holly King, God of the Waning Year, who changes the season and reigns supreme until Midwinter when he will die and be reborn as the Oak King. The cycles continue, and seasons are to be treasured for they last only for a few fleeting moments. If you live in a northern clime, this arrival of sunshine is much needed after months of perpetual darkness. The mythology of the Oak and Holly King has been synchronized over the years with the story of John the Baptist as the Oak King, whose death and legacy is remembered on June 24th, St. John’s Day, which along with earlier Midsummer pagan practices has become a universal time of bonfires and celebration across Europe, Scandinavia as well as in New Orleans where Voodoo practitioners also celebrate this as a peak time for magic. (The Holly King is of course Jesus who succeeds John and has his celebration in wintertime.)
Midsummer is both a fire and water festival, fire representing the God in all his powerful light and deep waters representative of the Goddess, as she is fully ripe, having given birth and now dances among the flowers with her lover. A longstanding tradition is to have two bonfires or twin flames at Midsummer and either dance through them or jump over them. As a modern witch, I’m not a purist and what I cherish about pagan practices is what we all collectively honor and celebrate. This is the beauty of spirituality at its highest good. Midsummer combines various folklore, mythology and history throughout the years. This has resulted in some fun universal practices, such as the aforementioned bonfires, rolling in a field of dew naked to attract a loved one and collecting eight different flowers and putting them under a pillow to see your future lover in dreams. St. John’s Wort, an herb used for protection, is best collected around Midsummer and should be tossed into the bonfire along with other herbs such as mugwort, lavender, yarrow, verbena, roses, male fern, cinquefoil, chamomile, mistletoe and of course any other flowers or herbs that resonate with you.
Janet Farrar, co-author of The Witches Bible, wrote, “Everything flows, nothing is static. Life is a process, not a state; and the witches’ Sabbats are essentially a means of putting oneself in tune with that process.” Over the next few days, take the time to slow down and feel the air, earth, fire and water all within and around you. What elements feel out of balance and need the most attention? Spend time by a body of water or take a cool summer bath with any of the herbs and flowers mentioned. Light an orange, yellow or red candle to celebrate the power of the Sun and give thanks to its radiant light, and as you jump over the candle remember that this is a brief moment in your life and like the sun it too will wane and fade. Hold this sense memory in your heart as well as all the tales you will collect during this Midsummer season.