Daily Om ~ The Day the Sun Stands Still

beautiful-sunriseSummer solstice represents a time to reflect upon the blessings we have received in seasons past and look toward new growth. On the longest day of the year, the sun, which has on the days preceding seemed to rise higher and higher into the sky, reaches its zenith and rises no more. This day, which in the Northern Hemisphere can occur between the 20th and 23rd of June, marks the start of summer and is known as the summer solstice. From time immemorial, the coming of summer’s light and warmth has been a time of gladness and celebration. In June, the snows had long since melted, the ground had thawed, the first fruits were ripening on their vines, and Mother Nature had once again renewed herself. Though most of us have turned away from our agricultural heritage, the summer solstice remains a time of new beginnings and life-enriching endings. It is the day the sun reaches the peak of its power as well as the day that heralds the shorter days that eventually bring with them autumn’s chills.

For ancient people of the Americas and Europe, the summer solstice was a particularly joyous day—and one auspicious for those seeking year-long luck, fertility, abundance, and prosperity. Men and women on two continents would gather to pay tribute to the sun’s magnificence, to pray for a bountiful harvest, and to bolster the sun’s energy with bonfires and fireworks. Today, the summer solstice represents an optimal time to reflect upon the blessings we have received in seasons past and visualize the new bounties we hope to receive in the season just beginning to flourish. At noon, when the sun is at its highest point, we can pay reverence to its incredible strength and its ability to create life while also musing on the impermanence of life as represented by the impermanence of the season. You can reestablish your innate connection to nature on the summer solstice by spending time outdoors; following the sun’s procession as the day passes; burning sun oils such as orange, benzoin, or juniper; or decorating an altar with solar images, summer greens, or colourful blossoms.

Just as the summer solstice is symbolic of agricultural growth, so is it symbolic of personal growth. It is a wonderful time to nurture your potential as you would nurture a tiny seedling and let your creative energy express itself fully. On the summer solstice, you may feel compelled to emulate the noontime sun and be at one with the world around you or to let your inner brilliance shine forth at full strength, if only for a single day. Your life, like the seasons, follows a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and summers, whether literal or figurative, can always be celebrated.

Source: Daily Om

From little acorns mighty oaks will grow

DSCF1501I have two baby oaks growing in my garden – what a sweet blessing! Have no idea how they got there but I have my suspicions. About three years ago I cast a handful of acorns around my garden as part of a ritual I was doing. Well I did forget I’d done this until now. Or maybe they are the children of the oaks that stand behind the boundary fence at the very back of the garden. Who knows but for the fact they are here. One is much small than the other and I’m not sure if they will both survive but I’m going to try to keep them safe. I’ve already cut away the tall grasses and thistle plants surrounding them so they both get access to sunlight.

So what is the meaning for me? Well the oak tree has been a symbol of strength, power and sacredness in a great many cultures and indigenous tribes across Europe. The Celts especially, and the Teutonic tribes, venerated oaks and considered them chieftain amongst trees. Oaks were associated with a great number of deities – Zeus, Jupiter, The Dagda and Thor amongst others. The Green Man is always most often seen surrounded by a partial mask of oak leaves. Because they live a long time (it takes an oak a very long time to grow so I won’t see these at their full glory during my present incarnation) they embody endurance too. And of course wisdom from the Gods.

The oak also stands for great protection, justice, honesty and bravery. Apparently its associated stone is Aventurine so I will lay one of these at each stone as a blessing for it – a gift! It’s position on the Wheel of the Year is at the Summer Solstice, when once again the Oak King will battle with his brother the Holly King. But this time it’s the Holly King that will win the bout and the waning year begins once more.

The medicinal park of the Oak is its bark, because of the strong astringent properties. Internally as a tea it helps fight diarrhoea and dysentery. Externally it can be used to treat haemorrhoids, inflamed gums, wounds, and eczema. The tannin found in oak can help reduce minor blistering by boiling a piece of the bark in a small amount of water until a strong solution is reached, and applying to the affected area.

It is tradition for the Litha fire to be oak wood representing the God, since this is the time of year when oak reaches its Zenith power.

The Oak trees essence helps boost energy levels and the ability to manifest our goals. The tree’s roots mirror its branches and stretch as far below ground as the branches do above  – this reminds me of the saying ‘As Above So Below’, which usually refers to the astral plane and the physical but I think it can also refer to the physical and the underground realms, the land of the dead.

Oak twigs bound together with red thread into a solar cross or a pentagram will make a greatly protective talisman for the home, car, or in your desk or at work.

LESSON OF THE Oak from The Wisdom of Trees by Jane Gifford

The oak represents courage and endurance and the protective power of faith. The tree’s noble presence and nurturing habit reassured ancient people that, with the good will of their gods, their leader, and their warriors, they could prevail against all odds. As the Tree of the Dagda, the oak offers protection and hospitality without question, although its true rewards are only apparent to the honest and brave. The ancient Celts deplored lies and cowardice. To be judged mean-spirited could result in exclusion from the clan, which was one of the most shameful and most feared of all possible punishments. Like the oak, we would do well to receive without prejudice all those who seek our help, sharing what we have without resentment or reservation. The oak reminds us all that the strength to prevail, come what may, lies in an open mind and a generous spirit. Inflexibility, however, is the oak’s one weakness and the tree is prone to lose limbs in storms. The oak therefore carries the warning that stubborn strength that resists will not endure and may break under strain.

I honour the energy of oak, the doorway to the mysteries. I will call upon the strength of the Horned One when I feel in need of protection. So mote it be

Summer Solstice

Goodbye to thee, lively oak
Strongest tree, king of the wood
Go rest again in your leafy bower
Until the Dog Star rises over ancient seas

Welcome to thee, warrior holly
The waning year awaits thee
Pierce us with thy dark green tips
Spears of the Underworld

Holly and oak joined in battle
Life and death entwined
All things circle around and around
Never ending – the dance goes on.

Written by Deep~Glade

 

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Litha History
Nearly every agricultural society has marked the high point of summer in some way, shape or form. On this date – usually around June 21 or 22 – the sun reaches its zenith in the sky. It is the longest day of the year, and the point at which the sun seems to just hang there without moving – in fact, the word “solstice” is from the Latin word solstitium, which literally translates to “sun stands still.” The travels of the sun were marked and recorded. Stone circles such as Stonehenge were oriented to highlight the rising of the sun on the day of the summer solstice.

Although few primary sources are available detailing the practices of the ancient Celts, some information can be found in the chronicles kept by early Christian monks. Some of these writings, combined with surviving folklore, indicate that Midsummer was celebrated with hilltop bonfires and that it was a time to honor the space between earth and the heavens.

In addition to the polarity between land and sky, Litha is a time to find a balance between fire and water. According to Ceisiwr Serith, in his book The Pagan Family, European traditions celebrated this time of year by setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into a body of water. He suggests that this may be because this is when the sun is at its strongest yet also the day at which it begins to weaken. Another possibility is that the water mitigates the heat of the sun, and subordinating the sun wheel to water may prevent drought.

Saxon Traditions
When they arrived in the British Isles, the Saxon invaders brought with them the tradition of calling the month of June Aerra Litha. They marked Midsummer with huge bonfires that celebrated the power of the sun over darkness. For people in Scandinavian countries and in the farther reaches of the Northern hemisphere, Midsummer was very important. The nearly endless hours of light in June are a happy contrast to the constant darkness found six months later in the middle of winter.

Roman Festivals
The Romans, who had a festival for anything and everything, celebrated this time as sacred to Juno, the wife of Jupiter and goddess of women and childbirth. She is also called Juno Luna and blesses women with the privilege of menstruation. The month of June was named for her, and because Juno was the patroness of marriage, her month remains an ever-popular time for weddings. This time of year was also sacred to Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The matrons of Rome entered her temple on Midsummer and made offerings of salted meal for eight days, in hopes that she would confer her blessings upon their homes.

Midsummer for Modern Pagans
Litha has often been a source of contention among modern Pagan and Wiccan groups, because there’s always been a question about whether or not Midsummer was truly celebrated by the ancients. While there’s scholarly evidence to indicate that it was indeed observed, there were suggestions made by Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, that the solar festivals (the solstices and equinoxes) were actually added later and imported from the Middle East. Regardless of the origins, many modern Wiccans and Pagans do choose to celebrate Litha every year in June.

In some traditions, Litha is a time at which there is a battle between light and dark. The Oak King is seen as the ruler of the year between winter solstice and summer solstice, and the Holly King from summer to winter. At each solstice they battle for power, and while the Oak King may be in charge of things at the beginning of June, by the end of Midsummer he is defeated by the Holly King.

This is a time of year of brightness and warmth. Crops are growing in their fields with the heat of the sun, but may require water to keep them alive. The power of the sun at Midsummer is at its most potent, and the earth is fertile with the bounty of growing life.

For contemporary Wiccans and Pagans, this is a day of inner power and brightness. Find yourself a quiet spot and meditate on the darkness and the light both in the world and in your personal life. Celebrate the turning of the Wheel of the Year with fire and water, night and day, and other symbols of the triumph of light over darkness.

Litha is a great time to celebrate outdoors if you have children. Take them swimming or just turn on the sprinkler to run through, and then have a bonfire or barbeque at the end of the day. Let them stay up late to say goodnight to the sun, and celebrate nightfall with sparklers, storytelling, and music. This is also an ideal Sabbat to do some love magic or celebrate a handfasting, since June is the month of marriages and family.

Litha Legends and Lore
In England, rural villagers built a big bonfire on Midsummer’s Eve. This was called “setting the watch,” and it was known that the fire would keep evil spirits out of the town. Some farmers would light a fire on their land, and people would wander about, holding torches and lanterns, from one bonfire to another. If you jumped over a bonfire — presumably without lighting your pants on fire — you were guaranteed to have good luck for the coming year.

After your Litha fire has burned out and the ashes gone cold, use them to make a protective amulet. You can do this by carrying them in a small pouch, or kneading them into some soft clay and forming a talisman. In some traditions of Wicca, it is believed that the Midsummer ashes will protect you from misfortune. You can also sow the ashes from your bonfire into your garden, and your crops will be bountiful for the rest of the summer growing season.

It is believed in parts of England that if you stay up all night on Midsummer’s Eve, sitting in the middle of a stone circle, you will see the Fae. But be careful – carry a bit of rue in your pocket to keep them from harassing you, or turn your jacket inside out to confuse them. If you have to escape the Fae, follow a ley line, and it will lead you to safety.

Residents of some areas of Ireland say that if you have something you wish to happen, you “give it to the pebble.” Carry a stone in your hand as you circle the Litha bonfire, and whisper your request to the stone — “heal my mother” or “help me be more courageous”, for example. After your third turn around the fire, toss the stone into the flames.

Astrologically, the sun is entering Cancer, which is a water sign. Midsummer is not only a time of fire magic, but of water as well. Now is a good time to work magic involving sacred streams and holy wells. If you visit one, be sure to go just before sunrise on Litha, and approach the water from the east, with the rising sun. Circle the well or spring three times, walking deosil, and then make an offering of silver coins or pins.

Sunwheels were used to celebrate Midsummer in some early Pagan cultures. A wheel — or sometimes a really big ball of straw — was lit on fire and rolled down a hill into a river. The burned remnants were taken to the local temple and put on display. In Wales, it was believed that if the fire went out before the wheel hit the water, a good crop was guaranteed for the season.

In Egypt, the Midsummer season was associated with the flooding of the Nile River delta. In South America, paper boats are filled with flowers, and then set on fire. They are then sailed down the river, carrying prayers to the gods. In some traditions of modern Paganism, you can get rid of problems by writing them on a piece of paper and dropping them into a moving body of water on Litha.

William Shakespeare associated Midsummer with witchcraft in at least three of his plays. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and The Tempest all contain references to magic on the night of the summer solstice.

Litha Fire Incense
Midsummer is a great time for herb gardens, because there are buds and blooms everywhere. This is a powerful time to gather herbs, and also to prepare and use them. Any fresh herb can be dried simply by picking it and tying it up in small bundles in a well-ventilated area. Once they are completely dry store them in airtight jars in a dark place.

To make your own magical summer incense, first determine what form you’d like to make. You can make incense with sticks and in cones, but the easiest kind uses loose ingredients, which are then burned on top of a charcoal disc or tossed into a fire. This recipe is for loose incense, but you can always adapt it for stick or cone recipes.

As you mix and blend your incense, focus on the intent of your work. In this particular recipe, we’re creating an incense to use during a Litha rite — and since Litha is all about the sun and its strength, we’re going to make this a fiery and powerful incense.

You’ll need:

• 3 parts myrrh
• 1 part apple blossoms
• ½ part bay leaves
• ½ part cinnamon bark
• 1 part chamomile flowers
• 1 part lavender flowers
• 2 parts mugwort
• ½ part rosemary
Add your ingredients to your mixing bowl one at a time. Measure carefully, and if the leaves or blossoms need to be crushed, use your mortar and pestle to do so. As you blend the herbs together, state your intent. You may find it helpful to charge your incense with an incantation, such as:

Balance of the heavens and earth below,
The power of the sun in this incense grows.
Cinnamon, mugwort, apple and bay,
Fire and water, on this longest day.
Herbs of power, blended by me,
As I will, so it shall be.

Store your incense in a tightly sealed jar. Make sure you label it with its intent and name, as well as the date you created it. Use within three months, so that it remains charged and fresh.

Source: Patti Wigington

Blessings of Litha

 

This wheel keeps turning
Turning on and on
As each new Season dawns …

It keeps turning
As we pray for the coming of Litha
That’s when we ask you …
Oh Litha carry us into
Sister Moon grace us into
Brother Sun face us towards
Mother Goddess place us
Place us in the blessings of Litha

The blessings of Litha that are
Malina’s warm sun
Flora’s sweet flowers
Psyche’s beautiful butterflies
Gaia’s lush green
Yemaya’s liquid bliss
Iris’ colorful rainbow

As we dance for the coming of Litha
That’s when we ask you …
Oh Litha embrace us
Sister Moon grace us
Brother Sun face us
Mother Goddess place us
Place us in the blessings of Litha
The blessings of Litha that are
Malina’s warm sun on our faces
Flora’s sweet flowers under her graces
Psyche’s beautiful butterflies dancing on the wind
Gaia’s lush green that covers the earth from end to end
Yemaya ‘s liquid bliss that surrounds us with love
Iris’ colorful rainbow that imbues us from above
As we sing for the coming of Litha

That’s when we ask you …
Oh Litha carry us into
Mother Earth’s sweet face look over us
Oshun’s liquid grace bliss us
Gaia’s beautiful hidden spaces protect us
Mother Goddess’ wishes place us
Place us in these blessings of Litha
These blessings of Litha that are
Given to us with love
From our Mother Goddess above

Given to us while this wheel turns
Turns on and on
As each new Sabbat dawns..
— in solidarity

by Savannah Skye

Dog Days…of Summer

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, today marks the start of the dog days of summer – literally! While most people think it’s just a colloquialism, the term “dog days” was actually coined by the Ancient Romans. These early astrologers were keen observers of the stars, and when Sirius (or “The Dog Star”) appeared in the sky each year from July through September they believed it increased the heat of the Sun. The Dog Star is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major – or “bigger dog.”

Check out Hemmingford Dog Blog

Blessings

Deep~Glade