The ancient Celtic calendar followed nature’s cycles and honored the four solar festivals of the year through celebration and ritual. The Celts believed that time was cyclical not linear which is why the spiral was an important symbol to them. The Summer Solstice, also called Midsummer(Litha), is one of the most significant holidays for them. It is a fire festival that falls on the longest day of the year celebrating the Sun God. They called it midsummer because unlike here in the U.S., their Summer season starts on May 1st, Bealtaine.
During this time, crops are in full growth and reach the height of maturity as the wheel of the year starts to wane again. This was the traditional time for gathering medicinal plants to dry and store for winter use. They lit bonfires to connect to the element of fire in order to shed light, transform, purify the energies that have been built up over the year. The Celts believed that the veil between the physical and the mystical world was very thin during this pivotal moment so they would perform rituals in order to access wisdom from the ancient spirits.
So how do we apply these practices to modern life which seems so disconnected to the natural cycles that are occurring all around us? One ritual that I practice to honor nature’s cycles includes growing an herb garden. Gardening is a wonderful way to notice the subtle growth that happens over time. There is an immediate appreciation for nature’s gifts including healthy soil, sunshine, rain, and beauty. I have also made a tea blend using some of the dried herbs from the garden(recipe below).
Another way that I honor the solstice is to take quiet time for myself and tune out the distractions that keep me away from my own inner wisdom. These include television and, yes, social media, the killer of original thought. I do realize the irony that I am using social media to spread this message, but until I find an alternative form, it will have to do. Social media can be used for good, but it can also drain us of our energy. Lately, I have found it to be the latter, and for that reason, have lessened my time online. I am making an intentional effort to get more local in my community, have in-person conversations instead of virtual relationships, and step away from the digital screen.
So today, I am intentionally slowing life down to take a moment to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. Summer is that wonderful time of the year when you don’t need an excuse for doing “nothing”. Give yourself the gift of slowing down to sip on the plentiful offerings of Summer: the early morning birdsong, the aroma of roses on the bush, the sweet taste of a ripe strawberry, the lingering golden sky in the evening. These are the moments to be treasured because as we know, they won’t last forever. Happy Summer!
Summer Solstice Blend Iced Tea
4 tbs. dried hibiscus petals
2 tbs. dried red clover leaves
2 tsp. dried blackberry leaves
2 tsp. wild cherry bark
1 1/2 tsp. nettle
1 tsp. dried lavender flowers
Mix all herbs into a quart size mason jar. Add boiling water. Seal lid. Let steep for 12-18 hours. Strain. Cool. Enjoy!