Here, my ode to midsummer:
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet mush-roses and the eglantine.
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.
-From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare
Ah, midsummer. Shakespeare’s lines capture it well, don’t you think? When reading these lines, you can almost smell the sultry perfume of abundant flowers, their blooms brazenly open, releasing their musky scent. I’m picturing a lush, green English garden – a perfect place for faerie folk to linger.
Midsummer has long been a time of celebration for many cultures. When researching my novel Emily’s House, I was intrigued by ancient Celtic rituals. Though the Summer Solstice was not the most important celebration for the ancient Celts, it certainly was honored.
On my trip to Ireland in 2010, I had the opportunity to visit Loughcrew. Loughcrew is a megalithic site dating to 3500 to 3300 B.C. To put that in context, the Great Pyramid at Giza was completed in 2560 B.C. That means that the ancient Celts in Ireland created large, planned structures for burial and ritual over a thousand years before the Egyptians built the pyramids.
Loughcrew has a small hole in the capstone of the structure which is aligned with the sun at both the Spring and Autumnal equinox. As the alignment occurs, the sun illuminates the back wall and the petroglyphs and symbols etched there.
|This hole still aligns the sun at the spring and autumn equinox, as it has for over 5000 years.|
Loughcrew isn’t the only cairn in the area. There is also Carrowkeel with its cairn aligned with the setting sun at the Summer Solstice.
Scholars aren’t sure why our ancestors built these sites. But clearly it was important to them to observe the cycles of the sun. Their livelihood likely depended on it.
I can’t say for sure the purpose of Loughcrew, but I can say that when I was there, I felt its spiritual power. It is my belief that objects and places retain the energy signatures from the people who touched or used them. At Loughcrew, you feel the spiritual energy and solemnity of the site.
|An alter? A view of the outside of the Cairn at Loughcrew.|
As I walked the grounds and laid my hands on the stones, I tried to imagine why the ancients had built the structure and what had taken place there. I could almost smell the smoke of the burning wood of the celebratory fires. The odor of roasting meat filled my nose. I could feel the pulse of the deep ritual drums. As I stood on top of that hill, feeling the Irish wind whipping my hair, I felt the power of the words spoken by ancient Druid priests calling upon the sun god for blessing.
|Sheep share the hill at Loughcrew|
|The cairn at Loughcrew, Ireland|
Fire was, and still is, a significant component of midsummer celebrations. In midsummer, our ancient ancestors were concerned with making sure their crops would have plenty of sun to help them grow to maturity for harvest. Fire was considered “sympathetic magic,” used to amplify or call down the power of the sun.
The ancients relied on the cooperation of nature for their survival. These ancient sites reveal that their rituals were tied to nature’s cycles.
When I wrote Emily’s House, I knew that I wanted to include a scene with an ancient Celtic ritual. What fit with the story was a ban feis, a ritualistic marriage of the King to the Goddess (representing the land). Once I’d been to Ireland and Loughcrew, I rewrote the scene entirely, calling on my impressions of the ancient rites that I received subconsciously while I was there. While at Loughcrew, the whole place imbued with the lingering imprint of the spirits of our ancient ancestors who built it, I felt like I’d been there before.
Perhaps we’ve all been there. Maybe the collective memory of the days when our ancestors danced and feasted around the bonfire is buried in our DNA. Just maybe our need to mark the seasons with ritual and merriment is an ingrained part of our human nature.
Being a desert dweller, the fires of midsummer will burn in my heart rather than my yard. Sláinte!
Midsummer Blog Hop Participants
|1.||Pippa Jay||13.||Liana Brooks||25.||Debra A. Soles|
|2.||Misa Buckley||14.||A. R. Norris||26.||Marlene @ Reading Reality|
|3.||Arlene Webb||15.||L.J. Garland & Debbie Gould||27.||Rae Lori|
|4.||Pauline Baird Jones||16.||Sandra Sookoo||28.||Bella Street|
|5.||Frances Pauli||17.||Cara Michaels||29.||Kyn Hatch|
|6.||Imogene Nix||18.||Sheryl Nantus||30.||T.K. Anthony|
|7.||Natalie Wright||19.||Diane Dooley||31.||Jo Jones|
|8.||Greta van der Rol||20.||Kathleen Scott||32.||A.B. Gayle|
|9.||Jessica E. Subject||21.||Ella Drake||33.||Sue Ann Bowling|
|10.||Kayelle Allen||22.||Cathy Pegau||34.||S. Reesa Herberth and Michelle Moore|
|11.||Joanne Elder||23.||T. C. Archer||35.||DL Jackson|
|12.||Melisse Aires||24.||Kitty Roads||36.||Hywela Lyn|