Midsummer night, what shall I dream?
This is the summer solstice, the traditional beginning of summer and the day of the year with more hours of sunshine than any other. Officially this is the day that the sun reaches its northern most point in relation to the earth -- officially 23.44 degrees north in the tropic of Cancer. From here on out, the days start to get a little shorter. It's definitely a day of transition.
Science aside, the solstices have always been recognized as days to be noticed. Stonehenge, Calendar One in Vermont and the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming all are aligned with the rising of the sun on the summer solstice. In some Pagan traditions, this is the day when the Holly King battles the Oak King and takes reign for the rest of the year. Some Goddess worshippers honor their deity now as a pregnant mother, bearing the life that will come to fruition later on and her consort at the height of his masculine strength and beauty. Some ancient Celtic Midsummer festivals involved maidens bathing in rivers so rain would come later on. Hopi males would dress as kachinas, dancing spirits of rain and fertility who served as messengers between men and the gods. Romans held festivals in honor of Juno, the goddess over marriage and Vesta, the goddess of hearth and therefore home. Other traditions focused on fire, including serving foods the color of fire and jumping over bonfires.
The lore around midsummer is vast. Herbs picked today are supposed to be at their most potent. Walking or bathing in the dew of midsummer night is supposed to insure lasting beauty and fertility. Shakespeare knew that elves and fairies were supposed to be wandering freely tonight. This is both historically and superstitiously a time for lovers. Love and fertility spells are supposed to be at their most powerful tonight.
June is still the month for weddings. Some say it began because crops had been planted but didn't yet need harvesting, so there was more time for weddings. Looking at Pagan traditions again, the Goddess and her Consort were supposed to have been married on Beltane or May Day, and humans could then follow with their own weddings. The full moon in June is called the Honey Moon because this is peak honey harvesting time.
Back into modern life and away from myths, traditions and superstitions, ironically, this is the slow season for bridal boutiques, like the one where I work. The dresses for all these June weddings were purchased months ago. I'm celebrating the solstice by staying in the air conditioning. When I was driving home from work in my car with the broken air conditioning compressor, the heat index (the temperature you actually feel for those in areas not affected by high humidity) was 106 degrees.
I watched a glorious sunset about an hour ago, and now lightning bugs (fireflies for non-southerners) are dancing outside my windows. However, I do have three candle holders with the face of the sun in my dining room. In each of them is burning a little green candle that's supposed to smell of cucumber and mint, two of my favorite summer smells. I'm also drinking a Bloody Mary with extra Tabasco, definitely fiery. When the last sip is gone, I think I'll take a little walk in the fallow field behind my house. I'll be on the lookout for any fairy rings.