View Full Version : Lesson Seven Part E

May 27th, 2008, 10:42 PM
Midsummer/Litha Rites and Sedes (Customs)

The showcase of Midsummer was its bonfires. Presumably these were lit in the method known as "Need Fire" using only a fire drill or fire bow (never flint and steel). Need Fires were used in times of need to drive petilance away from cattle, and this was done at Midsummer as well. On the Eve of Midsummer, folks would gather and build bonfires, drive cattle through the smoke and then conduct a "watch," that is they tried to stay up all night. Lovers would leap through the fires, presumably to encourage the crops to grow. Others woud leap through them for good luck or health. Flowers were thrown into the fires and folks danced and made merry about them. Midsummer Eve was also a time of courtshp. Young couples that had met at Walburga woud continue their courtship, or get married.

Also on Midsummer Eve folks would gather flowers to decorate the homes the next morning. Many medicinal herbs were also gathered. Among the favourites were St. John's Wort, Vervain, Mugwort, Feverfew, Rue, and "Fern Seed." Worts harvested on Midsummer were thought very powerful, and not a few had special properties. Roses picked on Midsummer Eve were thought to last until Yule, and Mugwort placed in a grain bin on midsummer was thought to keep mice away. Yarrow hung up at Midsummer was thought to keep all healthy for the year. Other herbs were used in love divination. Supposedly if a young maid scattered fern seed on th ground before her, and then looked back over her shoulder on Midsummer Eve, she would see her future husband. There were many other formsinvolving Orpine and Thistle as well.
The next day, all the wells were cleaned and decorated witht he flowers gathered the night before. In addition to the flowers, Rowan and Birch were favoured for decorating for their beautiful branches. Wreathes made of Nine worts or woods were said to be esp. powerful. Some of the worts used were Wolvesbane*, the English Daisy, Mistletoe, Mugwort, Oak leves, Rowan, Birch, Orpine, Thistle, and Yarrow. There were many others no doubt, now forgotten, or remembered only in local customs. All of the homes and wells were decorated and birch branhes laid around the flax fields. Wells were thought particularly holy at this time and water drawn from them said to heal all sorts of ailments.
*Very poisonous and NOT to be used!

As stated above the bonfires were probably lit using a fire bow or fire drill, and more than likely consisted of nine woods. Processions would form to go to the place of the fire with everyone carrying a torch, ever house would be lit as well. Once at the fire and it was started, folks would dance and sing about it, leap thru it, and throw flowers into it. Many would stay up all night and in England this was called the "watch." To stay awake all night was thought to give one good luck and health.
Burning Wheels

Another Midsummer Night activity was to send burning wheels and barrels down hillsides.
Processions and Warding

Many would wonder from bonfire to bonfire bedecked in garlands and accompanied by morris dancers or a hobby horse procession carrying torches. Other folks would circle their homes and buildings to ward them for the coming year