Summer solstice (Alban Hevin)
June 21st is an important day in many cultures. The astronomical summer begins on this longest day and in the northern hemisphere the summer solstice (Latin sostitium) occurs. The sun reaches its peak and is at its most powerful. After this date, the next days become shorter and the sun becomes slowly weaker. The original pagan celebration has its origin in the Celtic-Germanic tradition and is based on this finding.
The feast of the summer solstice is called Mean Samhraidh, Alban Heruin (Hevin), Litha, Comhain, Midsummer.
According to the Celtic calendar the summer solstice belongs to the period of oak (Dair). It celebrates the connection of the healing power of the sun and water. Light triumphs over darkness.
The way of celebrating the summer solstice was very similar to the celebration of Beltaine. People tried to supplement the power and strength of the sun by lighting fires on high hills. They danced and sang around the fires and jumped through them. They blessed cattle with herbs, which were lit in the sacred fires. Burnt wood and ash from the solstice fires were thrown on the fields to ensure a good harvest and to summon the rain. People worshiped and decorated trees with ribbons, particularly oak, wells and springs.
The church didn’t like the celebration of the summer solstice, as well as Beltane. They tried to convince people to cancel these festivities, but it wasn’t successful. And so they accepted this feast but renamed it to Midsummer according to John the Baptist, whose birth is also celebrated in this period (St John’s Eve – the evening of 23rd June).
Mysterious powers come to life during the shortest night of the year and spells have a strong effect. It pays to collect the medicinal herbs that have especially great strength during this mysterious night.