The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

Summer Solstice – Celebrating the Longest Day of the Year June 22, 2013

The Summer Solstice, known in the druid tradition as Alban Heriun/Hefin, is one of my favorite holidays (ok, I say that about every holiday).  But really, its a wonderful time of year because everything is growing and in full bloom!  I wanted to post about some of the activities that I typically do on the summer solstice, yesterday being no exception!

First, I think its critically important to make time on each of the eight holidays.  I take the full day off (and I am lucky that my union contract stipulates that we get holidays off, regardless of religious path).  So I am able to devote a full day to celebration eight days a year.  I have heard of others who are willing to switch days with people who celebrate holidays of other faiths (such as swapping the Spring Equinox off in exchange for working Easter).  Even if you can’t get a full day off, try to take a good portion of it off, and try to be alone for at least part of that time for relaxation.

 

Gathering Herbs, Drying Herbs, Making Herbal Blends

The Summer Solstice is a fantastic time for gathering and drying herbs of all kinds, as nearly everything you want is in full bloom then (assuming that you are in parts of the world where the equinox is the longest day of the year).  I have been gathering and drying herbs on the equinox for seven years now, and its been one of the most rewarding experiences.  I use these herbs in tea blends, incense, tinctures, offering blends, and more.  I carefully label these as being from the equinox, and then I can draw upon their particular energetic qualities (I took it a step further and also paid attention to the planetary hour and biodynamic calendar when gathering the herbs this year).

This year, a friend and I gathered wild mint (a variety of chocolate), spicebush leaves, daisies, mugwort, motherwort, raspberry leaf, yarrow, calamus, strawberries, and much more!  I like to use the energy of the sun to dry these plants out; to do this I place them on clean cotton sheets and let the sun do its work on them.

Drying herbs

Drying herbs on patio

Herbs being dried!

Herbs being dried! Raspberry Leaf and Daisy

 

Preserving the Taste of Summer

Another activity I enjoy doing (and have been doing since I learned to can about 2 years ago) is canning something–a lot of something–and having it available in the dark half of the year.  This year, I canned a double batch of Rhubarb-Orange Marmelade (a recipe out of the Ball Book of Home Preserving, which you is an awesome book on canning).  I gathered the rhubarb from my awesome rhubarb plant and purchased some organic sugar and oranges (10 cups rhubarb, 4 oranges, 12 cups sugar + pectin is the basic recipe .  Its amazing to preserve the taste of summer in this way–and it makes fantastic gifts for the Winter Solstice :).

Jam!

Jam!

Enjoying the Day

I spend time in mediation, contemplation, and in personal ritual during any of the holidays.  It gives me the opportunity to ground, refocus, collect my thoughts, and think about where I am going and where I have been.  I like to spend hours laying in the stone circle for this purpose, but sometimes decide to venture out and hit a state or county park, losing myself deep within the trees.

Spending time outdoors!

Spending time outdoors!

 

Dear readers, what do you do to celebrate the Summer Solstice?

 

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8 Responses to “Summer Solstice – Celebrating the Longest Day of the Year”

  1. Alex Jones Says:

    I blogged about my experience today. I think this is a good day to reflect and make goals for the next quarter and half year. I believe Summer is about renewal as per the archetype Belinus (similar to Apollo.)

  2. Taking the day off is a wonderful idea! I admire the way you chose to spend it.

    I worked at my paying job in the afternoon. In the morning, I was able to conduct a Summer Solstice celebration, with Communion, following the Gnostic Celtic Church liturgical format. In the evening, I ran a consecration ceremony of special significance to me.

    It was an excellent day, a really strong day, but due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to be outside as much as I would normally like. I still hope to gather some culinary herbs for drying this weekend. We encourage yarrow to grow in our yard for the benefit of native pollinators—I guess it’s never occurred to me to dry it. Do you use your yarrow mainly for incense?

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Tracy, I use Yarrow mainly for teas and its medicinal properties :). Its a really wonderful herb for so many things. It does make a nice incense though! Glad to hear you are also working through the GCC program (so am I- we should exchange notes sometime!)

      • Tracy /|\ Kowann Says:

        Neat! I wasn’t even aware that yarrow can be consumed as an infusion. I do remember reading somewhere that yarrow leaves were traditionally applied as a topical treatment for wounds. I have a lot to learn yet about herbalism.

        I’m quite a bit behind you in my AODA studies. I started on the path of Druidry in August 2011, so I’m still deep in my Apprenticeship at the moment. I’ve been celebrating the GCC Communion ceremony every week for three months, though. It is a profoundly moving sacrament. I feel very blessed to be a part of all that.

        I would of course be tickled to chat with you, any time you like, concerning this or any other subject. Messages which are marked to the attention of Tracy and sent to info (at) aoda (dot) org will reach me. Happy summer!

  3. Unless you are going to use them only for incense, herbs should alway be dried in a warm dark place with very good air circulaton. Morning moisture can cause mold on drying herbs outdoors. I hang mine up in bunches all along the beam running down the center of our cabin and turn the air- conditioner on during the days just enough to remove humidity, and get I also get a fan going for good air curculation. This drys them in less than a week with no loss of color, taste or scent. Even for incense this is best to preserve the scent. Putting your herbs out in the hot sun will cause the essential oils to evaporate quickly, loose scent and flavor, and can turn the leaves dark. The culinary and medicinal properties are preserved by not exposing the drying herbs to any sunlight. A spare bedroom , or warm attic and a fan can usually do, as long as it is not a particularly rainy and humid week when drying herbs. I have grown and used herbs for over forty years , and teach classes. Preserving herbs is one of the classes I teach.

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Hi Ninian, thanks for the comment. For the solstice, I am more concerned with the energetic qualities of the herbs rather than the scent….but for every other day, this is really good advice :). Thank you!

  4. Karen Fisher Says:

    Some of my best experiences come from simply noticing what is going on in nature at the moment. I noticed that most plants have set seed or formed fruits by now, so the phrase in my mind was “the setting of the seed” as I toured my 4-acre yard as part of my solstice ritual. I keep telling myself that I will take the full day off and spend it on Druid activities, but I haven’t gotten there yet. A little editorial note–when you say “drying herbs on the equinox,” do you mean solstice?

    • Willowcrow Says:

      LOL, yes, Karen, I mean the solstice. Thanks for noticing that!

      I do love the idea of the tour of the land as part of your rite. Our grove did something similar yesterday, where in the middle of the ritual, we took time just to be, to gather flowers out of the field near our grove and leave an offering, and to hold the space in stillness and silence for each other. It was quite moving!


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