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