What is the Summer Solstice?
The summer solstice, also known as estival solstice or midsummer, occurs when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt toward the Sun. In the northern hemisphere, this happens between June 20th and 22nd. During this time, the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky and is the day with the longest period of daylight.
Since prehistory, the summer solstice has been seen as a significant time of year in many cultures, and has been marked by midsummer celebrations, festivals and rituals. There are also many midsummer herbs that have significant meaning and use during the summer solstice. This article discusses some of the most widely regarded midsummer herbs.
Midsummer Solstice Plants & Herbs
The folkloric origins of the Midsummer Solstice have always sparked a lot of curiosity regarding the magical and spiritual expectation that this celebration brings.
Manifold ceremonial features are associated with the Midsummer celebrations, but the lore of herbs and plants traditionally took the centre spotlight around this special festivity.
Herbs constitute a strong element for celebrating the Midsummer solstice due to their strong connections with magical and healing powers.
St. John’s Wort, lavender, mullein, lady’s bedstraw and mugwort but also calendula, chamomile, mint, rosemary, thyme and verbena have all been regarded with reverence throughout the northern hemisphere. Such observance is held to take advantage of the maximum healing and magical potentials of these plants.
The Druid priests and other healers in the European pagan civilizations thought that herbs reached the pinnacle of their therapeutic efficacy on this day, and they would gather them to dry and store for the remainder of the year.
Folkloric and Historical Background
The Midsummer Solstice is a pagan festival celebrated since ancient times.
On Midsummer Eve, divining rods, medicinal herbs, and flowers were thought to be much more potent and powerful, and all dreams, whether they be about love or not, ought to come true. Dew collected on Midsummer’s Eve was said to replenish one’s sight as well as one’s youth.
Additionally, on Midsummer Eve, young women placed royal-fern under their mattresses for love dreams, as it was believed that certain flowers and herbs, such as St. John’s wort and mugwort, would produce a particular vision of one’s future husband.
According to Eastern European folklore, the forest ferns were thought to bloom for a very brief moment on midsummer eve, bringing good fortune and the knowledge and ability to understand animal speech to the privileged one who could find them.
Likewise, bonfires were lit for fertility and good luck in Ireland and other regions of Europe.
The Druids called the summer solstice Alban Heruin, which means “The Light of the Shore,” and it is one of the few times throughout the year when the connection between Heaven and Earth is the most auspicious.
For the ancient cultures, the summer solstice was a period when people sought protection, purified environments, and interacted with spirits drawing analogies with flowers that correspond to this particular moment.
Herbalists select herbs for oils, tinctures, and teas during this period, focusing on the “above ground” sections of the plants that receive the most sunlight. The sort of plant and medicine they produce is determined by the moment they harvest on the solstice day.
Plants Associated With the Summer Solstice
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
St. John’s Wort, a European native solar plant, is among the most representative herbs for Midsummer celebrations. It has long been used as a nerve tonic, but it has recently gained popularity as a depression cure.
On Midsummer Day, the flowers of St. John’s Wort are traditionally picked and used to make medicines. In its association with the magical properties, it was thought that harvesting the blossoms when nude is favourable. The Summer Solstice is an excellent day for love spells and charms, including the usage of St. John’s Wort. The use of the herb has been employed in charms to protect against heartbreak and cultivate a brave heart.
St. John’s Wort is a potent nerve restorative that balances the mind and calms a hectic nervous system, making it ideal for conditions like neuralgia, anxiety, and tension.
It is also named because the Midsummer Solstice coincides with the celebration of St John’s the Baptist. The herb can be combined with Skullcap, another nervine herb for pain relief and tension.
Lady’s Bedstraw ( Galium Verum )
Lady’s Bedstraw is a widespread plant that can be found throughout Europe and Anatolia, primarily dwelling in dry soils, dry meadows, oak forests, roadsides, landfills, and saline soils, perfuming these habitats with its honey-scented fragrance.
From June to September, the stems can be so densely covered with blossoms that they cover the grass in yellow. This flower has the aroma of freshly cut hay when dried, and its name comes from the practice of stuffing straw mattresses with it, especially those of pregnant women.
Small, slender leaves occur in twirls on the angular stems of Lady’s Bedstraw. The stems are adorned with shallow heads of small yellow flowers arranged in dense clusters.
In Romania, these plants represent the pinnacle of the Summer Solstice. According to folklore, these flowers transform into fairies during the Midsummer Night. It is said that the heavens open for a moment during this night, and the fairies begin to dance and sing. The realm beyond coming into contact with this world is particularly propitious at night.
Moreover, Lady’s Bedstraw properties also have a strong potential as a medicinal plant.
The plant is anti-scorbutic, and the shoots are strong in vitamin C, making them useful for scurvy and also a spring and summer tonic. The entire plant, especially when combined with herbs like uva ursi and marshmallow, can be used as a tea for kidney stones and bladder difficulties. It is supposed to expunge freckles and sunburn when used as a wash or lotion, and it is also beneficial for psoriasis.
Nonetheless, this plant can be used as a caffeine-free coffee alternative. Aromatic bedstraw seeds can be roasted and crushed.
Mugwort ( Artemisia spp.)
Mugwort has been regarded as one of the oldest herbs in indigenous Northern European traditions with reverence. Understanding the specificity of this herb and its connection with the Summer Solstice suggests that this herb has been regarded as a Moon herb.
Although Midsummer is a celebration of the sun’s sunniest day and the warmth it offers, it also has a lunar undertone.
The astral junction on this holy day is represented by the sun’s entering in the sign of Cancer, whose guardian planet is the moon.
Beliefs associated with this plant during this Solsticial time are about its magical qualities, which work in revealing shrouded mysteries only when the night is shortest and the hours that are normally concealed are accessible to us.
All parts of the plant are suitable for energetic cleansing and healing.
Mugwort expands the psychic influences during this particular moment, which is considered a period for divination if the plant is brewed in a tea.
An infusion of the leaves and flowering tops is used to treat nervous and spasmodic illnesses, sterility, functional uterine haemorrhage, dysmenorrhea, asthma, and mental ailments.
The plant has long been used in moxibustion, which involves burning the dried leaf near or directly on acupuncture points to stimulate the qi meridians and relieve pain. Burning a few leaves in the bedroom before going to bed or placing them beneath the pillow induces prophetic dreams.
Lavender ( Lavendula officinalis )
Lavender is endemic to the Mediterranean region and has long been cultivated for the myriad benefits that this herb brings to the household.
Harvesting this scented bloom on the day of the solstice, when the Sun is waxing towards its zenith in the late morning, is a folkloric way of honouring midsummer.
The longest, most perfect stems are used to form a few lavender wands, and the remainder is dried in bundles and hung in the shade beneath the home’s eaves to cast their sweet fragrance while drying.
The blooms are a traditional Midsummer plant, bringing calm and tranquillity to the home when flung into the fire. Lavender encourages focus and promotes serenity and compassion by calming without producing tiredness. In addition, lavender is a popular cooling remedy that relieves nervous system stress, nervousness, insomnia, and hot emotions like fury and impatience.
Mullein ( Verbascum thapsus )
The tall stalks of the gigantic Mullein were dipped in fat or wax and lit as a primitive candle for late-night spells, earning it the name Hag’s Tapers. The plant is native to Europe, Northern Africa and Asia. The smooth leaves and bright yellow blossoms glow infused by the sun’s vitality.
The bright yellow blooms are a good cure for various skin and musculoskeletal complaints; the plant has a Saturnian influence when the bones are affected. Mullein can be burned during Midsummer celebrations and in midsummer bonfires for protection, and the ashes can be used in therapeutic and healing charms all year.
Like many other Midsummer herbs, Mullein has a connection to Midwinter as an essential cure for phlegm removal. Mullein is a medicine that opens and clears the lungs. It is a mucilaginous plant that can be used topically to treat dry skin and boils, bruising, inflammation, haemorrhoids, eczema, sciatica, and joint discomfort. Ear oil with Mullein and garlic is a tried-and-true therapy for ear infections, reducing pain and infection.
The ancients knew that, after the summer solstice, the winter solstice approaches gradually; the return of light, tempered by the awareness that the wheel will recommence its spinning movement indefinitely.
Celebrating the magnificent implications of the sun’s light upon the kingdom of plants at the Summer Solstice is among the most important rituals the ancients dedicated to this festivity since it correlates to spiritual regeneration.
Plant magic isn’t limited to divination and spells; it can also be transmitted through a person’s relationship with a plant or herb. Consequently, plants are recognised for speaking to us in their secret language— the mere delight of cultivating, being close to, and relating to such a plant offers a sense of balance to a person’s soul.
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