By Debbie and Steve Merritt. In the first of a series of articles on Celtic seasonal celebrations, Debbie and Steve Merritt introduce the Celtic Year with a particular focus on the coming Summer Solstice.
For thousands of years the indigenous peoples around the world have lived their lives around the seasons. Many of these formed the spiritualities or religions of the people. As the seasons changed, the focus of their lives changed, such as resting and mending or making in the winter, and harvesting towards the end of summer. Our farmers and gardeners follow a modified year today, and more and more of us, as we turn to nature for solace and inspiration, mark the turning of the year with ceremonies and festivities.
The Celtic Year is divided into eight seasonal celebrations:
Imbolc – 1st February
Spring Equinox – around 21st March
Beltane – 1st May
Summer Solstice – around 21st June
Lughnasadh – 1st August
Autumn Equinox – around 21st September
Samhain – 1st November
Winter Solstice – around 21st December
The seasons are often celebrated in England with traditional folk activities, such as Morris dancing, Trick or Treating at Samhain, the Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss at Beltane, or well dressing at Imbolc. We are looking forward to learning of any such customs on Arran! It was a delight to see Mick and Julia Bovee as the Lord and Spirit of the May bestowing Beltane blessings to Island businesses on the 1st of May!
We will be taking you through this Celtic Year, season by season. Perhaps you will be inspired to mark these points by celebrating yourselves.
Summer Solstice is an astrological point in the calendar, usually between the 20th and 23rd June, when the sun is at the highest point in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the longest day and the shortest night. Probably the most common image that comes to mind when you think of the Solstice is of the crowds at Stonehenge, Orkney or Shetland (or even Machrie!). At Stonehenge, at dawn, the first rays of the sun touch the hele – stone, the solitary sighting stone that stands outside the great circle. Whilst there are many modern takes on celebrating the Solstice, along with the other sacred celebrations, its roots are ancient, throughout all cultures. For us, an important part is to think of the gifts that we have been blessed with, since Winter Solstice. Not a new car (though that would be nice), but family and friends, a roof over our heads, the produce from our gardens, the place that we live in, being alive, the things that we can’t necessarily buy. The rising strength of the sun gives us optimism, as it did to our ancestors, that there is a harvest just ahead of us. As this solstice approaches we can hopefully be grateful that Covid-19 is being brought under control and we can spend time with our friends and families again.
We can celebrate Summer Solstice in many ways. Some people light bonfires and stay up socialising with friends until it is finally dark, it’s the shortest night. Others do the opposite, light their fires at first dark, and watch for the coming dawn. Steve and I, as Druids, celebrate in a ceremony with our friends, and some to be friends! After the ceremony there will be some music, storytelling, feasting and socialising.
You can embrace the summer season by wearing bright clothes, filling a vase with some colourful summer flowers, doing an Act of Random Kindness, or perhaps putting your prayers into a red crystal or pebble, then throwing it into the sea.
Steve and I intend to hold seasonal ceremonies throughout the year, open to all who come in peace. Children are especially welcome (accompanied by an appropriate adult).
We will be running a (socially distanced) workshop about the Summer Solstice, on Sunday 20th June. You can find more information at “Spiritual Arran Workshops” on Facebook. Numbers will undoubtedly be limited depending on the relevant Covid restrictions.