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Murray believed that the witch-cult also celebrated two "cross-quarter days", on 2 February and 1 August, though she thought these were probably later additions to the witch's calendar. Robert Graves , in his book The White Goddess , claimed that, despite Christianization , the importance of agricultural and social cycles had preserved the "continuity of the ancient British festal system".

He accepted Murray's concept of the pagan witch-cult when he enumerated eight holidays: "English social life was based on agriculture, grazing, and hunting, not on industry, and the Theme was still everywhere implicit in the popular celebration of the festivals now known as Candlemas, Lady Day , May Day , Midsummer Day , Lammas, Michaelmas , All-Hallowe'en, and Christmas ; it was also secretly preserved as religious doctrine in the covens of the anti-Christian witch-cult.

By the late s the Bricket Wood coven led by Gerald Gardner and the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids led by Ross Nichols had both adopted eight-fold ritual calendars, in order to hold more frequent celebrations. Popular legend holds that Gardner and Nichols developed the calendar during a naturist retreat, where Gardner argued for a celebration of the solstices and equinoxes while Nichols argued for a celebration of the four Celtic fire festivals, and combined the two ideas into a single festival cycle. Though this coordination eventually had the benefit of more closely aligning celebrations between the two early Neopagan groups, [9] Gardner's first published writings omitted any mention of the solstices and equinoxes, focusing exclusively on the fire festivals.

Gardner initially referred to these as "May eve, August eve, November eve Hallowe'en , and February eve. Aidan Kelly gave names to the solstice and equinox holidays of Wicca in , and these names Yule, Ostara, Litha, and Mabon were popularized by Timothy Zell through his magazine Green Egg. Due to early Wicca's influence on Modern Paganism and the syncretic adoption of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic motifs, the most commonly used English festival names for the Wheel of the Year tend to be the Celtic ones introduced by Gardner and the mostly Germanic -derived names introduced by Kelly, even when the celebrations are not based on those cultures.

These festivals are not, however, as evenly distributed throughout the year as in Wicca and other Heathen denominations. In many traditions of modern Pagan cosmology , all things are considered to be cyclical, with time as a perpetual cycle of growth and retreat tied to the Sun 's annual death and rebirth. This cycle is also viewed as a micro- and macrocosm of other life cycles in an immeasurable series of cycles composing the Universe.

The days that fall on the landmarks of the yearly cycle traditionally mark the beginnings and middles of the four seasons. They are regarded with significance and host to major communal festivals. These eight festivals are the most common times for community celebrations. While the "major" festivals are usually the quarter and cross-quarter days, other festivals are also celebrated throughout the year, especially among the non- Wiccan traditions such as those of polytheistic reconstructionism and other ethnic traditions.

In Wiccan and Wicca-influenced traditions, the festivals, being tied to solar movements, have generally been steeped in solar mythology and symbolism , centered on the life cycles of the sun. Similarly, the Wiccan esbats are traditionally tied to the lunar cycles. Together, they represent the most common celebrations in Wiccan-influenced forms of Neopaganism, especially in contemporary Witchcraft groups.

Midwinter, known commonly as Yule or, within modern Druid traditions as Alban Arthan , [16] has been recognised as a significant turning point in the yearly cycle since the late Stone Age. The ancient megalithic sites of Newgrange and Stonehenge , carefully aligned with the solstice sunrise and sunset, exemplify this.

Alexander Skarsgård Teaches Jimmy the Swedish Midsummer Dance

From Germanic to Roman tradition, this is the most important time of celebration. Practices vary, but sacrifice offerings , feasting, and gift giving are common elements of Midwinter festivities. Bringing sprigs and wreaths of evergreenery such as holly , ivy , mistletoe , yew , and pine into the home and tree decorating are also common during this time. In Roman traditions additional festivities take place during the six days leading up to Midwinter. The cross-quarter day following Midwinter falls on the first of February and traditionally marks the first stirrings of spring.

It aligns with the contemporary observance of Groundhog Day. It is time for purification and spring cleaning in anticipation of the year's new life. In Rome, it was historically a shepherd's holiday, [22] while the Celts associated it with the onset of ewes' lactation, prior to birthing the spring lambs.

Among Reclaiming tradition Witches, this is the traditional time for pledges and rededications for the coming year [25] and for initiation among Dianic Wiccans. Known as Alban Eilir, meaning Light of the Earth, to modern Druid traditions, this holiday is the second of three spring celebrations the midpoint between Imbolc and Beltane , during which light and darkness are again in balance, with light on the rise.

Midsummer: Magical Celebrations of the Summer Solstice by Anna Franklin

It is a time of new beginnings and of life emerging further from the grips of winter. Traditionally the first day of summer in Ireland , in Rome the earliest celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times with the festival of Flora , the Roman goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgisnacht celebrations of the Germanic countries. Since the Christianisation of Europe, a more secular version of the festival has continued in Europe and America, commonly referred to as May Day.

In this form, it is well known for maypole dancing and the crowning of the Queen of the May. Celebrated by many pagan traditions, among modern Druids this festival recognizes the power of life in its fullness, the greening of the world, youthfulness and flourishing. Midsummer is one of the four solar holidays and is considered the turning point at which summer reaches its height and the sun shines longest. Some Wiccan traditions call the festival Litha , a name occurring in Bede 's The Reckoning of Time De Temporum Ratione , 8th century , which preserves a list of the then-obsolete Anglo-Saxon names for the twelve months.

Bede writes that "Litha means gentle or navigable , because in both these months the calm breezes are gentle and they were wont to sail upon the smooth sea". While it is the time of greatest strength of the solar current, it also marks a turning point, for the sun also begins its time of decline as the wheel of the year turns. Arguably the most important festival of the Druid traditions, due to the great focus on the sun and its light as a symbol of divine inspiration.

Druid groups frequently celebrate this event at Stonehenge. Wiccans mark the holiday by baking a figure of the god in bread and eating it, to symbolise the sanctity and importance of the harvest. Celebrations vary, as not all Pagans are Wiccans. The Irish name Lughnasadh [8] [32] is used in some traditions to designate this holiday.

Wiccan celebrations of this holiday are neither generally based on Celtic culture nor centered on the Celtic deity Lugh. This name seems to have been a late adoption among Wiccans. In early versions of Wiccan literature the festival is referred to as August Eve. The name Lammas contraction of loaf mass implies it is an agrarian-based festival and feast of thanksgiving for grain and bread, which symbolises the first fruits of the harvest.

Christian festivals may incorporate elements from the Pagan Ritual. The name Mabon was coined by Aidan Kelly around as a reference to Mabon ap Modron , a character from Welsh mythology. Samhain is considered by some as a time to celebrate the lives of those who have passed on, and it often involves paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets, and other loved ones who have died.

Aligned with the contemporary observance of Halloween and Day of the Dead. In some rituals the spirits of the departed are invited to attend the festivities. It is seen as a festival of darkness, which is balanced at the opposite point of the wheel by the festival of Beltane , which is celebrated as a festival of light and fertility. Many Pagans believe that at Samhain the veil between this world and the afterlife is at its thinnest point of the whole year, making it easier to communicate with those who have left this world.

In addition to the eight major holidays common to most modern Pagans , there are a number of minor holidays during the year to commemorate various events. The precise dates on which festivals are celebrated are often flexible. Dates may be on the days of the quarter and cross-quarter days proper, the nearest full moon , the nearest new moon , or the nearest weekend for secular convenience. The festivals were originally celebrated by peoples in the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Consequently, the traditional times for seasonal celebrations do not agree with the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere or near the equator.

Pagans in the Southern Hemisphere often advance these dates by six months to coincide with their own seasons. Offerings of food, drink , various objects, etc. Modern Pagan practice strongly avoids sacrificing animals in favour of grains, herbs, milk, wines, incense, baked goods, minerals, etc. Midsummer in that region is tied to feelings of belonging, and also marks a transition into adulthood for many adolescents.

However, Spain in particular seems to celebrate more of a mishmash between Christian culture and pagan ritual. The midsummer Festival of St. Joan festivities , particularly in Barcelona, Menorca, and other Catalan-speaking regions, prove especially popular. The U. Alternatively, head to the zany Santa Barbara Summer Solstice parade which has a different theme year on year, or celebrate like a Swede in Battery Park, N.

Midsummer celebrations in Russia and Ukraine are remarkably similar to, and share many likenesses with, other European festivities, particularly the Latvian penchant for jumping over burning bonfires, although they also embrace skinny dipping. Other water-based activities common over the summer solstice include floating flower garlands in water and making predictions based on their movements.

Just as communities in the Pyrenees celebrate midsummer by lighting beacons, Austria comes together to light hundreds of mountain fires to mark this magical time. Top Summer Solstice Traditions from around the World. Lauren Cocking. Parties are organized usually at beaches, where bonfires are lit and a set of firework displays usually take place.

On the Mediterranean coast, especially in Catalonia and Valencia , special foods such as coca de Sant Joan are also served on this occasion. In Alicante , since , the bonfires of Saint John were developed into elaborate constructions inspired by the Falles , or Fallas, of Valencia. Midsummer tradition is also especially strong in northern areas of the country, such as Galicia , Asturias and Cantabria where one can easily identify the rituals that reveal the pagan beliefs widespread throughout Europe in Neolithic times.

These beliefs pivot on three basic ideas: the importance of medicinal plants, especially in relation to health, youth and beauty; the protective character of fire to ward men off evil spirits and witches and, finally, the purifying, miraculous effects of water. What follows is a summary of Galician traditions surrounding St. John's festival in relation to these three elements.


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Greenery placed over houses and barns was supposed to bring good fortune and health to people and livestock; this old tradition of decorating with greens continues, though most people no longer take it seriously. Other researchers say the term came from German merchants who raised the maypole in June because the Swedish climate made it impossible to find the necessary greens and flowers in May, and continued to call it a maypole. In earlier times, small spires wrapped in greens were erected; this probably predates the maypole tradition, which is believed by many to have come from the continent in the Middle Ages.

In Sweden Midsummer's day is a Saturday between June 20 and June 26, but as is usual in Sweden the actual celebration is on the eve, i. Midsummer's Eve is a de facto public holiday in Sweden with offices and many shops closed. Like in Norway and Finland, it is believed that if a girl picks 7 different flowers in silence of the midsummer night and puts them underneath her pillow, she will dream of her future husband. Up to the present day, the Rus' Midsummer Night or Ivan's Day is known as one of the most expressive Kyiv Rus' folk and pagan holidays. Before the day was named for St John, this was a celebration of a pagan fertility rite involving bathing in water.

Since St John the Baptist's birth is celebrated at this time, some elements of Kupala's pagan origins were seen to be roughly synonymous with Christian meanings, most notably the parallel of Baptism as cleansing from sins, so the holiday in a Christian-modified form has been accepted into the Orthodox Christian calendar. In modern times, due to increasing secularization, it is possible to find Kupala being celebrated in a manner closer to its pagan roots. John's Eve, June 23 and St. Peter's Eve June 28 with the lighting of bonfires, feasting and merrymaking.

In late 14th-century England, John Mirk of Lilleshall Abbey , Shropshire , gives the following description: "At first, men and women came to church with candles and other lights and prayed all night long. In the process of time, however, men left such devotion and used songs and dances and fell into lechery and gluttony turning the good, holy devotion into sin. Mirk adds that at the time of his writing, " John's fire" Festial Other Midsummer festivities had uneasy relations with the Reformed establishment. Despite the cancellation of the plays in , the parade continued; in , however, the Lord Mayor ordered that the parades be banned and the costumes destroyed.

The parade was permanently banned in This tradition was revived by the Old Cornwall Society in the early 20th century. Bonfires in Cornwall were once common as part of Golowan , which is now celebrated at Penzance , Cornwall. This week long festival normally starts on the Friday nearest St John's Day. Golowan lasts several days and culminates in Mazey Day. In England, Midsummer Day 24 June is traditionally one of the quarter days. Midsummer festivals are celebrated throughout Scotland, notably in the Scottish Borders where Peebles holds its Beltane Week.

The Eve of St. John has special magical significance and was used by Sir Walter Scott as the title, and theme, for a pseudo-ballad poem. He invented a legend in which the lady of Smailholm Tower , near Kelso , keeps vigil by the midnight fires three nights in a row see above and is visited by her lover; but when her husband returns from battle, she learns he slew that lover on the first night, and she has been entertained by a very physical ghost. Great agricultural fairs used to be held at this time, along with merriment and dancing.

A bonfire was also kept this night. With the advent of non-conformist beliefs on the Welsh socio-political culture, this among so many other similar festivals suffered greatly, and its observance finally died out in south-east Wales by the end of the 19th century.

However, since , a folk-dance revival started in Cardiff, and is held now annually on this feast day [55]. Midsummer celebrations held throughout the United States are largely derived from the cultures of immigrants who arrived from various European nations since the 19th century. With the rise of earth-centered spirituality, many, including Unitarian Universalists, celebrate the summer solstice as a religious holiday. As the state of Alaska, northernmost state in the nation, straddles the Arctic Circle , midsummer is a time when most of the state is in daylight or civil twilight the entire day.

Tucson has announced its inaugural Earthwalk Solstice celebration, with sister events in San Francisco, Jerusalem, and other communities around the world. The event features a walk through a giant labyrinth, musicians, healers, ceremony, etc. Since , Santa Barbara has hosted an annual Summer Solstice celebration, typically on the weekend of or the weekend after the actual solstice.

It includes a festival and parade. It includes a parade, decorating and raising a Maypole, dancing and other activities. The event, featuring maypole-raising, dancing, and presentation of an authentic Viking ship, dates back to Traditionally Pannukakku Finnish Oven Baked Pancake and strawberry shortcake is enjoyed followed by a bonfire or kokko.

Kaleva was founded in by Finnish immigrants. The Festival takes place typically on the 3rd full weekend of June. The festival embodies the rich cultural heritage that was transplanted to the Astoria, Oregon region by emigrating Scandinavians. In the Pacific Northwest they found the same bounteous seas and forests as in their native lands and the demand for their skills at managing them. Sweden Day , a Midsummer celebration which also honors Swedish heritage and history, has been held annually on the sound in Throgs Neck in New York City since Swedish Midsummer is also celebrated in other places with large Swedish and Scandinavian populations, such as Rockford , Illinois , Chicago , Minneapolis , Minnesota , and Lindsborg , Kansas.

The Seattle neighborhood of Fremont puts on a large Summer Solstice Parade and Pageant , which for many years has controversially included painted naked cyclists. In St. A solstitial celebration is held on Casper Mountain at Crimson Dawn park. Crimson Dawn is known in the area for the great stories of mythical creatures and people that live on Casper Mountain.

The celebration is attended by many people from the community, and from around the country. A large bonfire is held and all are invited to throw a handful of red soil into the fire in hopes that they get their wish granted. As forms of Neopaganism can be quite different and have very different origins, these representations can vary considerably, despite the shared name. Some celebrate in a manner as close as possible to how they believe ancient pagans observed the summer solstice, while others observe the holiday with rituals culled from numerous other unrelated sources, the Germanic culture being just one of the sources used.

In Neo-druidism , the term Alban Hefin is used for the summer solstice. The name was invented by the late 18th century Welsh Romantic author and prolific literary forger Iolo Morganwg. In modern times, Litha is celebrated by neopagans who emphasize what they believe to be the reconstruction of Anglo-Saxon Germanic paganism. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Holiday associated with the summer solstice and feast day of Saint John the Baptist. For other uses, see Midsummer disambiguation.

For the film, see Midsommar film. Further information: Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. See also: St John's Eve. See also: National Holiday Quebec. See also: Saint Jonas' Festival. See also: Serbian traditions. Main article: bonfires of Saint John.

Play media. See also: A Midsummer Night's Dream. Christianity portal Saints portal.

Top Summer Solstice Traditions from around the World

The Institute for Christian Formation. Retrieved 26 March The Francophones of Saskatchewan: a history. Campion College, University of Regina. The feast of Saint John the Baptist on June 24 was observed in all of Quebec with religious services, patriotic speeches, parades and floats. The movement soon spread to Ontario, the New England states, and even to Chicago and the distant state of Oregon. French Canadians in Saskatchewan also celebrated their patron saint's feast day.

In Battleford, they seem to have begun to mark the occasion before It is known definitely that in May a meeting was held to revive the local Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society, inactive since the Batoche uprising. The festivities on June 24 of that year began with a Mass celebrated at an altar on which stood a statue of Saint John the Baptist with a beaver at his feet and a banner bearing the inscription "Faith — Nation — Unity.

Sacred Narratives. University of Chicago Press. City and Spectacle in Medieval Europe. University of Minnesota Press. University of North Carolina Press. Like 8 December, the eve of St. John's Day was a highly popular date for nineteenth-century christenings.

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According to old midwives, the baptisms of children who had died "pagans" were acted out: "On this day, at nightfall, a candle is lit in the praise of St. The woman who stands godmother prays the Credo before the candle for little angel and says: 'I baptize you, So-and-So, I baptize you in the name of Almighty God the Father' If [the child] is not baptized, it will cry in its grave every night.

Government of Sweden. Retrieved 25 March In Sweden, they were mainly found in the southern part of the country. Young people also liked to visit holy springs, where they drank the healing water and amused themselves with games and dancing. Ancient History et cetera. Retrieved Encyclopedia Britannica. Thanksgiving and Other Harvest Festivals. Infobase Publishing. Augustine: Biblical Exegete. Peter Lang. The cult of John the Baptist began to develop in the first half of the fourth century.

Augustine is the first witness to a feast of the birth of John the Baptist, which was celebrated on June This date was reckoned from Luke , according to which the angel Gabriel said to Mary, "And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her," and June 24 is precisely three months after March Quest Books.

Christian Beginnings. Our Sunday Visitor. In England, "Saint John's Tide" is combined with a midsummer celebration.


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Instead of the date of the summer so stice, they chose June This may be because of the Baptist's own words, "He must increase, must decrease" John John was, of course, referring to Jesus. John's day comes at the time when the sun is beginning to decrease, and six months later, Christmas, comes at the time when the sun is beginning to increase. Paulist Press. Oxford University Press. Kemble, The Seasons in England , vol. I, quoted in George C. Homans , English Villagers of the Thirteenth Century , 2nd ed.