All spring the cuckoos have been calling, an aural game of tag across the valley, "here I am, where are you?" Louder and more present here than ever before they embroidered every hour with their cheery call, now that they have gone there is an emptiness to this solstice day that feels sad. Perhaps it's because instead of the glorious hum of happy insects on a sun-drenched summer's day all I can hear is the tang and hiss of the very rainy rain and the rummaging of fretting dogs on the sofa. They are rearranging the cushions, searching for comfort when really what's wanted is to go out, but it doesn't matter how many times they go to the door wanting a walk, when the door is opened there is still rain outside and canine minds are swiftly changed!
On this day, when we tip from up to down, from the increasing light to the decreasing light, the still-point at the centre of the year (Solstice comes from the Latin; Sol - the sun, sistere - to stand) it's good to take a moment to be grateful for our Sun. Even on a day when you cannot see it through the clouds, cannot feel it for the rain, to remember that without the sun there would be no life on this planet. No-thing.
The gate between this world and the other would be firmly shut!
Traditionally here in Britain the celebrating of Midsummer begins the evening before. This is the most auspicious evening of the year to gather herbs, these will be the most potent for use in the making of incenses or medicines for use during the dark months.
The dawn of the longest day is celebrated by the lighting of fires, kindled by the sun himself, to light his way downwards. The Oak king has been usurped by the Holly King and will go to wait for rebirth at the Winter Solstice in the wheel of the stars. The Holly King will oversee the gathering of the harvest, the coming of the darkness, the turning in. The Oak King, the young king, brought us the up-rising of all that has grown. His union with the land has been fertile once again, the world continues to turn.
This solstice eve coincides with a full moon, one of those rare occasions when it is said that mortal men can watch the Faeries dance. Make sure you leave them an offering so that they don't take offence. Faeries don't really like to meet a human eye.
Let your eye rest instead on the glories that the sun brings us, as he pours himself down onto our Earth.
Wherever you are, you and everything you can see depends on the Sun's proximity to the Earth. We are indivisible from her and dependant on him.
Once the herbs are gathered, the fires lit and the faery-customs observed, tradition has it (hereabouts at least) that the day should continue with a swim.
A custom observed by all sorts of people.
When the day is done; gather some of the water (or midsummer morning dew) and mix is with the ashes from your fire and offer it in all the directions, that you may be protected and peaceful for the coming year.
So may it be.