Although Midsummer Day occurs at the summer solstice, or what we think of as the beginning of summer, to the farmer it is the midpoint of the growing season, halfway between planting and harvesting, and an occasion for celebration.
The most common other names for this holiday are the Summer Solstice or Midsummer, and it celebrates the arrival of Summer, when the hours of daylight are longest. The Sun is now at the highest point before beginning its slide into darkness.
Celebrating Midsummer Day
Although it’s also the feast day of St. John the Baptist, it features pagan traditions such as bonfires, fire walking, and a carnival atmosphere, all of which took place on Midsummer Eve. Certainly, it’s a night of magic and soothsaying as well, for as Washington Irving said, this is a time “when it is well known all kinds of ghosts, goblins, and fairies become visible and walk abroad.” After Midsummer Day, the days shorten.
In Sweden and Norway at the Solstice, people made wheels of fortune. Some of the wheels were wrapped in straw, set on fire, and rolled down hill. Other wheels were decorated and kept. These were used in two ways: One, the wheel was rolled away from a person to take away misfortunes; two, it was rolled toward a person to bring all kinds of good fortune.
Variations on the Midsummer celebrations:
People around the world have observed spiritual and religious seasonal days of celebration during the month of June. Most have been religious holy days which are linked in some way to the summer solstice.
- Scottish Pecti-Witans celebrate Feill-Sheathain on July 5th.
- In the Italian tradition of Aridian Strega, this Sabbat (Strega Witches call them Treguendas rather than Sabbats) is known as Summer Fest – La Festa dell’Estate.
- Scandinavians celebrate this holiday at a later date and call it Thing-Tide.
- In England, June 21st is “The Day of Cerridwen and Her Cauldron”.
- In Ireland, this day is dedicated to the faery goddess Aine of Knockaine.
- June 21st is “The Day of the Green Man” in Northern Europe.
In Lithuanian tradition, the dew on Midsummer Day was said to make young girls beautiful and old people look younger. It was also thought that walking barefoot in the dew would keep one’s skin from getting chapped.
It was customary to honor all men named John on this day by fixing wreaths of oak leaves around their doors. This is usually done in secret, and John must guess who did it or catch the person in the act, in which case he must give the person a treat.
Midsummer Celebrations in Ancient Times:
The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times. The concentration of the observance is not on the day as we reckon it, commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the pre-Christian beginning of the day, which falls on the previous eve. Other names for this time in the Wheel of the Year include:
- Alban Heruin (Caledonii or the Druids)
- Alban Hefin (Anglo-Saxon Tradition)
- Sun Blessing, Gathering Day (Welsh)
- Whit Sunday, Whitsuntide (Old English)
- Vestalia (Ancient Roman)
- Feast of Epona (Ancient Gaulish)
- All-Couple’s Day (Greek)
Ancient Celts: Druids, the priestly/professional/diplomatic corps in Celtic countries, celebrated Alban Heruin (“Light of the Shore”). It was midway between the spring Equinox (Alban Eiler; “Light of the Earth”) and the fall Equinox (Alban Elfed; “Light of the Water”). “This midsummer festival celebrates the apex of Light, sometimes symbolized in the crowning of the Oak King, God of the waxing year. At his crowning, the Oak King falls to his darker aspect, the Holly King, God of the waning year…” The days following Alban Heruin form the waning part of the year because the days become shorter.
Ancient China: Their summer solstice ceremony celebrated the earth, the feminine, and the yin forces. It complemented the winter solstice which celebrated the heavens, masculinity and yang forces.
Ancient Egypt:In Ancient Egypt, summer solstice was the most important day of the year. The sun was at its highest and the Nile River was beginning to rise. Special ceremonies were held to honor the Goddess Isis. Egyptians believed that Isis was mourning for her dead husband, Osiris, and that her tears made the Nile rise and well over. Accurately predicting the floods was of such vital importance that the appearance of Sirius, which occurs around the time of the summer solstice, was recognized as the beginning of the Egyptian New Year.
Ancient Gaul: The Midsummer celebration was called Feast of Epona, named after a mare goddess who personified fertility, sovereignty and agriculture. She was portrayed as a woman riding a mare.
Ancient Germanic, Slav and Celtic tribes in Europe: Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires. “It was the night of fire festivals and of love magic, of love oracles and divination. It had to do with lovers and predictions, when pairs of lovers would jump through the luck-bringing flames…” It was believed that the crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump. Through the fire’s power, “…maidens would find out about their future husband, and spirits and demons were banished.” Another function of bonfires was to generate sympathetic magic: giving a boost to the sun’s energy so that it would remain potent throughout the rest of the growing season and guarantee a plentiful harvest.
Ancient Rome: The festival of Vestalia lasted from June 7 to June 15. It was held in honor of the Roman Goddess of the hearth, Vesta. Married women were able to enter the shrine of Vesta during the festival. At other times of the year, only the vestal virgins were permitted inside.
Ancient Sweden: A Midsummer tree was set up and decorated in each town. The villagers danced around it. Women and girls would customarily bathe in the local river. This was a magical ritual, intended to bring rain for the crops.
Information collected from various sources
- Color of the day: Green
- Incense of the day: Clove
June 11 is the Festival of Mater Matuta, an old Italian goddess of the dawn who was the goddess of the dawn and the protector of growing crops and growing children. Today a free woman in the first year of her marriage would make offerings of toasted cakes to the goddess, and ask for blessings on her nieces and nephews. The Romans eventually made equivalent to the dawn goddess Aurora, and the Greek goddess Eos.
Aurora, known among the Greeks as Eos, is honored on this day. It is she who opens the gates of heaven each day so that Helios may ride his chariot across the skies. Her tears create the morning dew. Try greeting Aurora today as she opens the gates of heaven. Walk barefoot through the grass, feeling her tears upon your skin. Connect with her eternally youthful soul.
Then, as Helios begins his journey across the sky, settle yourself in a quiet place outdoors and let the light bathe your face for a short time as you meditate on the beauty you bring into your world each day. Once you finish your meditations, pay tribute to Aurora for her task of opening the gates for each new day to bring light in the world. Take with you her beauty and grace as you go about your day and tasks.
By Winter Wren
The Festival of Bellona took place on June 3rd in Campus Martius, near the Temple of Bellona. This was largely just a huge feast in honor of Bellona who had helped them in war. This festival was also a celebration for the dedication of the Temple of Bellona.
One source that talks about the dedication of the Temple of Bellona on June 3rd is in Ovid’s “Fasti”, a six book poem the Roman poet Ovid had published around 8 AD. This quote is found in Ovid’s 6th and final book:
“When two dawns are past, and Phoebus has risen twice,
And the crops have twice been wet by the dewfall,
On that day, they say, during the Tuscan War, Bellona’s
Shrine was consecrated, she who always brings Rome success.”
This goddess did not play a significant role in either myth or legend, and her worship appears to have been promoted in Rome chiefly by the family of the Claudii, whose Sabine origin, together with their use of the name of Nero, has suggested an identification of Bellona with the Sabine war goddess Nerio.
Her temple at Rome, dedicated by Appius Claudius Caecus (296 B.C.) in fulfillment of a a vow during the Third Samnite War with the Samnites and Etruscans, stood in the Campus Martius, near the Flaminian Circus and Porta Carmentalis (the Carmenta gate), and outside the gates of the city. It was there that the senate met to discuss a general’s claim to a triumph, and to receive ambassadors from foreign states. In front of it was the columna bellica, where the fetialis ceremony of declaring war was performed, in which a spear was cast against the distant enemy.
This native Italian goddess should not be mistaken for the Asiatic Bellona, whose worship was introduced into Rome apparently by Sulla, to whom she had appeared, urging him to march to Rome and bathe in the blood of his enemies. See Day of Blood
~Information compiled from various sources.
On 10 May, and again on 31 May, the Roman legions at Duro Europa celebrated the Rosalia. This again connects the flowers of Spring with rituals for the dead, only this time the rituals were performed by military units for their fallen comrades rather than for family members. We learn of this celebration first with a military calendar from Syria.
We do not know if the Rosalia was celebrated on the same dates by other legions throughout the Roman Empire, but we hear descriptions of the Rosalia in other texts suggesting that the Rosalia was common in the Roman army. Since the military calendar differs from other Roman calendars, it is possible that it represents a standard used among all legions. Then again each legion may have had its own schedule of festivals. However, since the month of May was dedicated to the dead, with Lemuria, it would seem reasonable that a military equivalent fell within the same month.
Here’s what we do know:
At the center of every Roman military camp there was a small shrine, the saculum. Inside this shrine the military standards were kept; these were the legion’s eagle and other standards for the maniples, cohorts, or vexilia. As with Roman temples, an altar was placed in front of the sacullum. At Rosalia the standards were brought forth and placed around the altar. They were crowned with wreaths of roses and a supplication, or thanksgiving, was performed before them. Beyond that one detail, nothing else is certain about this military ritual. But from its nature we can surmise something of its intent.
When someone died far from home, whether while serving in the army or away at sea, and thus was unable to be buried by his family, a cenotaphium would be erected as a dwelling place for his soul. His Lar (soul) was called three times and invited to enter the cenotaphium. For example, when Aeneas meets his deceased friend Deiphobus in the Underworld, he says,
“Then I myself on the Rhoetean shore erected a hollow tomb, and with loud voice thrice called upon thy spirit (Virgil, Aeneid).”
On the Nones (7 May) the tombs of ancestors were decorated with wreaths of roses. With their red hues, the roses were offered to the dead as a gesture of reviving them, or at least of remembering how they were once while still alive. The red roses were the flowers of Venus, and they were a reminder of the Garden of Venus where the souls of the dead, as animae, would dwell as Her children, like little cupids living in the Blessed Isles. So offering roses to the Manes was a way of wishing their safe journey on to the Garden of Venus.
There is not much doubt that the Rosalia was intended to honor the military dead. The standards were being adorned with roses in the same manner as tombs and cenotaphs. With the Romans I think you would also have to consider that they thought of the standards as cenotaphia that carried the Lares of the legion, who were the spirits of their fellow soldiers, into battle with them. This would also explain why the loss of the eagles would be taken as such a tragedy by Romans. Perhaps it also explains why the second century Christian writer Tertullian criticized this veneration of the standards.
The Rosalia was continued, however, even after the Roman army adopted Christianity. Something of the Rosalia remains even today in the parading of the colors of modern armies, where they are decorated with battle ribbons to commemorate where a unit has fought, as well as all the men who have served and died with the unit in the past. Laying a wreath of roses on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Memorial Day is an echo of the Rosalia once performed by Roman legions.
Found at: Patheos
The Lemuria, the festival in honor of the Lemures, the spirits of dead family members who wander the earth on these three spring nights (May 9, 11, and 13).
The Lemuria is held on odd-numbered days because even-numbered days are considered unlucky. It is a festival designed to honor the Lemures, they are regarded as baleful spirits of the dead who died violent or otherwise untimely deaths.
At midnight, the Paterfamilias (head of the household) arises and dresses with no knots, buckles, or other constricting items on his person (thus he is barefoot). He makes the sign of the mano fico with his hands (a fist with the thumb placed between the index and middle fingers; a sign of good luck and fertility) and then washes his hands in pure water. He then walks through the house, spitting out nine black beans, being careful not to look behind him as the lemures accept the beans as a sort of ransom for the living members of the household. As he spits out each one, he says
“With these beans I redeem me and mine.”
Once all nine beans have been accepted by the lemures and the entire house walked through, the Paterfamilias then washes his hands again, clashes two vessels of bronze together, and nine times says
“Ghosts of my fathers, be gone.”
(Manes exite paternae.)
According to many pagan calendars, May 8th is listed as “The Festival of Mens , the Roman goddess of mind and consciousness.” I did not, however, find any information on Mens or on a festival of Mens – what I did find was this small excerpt at Wikipedia:
By a process of folk etymology, the Romans could have confused the phones of her foreign name with those of the root men- in Latin words such as mens meaning “mind”, perhaps because one of her aspects as goddess pertained to the intellectual. The word mens is built from the Proto-Indo-European root *men- ‘mind’ (linked with memory as in Greek Mnemosyne; memory, remembrance, recollection, Manush in Sanskrit meaning mind ).
Because of this, I can only assume that the Festival of Mens is actually a Festival of Minerva, Goddess of wisdom and learning, meditation, inventiveness, accomplishments, the arts, spinning and weaving, and commerce. Minerva was identified with Pallas Athene, bestower of victory, when Pompey the Great built her temple with the proceeds from his eastern campaigns.
The Romans celebrated her festival from March 19 to March 23 during the day which is called, in the neuter plural, Quinquatria, the fifth after the Ides of March, the nineteenth, an artisans’ holiday . A lesser version, the Minusculae Quinquatria, was held on the Ides of June, June 13, by the flute-players, who were particularly useful to religion.
The Bona Dea had a festival on the first of May that commemorated the date her Aventine temple was founded. Its date connects her to Maia; its location connects her to Rome’s plebeian commoner class. At the ceremony, prayers were made to Her to avert earthquakes. She also had a secret festival, attended only by women, that took place over the night of the 3rd and 4th of May.
The rites are inferred as some form of mystery, concealed from the public gaze and, according to most later Roman literary sources, entirely forbidden to men.
On this night the festival was held in the house of the consul (the chief elected official), and no men were allowed. This taboo extended even to paintings or statues of men, which were required to be covered during the rites—and one assumes the consul himself crashed at a friend’s place for the night. The Vestal Virgins officiated, led by the wife of the consul (probably symbolic of the ancient Queen, on whom fell certain sacred religious duties), and the house was decorated like a temple with garlands of leaves and flowers of all kinds, except for myrtle of course, and the women wore wreaths of grape leaves.
A great jar of wine was placed in the room, though it must be referred to as “milk”, and the jar itself was called a mellarium, or “honey jar.” After making libations to the Goddess, music was played and the women drank and danced.
In the Republican era, Bona Dea’s Aventine festivals were probably distinctly plebeian affairs, open to all classes of women and perhaps, in some limited fashion, to men. By the Late Republic era, Bona Dea’s May festival and Aventine temple could have fallen into official disuse, or official disrepute.
The goddess also had a Winter festival (see it here), it was held in December during the Faunalia, and was referred to as the sacra opertum, (“the secret or hidden sacrifice”): at this ritual sacrifices were made for the benefit of all the people of Rome, something proper to the realm of a mother or Earth Goddess who is concerned with the well-being of all of Her children.
Ritual for Bona Dea:
- Color: Green
- Element: Earth
- Offerings: Leave a pig-shaped cookie out for the wild things.
- Daily Meal: Soups or stews, preferably with herbs. Herbal tea.
Upon a green cloth set five candles in different colors, a chalice of milk mixed with honey, incense of sandalwood and myrrh, the figure of a snake, a plate of cookies shaped like pigs, a pot of medicinal herbal tea, cups, and pots of dried herbs gathered throughout the year.
Invocation to Bona Dea
O Bona Dea,
Good Goddess of the Earth
Whose name is mystery,
Whose name is a hundred names,
Whose spirit lives in us all
And in every goddess who touches the soil,
And in every mortal who sprang from the clay,
Be with us on this day!
You have made the Earth spring forth
With many green goods for us,
Not merely those with which me feed our bellies,
But also those which heal our bodies.
Lady who heals us, godmother of Hygeia,
Daughter of Faunus who tracks in the wild,
We find your gifts both in our gardens
And on the wild paths where you have trodden.
We see the healing herbs springing up
In each of your passing footprints,
And we are grateful for our lives.
O Bona Dea,
Good Goddess of the Earth
Whose name is mystery
But whose gifts are so concrete,
We revere you and ask that you bless this day
Your plants which you have so generously given us,
That we may always be healed
And always help to heal others.
The names of the herbs that were collected and placed on the altar are called out one by one, in this manner:
“For the power of Rosemary, we are grateful!”
All reply in turn, “We are grateful!”
Pass the tea and cookies and eat them.
Sources: Pagan Book of Hours and Wikipedia
The Romans had a celebration for just about everything. Certainly, any deity worth their salt got a holiday of their own, and Flora was no exception. She was the goddess of spring flowers and vegetation, and one of many fertility goddesses. In fact, she was so well respected as a fertility deity that she was often seen as a the patron deity of Roman prostitutes.
Her holiday originated around 235 b.c.e. It was believed that a good festival ensured that Flora would protect the blooming flowers around the city. However, at some point the celebration was discontinued — but it clearly took its toll when wind and hail did some serious damage to the flowers of Rome. In 173 b.c.e., the Senate reinstated the holiday, and renamed it the Ludi Floralis, which included public games and theatrical performances.
The Floralia took place during the five days between April 28 and May 3. Citizens celebrated with drinking and dancing. Flowers were everywhere, in the temples and on the heads of revelers. Anyone making an offering to Flora might give her a libration of milk and honey.
April 5th. When the next Dawn shall have shone in the sky, and the stars have vanished, and the Moon shall have unyoked her snow white steeds, he who shall say, “On this day of old the temple of Public Fortune was dedicated on the hill of Quirinus”, will tell the truth.
April 5 is Lady Luck Day. As you can see from the above quote, it is dedicated to Fortuna, the Roman goddess of good fortune, and marks the day that her temple of Public Fortune was dedicated in Ancient Rome on the hill of Quirinus.
- Themes: Luck; Wealth; Abundance; Destiny; Success
- Symbols: Wheel; Cornucopia
Fortuna, whose name means ‘she who brings’, is the keeper of our destiny and the guiding power behind all fortunate events. She stands on top of Fortune’s wheel, steering us toward success and victory all year long.
To Do Today:
Who of us couldn’t us a little of Fortuna’s assistance with tax day on the horizon? For a little extra cash, dab your automobile, bike, or motorcycle wheels with almond oil or pineapple juice. Symbolically this invokes Fortuna’s help by keeping money “rolling” in! Also dab your steering wheel similarly – this way you can keep a “handle” on personal finances.
Romans traditionally asked Fortuna about their fate and difficult problems today, then received replies on slips of paper, often baked into small bread balls akin to a fortune cookie! This is fun for a gathering of people to try. Each person should write a word or short phrase on a piece of paper (all of which are equal in size). These get dropped into a bowl, and at the end of the day everyone can reach in to see what Fortuna has to say.
Wear colors that indicate to Fortuna what you need most (green for prosperity and luck, blue for victory, red for success, yellow for communication and creativity, and purple for spirituality and leadership qualities). Or, don lucky clothing and carry your lucky charms. Fortuna’s energy is already housed within them.
Found in: 365 Goddess
The Megalisia was a Phrygian festival in honor of Cybele, the Magna Mater. This was a festival with games celebrated at Rome in the month of April and in honor of the great mother of the gods. Following the advice of the Sibylline oracle on how to end the Punic wars, the meteorite which represented Cybele was brought from Phrygia to Rome in 204 BCE where it was installed in the Temple of victory on April 4th. The day of its arrival was solemnized with a magnificent procession, lectisternia, and games, and great numbers of people carried presents to the goddess at the Capitol.
The following harvest was great and the war ended the next year.
The regular celebration of the Megalesia, however, did not begin until about a dozen years later, when the temple which had been vowed and ordered to be built in 203 B.C., was completed and dedicated by M. Iunius Brutus.
The Romans began the celebrations with a parade, in which an image of the Goddess, Cybele, was carried through the streets in a chariot drawn by lions, her animals. The castrated priests who served her danced alongside, playing timbrels and cymbals and gashing themselves. Lucretius says “with bronze and silver they strew all the paths of her journey … and snow rose-blossoms over her.”Rome, commemorating the arrival of the goddess to her Roman Temple.”
The festival lasted for six days, beginning on the 4th of April. The season of this festival, like that of the whole month in which it took place, was full of general rejoicings and feasting. It was customary for the wealthy Romans on this occasion to invite one another mutually to their repasts, and the extravagant habits and the good living during these festive days were probably carried to a very high degree. For that reason, a senatusconsultum was issued in 161 B. C., prescribing that no one should go beyond a certain extent of expenditure.
The games which were held at the Megalesia were purely scenic, and not circenses. They were at first held on the Palatine in front of the temple of the goddess, but afterwards also in the theaters.
The first ludi scenici at Rome were, according to Valerius Antias, introduced at the Megalesia, either in 193 or 191 b.c. The day which was especially set apart for the performance of scenic plays was the third of the festival.
Slaves were not permitted to be present at the games, and the magistrates appeared dressed in a purple toga and praetexta, whence the proverb, purpura Megalensis. The games were under the superintendence of the Curule Aediles, and we know that four of the extant plays of Terence were performed at the Megalesia. Cicero, probably contrasting the games of the Megalesia with the more rude and barbarous games and exhibitions of the circus, calls them maxime casti, solemnes, religiosi.
The book, 365 Goddess, describes this festival as a Roman Festival celebrating the accuracy of the Sibylline oracles, who predicted the way for the Roman victory in the Punic Wars. Her suggestions for celebrating this ancient festival is as follows:
- Themes: Divination, Protection, Victory, Children, Birth, Communication.
- Symbols: The written word, Divination tools, Fertility symbols.
- Rulers: The Carmenae.
The Carmenae is a group of goddesses who correspond to the Muses of Greek tradition; they know our past, see what’s in store in the future, foretell children’s fates, and teach us the effective use of “letters” (the alphabet), the arts, and how to tell fortunes. They also oversee midwives.
Romans traditionally honored the goddesses today with music and song, so put on some magical tunes! The Carmenae will saturate the music and uplift your spirit.
Ask the Carmenae to help you write personalized invocations or spells today. Put pen to pad and let these goddesses inspire sacred words suited to your path and needs. Keep these in a magick journal for future use.
The Roman oracles often drew lots to determine a querent’s answer. If you have a question weighing heavily on your heart today, follow this custom and take out some variegated beans. Hold them. Concentrate on the question, then pick out one bean. A black one means “no”; white means “yes.” Red means that anger is driving action, brown means things are muddled, and green indicates growth potential. If you don’t have the beans, colored buttons or beads are a suitable alternative.