“Are you sure/That we are awake? It seems to me/That yet we sleep, we dream”
~ Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare
Looking to the folklore, I find that the Summer Solstice celebrations here in Scotland were centred on Midsummer Eve and the morning after, but in her account of the Scottish National Festivals, folklorist F. Marian McNeill states, “[a]lthough the solstices were not ignored by the Celtic European peoples, they were of much less importance to them than the other European peoples, and it is therefore not surprising to find that the traces of the festival are most plentiful in the North-East, and particularly in Orkney and Shetland, where Scandinavian influences are strong.” 
That’s not to say that this festival hasn’t long been observed on these shores, for just as with the other key dates in the eight-fold year, there are summer solstice alignments in the megalithic sites, laid down millennia before the Norse invasions.
And there is a living tradition of the solstice ritual, still in secret, sacred places. Processions over hills and mountains, offerings laid down to the ancestral ones, the reverence of ancestral bones and other living beings evolving to the placating of the sìdhe or the shee – the fairy folk and other characters who live in the mountains.
In each of the old festivals of the eight-fold year, there is the quality of the one before, and the records of Midsummer show us that the spirit of the Beltane celebrations continued, with community bonfires, lovers’ leaps, rites to divine the identity of future lovers and the particularly healing quality of the Midsummer dew recorded.  It was a time of celebration – a joyful and communal ritual of being alive.
The eye was always on the opposite time of the wheel, though and it was at midsummer that the peat was cast to dry, in preparation for the winter to come.  As you might perhaps expect at such a lush and verdant time, there is quite a bit of lore surrounding the plants and seeds of Midsummer – much of it associated with magic – including yarrow, vervain, fern, St John’s wort, elderberries and stonecrop (sedum.) 
   The Silver Bough, vol. 2, Marian F McNeill, 1959, pp 86-93
 Myth, Tradition and Story from Western Argyll, K.W. Grant 1925
Midsummer for me represents the season of the Gala Day, a localised festival for children held all over Scotland since the early 1900’s. Each town or village would have its own version, but they mostly consisted of the nomination of a summer queen and various entourage from amongst the local schoolkids.
I was a ‘lady-in-waiting’ once and wore some kind of lemon coloured bridesmaid’s dress, with a posy of flowers and some demure gloves to match. There’s a photo of me somewhere, wearing bad 80’s style make-up that my mum applied.
Festivities would range across a nominated week, culminating in the day itself – “hooray, hooray, it’s the galaday!”
All the players would decorate their houses – so many crepe paper flowers – and local forestries raided for greenery to make arches and boughs. I seem to remember we even installed a mini water fountain and pond in our garden for the occasion.
At 11am sharp a large procession of decorated vehicles of the most fantastical nature would wind its way through the crowded streets, accompanied by many different bands and all sorts of excitable fancy-dressed kids, parents and community groups.
The day would culminate in the crowning ceremony for the queen and a kid’s sports competition. In my day, the shows, or travelling fair would set up stall next door and the smell of candy floss and sticky toffee apples would permeate the air atop the strains of the latest top of the pops.
I shall forever remember me and mum singing Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” at the top of our voices whilst being rattled around on The Waltzers – oh, how she used to love that!
The gala day may not be as flourishing a tradition as it once was, but like the Common Ridings and the Highland Games can still be found if you care to find them.
Archetypally, the summer solstice is the time at which our ego is closest to the Self. There is much more external action than inner reflection and energies are high, consciousness is sharp + focussed and clarity reigns. Or at least, that’s the teaching.
Here I am personally experiencing almost completely the opposite. Dreams are speaking so loudly to me, I am sleeping late despite the 3am sunrise and I feel like I’m creatively pregnant with a multi-limbed baby that is prodding and poking my belly in all the ways, but there’s no way out. Chaos reigns. I wish for a project manager, a marketing manager and a chief executive officer to take over my business.
Maybe I just need a holiday …. it’s certainly the time for it! But there’s also something deeper and wider and transpersonal going on. We’re in a time of collective deep trouble, collective collapse and we’re collectively being called to attention.
Anyway, in my almost disbelief that half a calendar year has passed since the Winter Solstice, I am reminded that at this peak in the solar cycle, clarity might be found, if we care to look….
Do you care to look?
Do you care to pause in your everyday to take a breath and see where you’re at?
Do you care to listen to the murmurings within?
Do you care to listen to the troubles of your time?
Do you care to listen to the spells cast by the land upon which you rest?
Do you care to walk one step in the present, in the past and in the future – all at the same time?
Do you care to make an offering to the ancestors?
Do you care to imagine a different type of future?
When everything seems out of control in my creative life, I find it useful to stop and take stock and so to help me pause in this place, I often look back. In this way, I can accurately assess where I am right here and now. Summer Solstice is a perfect time for it….
These are the types of questions I ask – you may also find them helpful;
What themes have shown up this year so far? What are the links, if any?
What external events, people, resources have influenced you most?
Where have you been impacted in terms of your creativity?
What changes have you been able to make? What are the changes you still need to make?
Where are you able to apply your energy next?
This doesn’t have to take a long time if you don’t have it. Sitting down here and now I can see meaningful answers already.
Maybe my responses will be of interest you? If so, please make of them what you will;
Themes that keep showing up for me include grief, mystery, culture, community, creativity, artistry, ceremony, meaning, ancestry, connection, liberation.
Of the top of my head, here are just some of the interesting films, books, courses I’ve enjoyed so far this year….
The Peter Howson documentary, Prophecy ; Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue ; Amazing Grace with Aretha Franlklin ; Nights of Grief & Mystery ; Soil and Soul – People versus Corporate Power by Alastair McIntosh ; Geomythography of Scotland course with Stuart McHardy ; The Raft Movie ; Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown.
It isn’t a comprehensive list of influences, by any means rather, it is a touch in, a feeling of what has stirred and moved me since the last solstice. It also doesn’t include personal influences – the friends, family and co-creators on Patreon who influence me in the everyday.
The times themselves have impacted me most greatly. These times won’t let me rest. They won’t let me attend my business as usual. Each time I’d like to go off in a comfortable direction, I am hauled right back in. There is no normal anymore. I’m often confused and anxious.
The main change I’ve made is by opening a Patreon to help support me in making sense of these big topics. This is an act of co-creation that I’m still learning and experimenting with. It’s a place for the bigger conversations and the smaller ones – a place for curious and creative minds and is a safe space to open into.
I’ll continue to pour energy into Patreon and my creative business. Even in times of collapse, there’s still art to be made and bills to pay! Additionally, I’m ruminating with fellow conspirators about how we can collectively exist and perhaps even flourish in the strange days ahead.
I’m always open to and interested in your experience of these times…. what does midsummer bring to you? How are you experiencing this time of collapse? Are you affected in your personal, your art and/or business? Leave a comment below, drop me an email, or head on over to Patreon and share more privately.
We can’t do this alone. Let’s do it together!