|Foxgloves and Dandelions|
In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice, 21st of June, is the longest day of light in the year. Áine is the goddess of the summer solstice. She is also the fairy queen. It is a time when we celebrate the regenerative, life-giving sun.
People called on Áine to bring the life force to their fields, to themselves and to their stock. In between the flowering at Bealtaine and the harvest at Lughnasa, the fruit grows through the summer. Áine’s fire impregnates the germ of life into the fruit that will become our harvest. She brings fire and inspiration and awakens the life force within us too.
At this time, the oak becomes the king of the forest, taking over from the holly of winter. Throughout Ireland, great bonfires were lit on the eve of the summer solstice and blessings were sent to the crops. People gathered to sing, eat, drink and make merry. Often, as the fire began to die down, they jumped over it for good luck. Old crops and destructive weeds were burnt to signify, to the Sun Goddess and Sun God, a way of clearing these from the fields, making way for new growth. Wheels made of dry wood were set on fire to roll down the hill, symbolising the sun which, after this night, would begin its slow descent into darkness again.
At the summer solstice, the veil is thinnest between our world and the fairy realms. We can get in touch with the fairy folk or nature spirits, more than at any other time. There is magic in the air.
There was a time when parents would not allow their young children to go outside on the summer solstice. They kept them in the house with the door locked because they were frightened that the fairy folk would take them and leave a fairy changeling in their place. If their child became wilful, they would think they had a changeling. What happened to that lovely, docile child? The fairies must have taken him or her. So, they hid their children at the solstice. In some areas they used dandelions or foxgloves to keep the fairies away. The summer solstice is also the place of Aengus, the Tuath Dé god of love.
On the pre-Celtic wheel, the place of Áine is a time of activity and energy. We can build our energy, work with it and allow ourselves to move into that place of betwixt and between. It tells us not to be too intense and caught up in logic. There is more to life than we can see.
When we stand in the place of Áine, we awaken to that life force and recognise that magic is all around us. We open ourselves to that magical energy, recognising that we are part of that magic and we need it in our lives. The world also needs magic.
Excerpts from The Way of the Seabhean by Amantha Murphy, shaman, healer and seer, scribed by Órfhlaith Ní Chonaill. The Way of the Seabhean will be published by Womancraft Publishing for Brigid's Day (February 1st) 2021.