Hello, I write this to you with an air of contented fatigue- a warm fuzzy sort of feeling. You see yesterday was quite a day. I hosted my first Midsummer Eve Gathering- A ritual I had little knowledge of until I read Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. The novel was a sheer delight. So much so that coming to the end of the book was a rather sobering feeling for me. Yet I knew I had to hold on to Smith’s vivid descriptions of the Midsummer Eve rituals one way or another. Her prose roused within me visions of evanescent summers. I was determined to take this year as an opportunity to ‘commune with nature’ and celebrate nature as part of this age-old tradition.
After some haphazard planning and lots of mucking in, the four of us (Jack, Jose, Jonathan and myself) had managed to assemble props that I thought one might need for a Midsummer Eve gathering. Later on, around 8pm a host of family and friends gathered in the kitchen garden. And what a hoot was to be had by all! I kept eying the sluggish clouds but they soon past by, and the Sun shone as though a king, allowing his rays to attend our party and all the while Luna provocatively splayed her crescent in the blue sky as though a Queen.
Children pranced about the orchard, catching the origami butterflies I had folded hours before. I had the idea of attaching the butterflies to the apple tree branches along with my homemade bunting, this created a magic little space where chairs and loungers where surrounded by tea lights. Drinks, crisps, smoked salmon pate and banana bread took over the trestle tables. We all ploughed our way through the small feast! Hay bales clustered around the campfire. Pimms flowed as conversation and laughter gurgled into the night. The campfire gleamed more effortlessly and flickered deeper in tone as darkness enveloped our Midsummer scene. All the hard work had paid off; it was like a throw back from yesteryear, when garden parties where an expression of freedom and a form of shared entertainment.
Once darkness had truly doused us all in his cloak we lit the ‘ritual bomfire’. It was in a field close by and like pilgrims, we all made our way up to the huge pile of sticks that had been assembled in the form of a teepee. Once lit, the fire seemed to become a living organism. The roar from its belly was loud and the fleeing sparks crackled up into the sky. So majestic was this ritual bomb fire that a good friend of mine (Bella) who happens to be five years old suddenly clasped my hand half in fear and I suspect the other in half wonderment as she euphorically hollered “it looks like the sun’s breath!” And Bella was right. The fire’s light and warmth mesmorised both children and adults alike until it’s breath subsided. Then it was time to return to our campfire where we continued the merriment with music and dancing.
Many a strange thing where once believed to have happened on Midsummer Eve. Some said water and wild flowers obtained magical healing powers. Lovers would lock hands as they leaped the hot tongues of the fire. If they succeeded with little pain it was taken as a good omen for their lasting friendship. Although we did not indulge in these old myths I think we retrieved a united joy and that was magic enough for me!
By the early hours of the morning (21st June- Summer Solstice) our gathering of people was down to a happy group of six. Full of liquor and general gayety of the evening we finally each lay on a hay bail, looking up at the stars. I mentioned out loud how they looked to me as if they might be tiny light bulbs set in newly laid tarmac. During stargazing we counted satellites and the odd shooting star. Time seemed to have lapsed and collectively we became aware of how amiable and meek we must all seem; as we lay peacefully under the watchful, glistening eyes of the universe.
Well, that was my Midsummer Eve extravaganza. I do believe if Dodie Smith could have been there she would have had a ball.
Keep a look out for our Elderflower picking and cordial making!
Also feel free to leave a comment and share your own experience of Midsummer Eve Celebrations.