I didn’t plan to have four days of Summer Solstice, not intentionally… but it was one of the most fantastic and exhausting weekends.
Friday night, Lugaid and I went on a fancy date to our conservation authority’s Summer Solstice dinner and night hike. It was a small group, and we helped prepare the tapas menu, then went outside with cocktails while the chefs finished cooking. Other than the lecture about how Summer Solstice used to be celebrated back in the day, but isn’t now (other than in Sweden, apparently), the dinner portion of the evening was fantastic. We toasted to the Sun at dinner! The night hike was even better — we walked through Purple Woods, learned about all sorts of animals, then emerged from the woods into a meadow filled with fireflies. I can’t even describe it, other than magical. Through the meadow we walked, to the stone circle they were building for their outdoor classroom, where we were given star charts to explore the skies. I learned that a constellation I had named Apatosaur was actually Hercules. We ended the night with sparklers — and the organizer, who is familiar with us and our Grove, said to me, “When’s the last time you’ve held a sparkler?” and I, sheepishly, replied, “Last Summer Solstice…” to which she laughed, saying “Well, you’re into this kind of stuff!”
After arriving home late from dinner, we set our alarm for 5AM, to rise up for the sunrise on the Solstice itself. We sat out on the front porch, greeted the dawn, and made a sunwheel. Using circular weaving on an embroidery hoop, our sunwheel was crafted fairly quickly. At the moment of the Solstice, we faced the sun and gave it praise, using a traditional prayer from the Carmina Gadelica.
Greetings to you, sun of the seasons, as you travel the skies on high,
With your strong steps on the wing of the heights; you are the happy mother of the stars.
You sink down in the perilous ocean without harm and without hurt,
You rise up on the quiet wave like a young queen in flower.
Lugaid wanted to make a fancy breakfast, so we walked to the store to get some ingredients, so he could make poached eggs with hollandaise over asparagus, with bacon, and a baguette dipped in olive oil.
We then went out to buy some plants for our Nature Spirits shrine — thyme and some fancy little groundcover — before I had to interrupt my lovely Solstice day with going to work. And then, the rest of the day was spent in preparation for the Grove’s rite the next day.
Summer Solstice is our Grove’s birthday — our first public rite was held at the Solstice twelve years ago, so at our birthday we bring offering to the Gods of the Grove. Using partial text from the Grove’s Lorica, Lugaid presented the offerings with this prayer:
I bring offering to the Gods of Dancing Lights Grove, from the Folk:
First, to the Earth Mother, who bore us:
We thank you for upholding and sustaining our rites.
To Brighid, who inspires us:
We thank you for your bright flame on our hearth.
To Lugh, who protects us:
We thank you for the swiftness of your spear.
To An Dagda, who teaches us:
We thank you for the depths of your cauldron.
To An Cailleach, who tempers us:
We thank you for the starkness of the stones.
And to Manannán mac Lir, who guides us:
We thank you for the pathways through the mists.
For all this and more, Gods of the Grove, we pour out this offering to you.
Gods of the Grove, accept our offering!
At the Solstice, we also pay our rent to Manannán mac Lir, as he is our Gatekeeper throughout the year. A couple of years ago, we began to ask Lugh to guard the Gates at the Solstice; as he is Manannán’s foster-son (and the Master of All Skills), it stands to reason that he would have the same or similar abilities, and would be willing to join us in honouring his foster-father on this day. We collected the traditional offerings of rushes and yellow flowers, and presented them to him in a canopy we had set aside as a large shrine to him. The ritual went so incredibly well, and we received the Otter (from the Druid Animal Oracle) as our omen, bringing with it the gifts of joy and playfulness and wisdom. After the rite, people were invited to spend private time in the shrine with Manannán.
The next day, Monday, we took our offerings of flowers down to a special tree at the shore of Lake Ontario. We have been taking our offerings there for about five years now, when we decided that our offerings for Manannán should go to the closest thing we have to the sea. There, we found a tree that sits out in the water, and it was very clearly his. Last year, we developed a pilgrimage — a 7 km walk along the creek to this tree, with prayers along the way. This walk is both meditative and joyful, and this year seven people made the journey with three more joining us at the tree.
My most favourite part of this walk is the final approach, and reaching the point where you can hear the waves on the shore. This year, when we reached that point, we saw swans in the lake — two swans, and three herons. We stood amongst the rocks with the waves at our feet and made our offerings there, and felt the mist rise up from the lake bringing with it the absolute overwhelming presence of Manannán mac Lir.