Midsummer is my favorite time of celebration. The longest day of the year is recognized by numerous cultures and embraced by people all over the world. What is it all about, really? It is a magickal time with many traditions and customs to honor it. Anna Franklin explains them all and invites you to embrace the holiday.
Franklin begins with the origins of the Summer Solstice. Technically, the word Solstice means "sun stands still" and the sun may appear to do just that on the longest day. But there is much more to it than that. Midsummer is one of four solar festivals that mark the wheel of the year. It is likely a time that has been noted since people started taking notice of such things, thousands of years ago. The Celts and Druids, the Saxons, Finnish, Romans, Greeks, Islams, Russians, Europeans, Spanish, Americans, and many others, all have some part in the history and traditions known as Summer Solstice.
So what ARE the customs? They are as varied and many as there are those who honor the day. Some more notable customs include bonfires, torchlight processions, circle dancing, and divination. Then there are the very simplest of customs, such as my children staying up late to fill a jar with fireflies and letting them go again with a wish before bed. Franklin explains them all, very well, and goes on to explain the details of the customs and what brought them about. She even explains the conflict of the actual date of the day, the eve and the confusion of the name MID summer, when in many areas, Summer has just begun at the time of celebration.
Being a magickal time, optimum for fairy spotting, and other mystical adventures, "Midsummer" includes a few tips on divination, including Tarot card directions, the use of Runes, playing cards, and Oghams. The use of crystals and gems is something that many cultural traditions adhere to; the inclusion of a list of properties and descriptions is a useful portion of the book. Since Midsummer is the best time to make a magickal wand, Franklin offers instructions, advice and a list of wood properties for your information and a little story of how she followed the teachings in her own quest for a branch. And what book on Midsummer would be complete without a few spells for the beginner to work?
Herb craft is something easily worked on at this time of year, as the herbs have been growing nicely and can even benefit from your taking a sprig or two to dry. "Midsummer" offers plenty of recipes for the herbalist to enjoy, from a simple tea for the nerves to detailed guides to making incense. More substantial recipes for traditional Midsummer foods are also included.
Detailed directions for Rites and Rituals, including handfasting, fill a complete chapter. What follows are several useful appendixes of such things as animal totem descriptions, a calendar of festivals, and Gods and Goddesses. You could not find a more complete guide to the Summer Solstice, and what's more is the tone in which Anna Franklin offers this information is embracing and encouraging. For anyone wanting to celebrate the Summertime, from the simple joy of catching fireflies to the student of cultural traditions, and the experienced circle dancer, "Midsummer" is a must have for your collection. (Review originally written on 6/17/03)