Summer solstice ritual

Last night a couple of friends and I went out onto the heath to celebrate the summer solstice. We have a tight-knit little group of friends, who feel a deep and abiding love of this land and who choose to celebrate it with spontaneous ritual. Tired as we were, we decided to forego the planned ritual in the backyard around the firepit and instead sought the wildnerness of the heath.

The clouds came in and it looked ominous, but we just smiled and headed out into the wilds with our drums. We came across small herds of young deer almost straight away, maybe a year old, hanging out together like many teenagers do. We made our way to a small wood of beech and pine trees, just before the rain began to fall softly.

The smell of green and growing things was all around us, the canopy of beech trees waving in the wind above us. Beneath the tall, grey trunks lay the remains of a fallen tree, a perfect altar around which we stood, pulling our drums out of our bags. Without a word we spread out around the altar, pulling drums out of our bags and beginning to drum softly, the heartbeat of the land at dusk.

Warming to the heartbeat, we let it die away into the quiet of the deepening dark. We then took a few deep breaths, allowing the energy of the land and the time of year to infuse our spirit. The drums then began to beat again, a rising rhythm of joy and celebration, ringing out to all who could hear. And indeed, many did hear – a herd of young deer came running over to us, to see what was going on, their inquisitive eyes watching us, then recognising us and resuming their normal business.

We began to chant, a chant to Elen, which merged into a chant of the summer solstice. We sang of the land around us, honouring all that was happening in that moment. Fully immersed in the serpent energy swirling around us at this sacred time of the year, we allowed the awen to flow through us, as vehicles for the inspiration to come through and be expressed in deep reverence and joy.

As the darkness deepened we moved to a lighter patch beneath the beech trees, and began to dance. We dance the sacred round, hand to hand.

We then moved out onto the open heath, the wind picking up and the setting sun glowing in the north-west. The crescent moon appeared every now and then from behind tattered clouds in the west. We spoke of our thanks for our blessings, of the courage to walk into the dark half of the year, of the brilliance and our thanks for the light and for the teachings of the coming darkness.

As the sun disappeared beneath the horizon we made our way home, across the sandy soil and past the field of green barley, harvested last week. Where our bodies were previously tired, smiles now replaced yawns, and our bodies hummed with the wonderful energy of the summer solstice.

May we be the awen.

Beltane and bluebells

We headed off across the field, flowers in our hair, to find the bluebell woods at Beltane. Some of us had seen them before; the others were in for a big surprise.

As we neared the gate, the scent of the blossom floated on the breeze, and a haze of purple/blue could be seen. As we passed through, we simply stood and stared at the thick, lush carpet of flowers that covered the entire floor of the little wood. This place was special.

We walked on, talking of faeries and bending down to touch and smell those flowers next to the path. Bees buzzed past, and the greening canopy of leaves overhead whispered in the breeze of the coming summer. We made our way to a little faery knoll, where there was a space of grass and where we could do the first half of our ritual without fear of crushing any of the tiny, precious flowers.

We sat, and prayed to the spirits of the wood. They welcomed us with open arms, a gentle hug of affirmation. We proceeded with our ritual, honouring the gods, the ancestors the four quarters, the three realms. We spoke of our own fires within, of what sparked our passion in life. Our words were witnessed by the circle of present, and all else around us, both seen and unseen.

We then made our offerings and closed down the ritual, heading back to the house. Once there, we lit the twin fires in the backyard, and drummed the energy into being. With drums pounding, we each took our turn walking between the fires, letting their heat and energy fill our souls with the song of flames and smoke, of fuel and light, of love, sex and passion. We let the flames purify our souls, and released what we had held onto all winter that was unnecessary. Once the flames died down, we then jumped the fires, some with skirts held high, with joy in our hearts and smiles on our faces.

The fires burned lower, and we walked once again between the two fires, to be smudged by twin bearers of mugwort, who lit their bundles in the flames and swept them all over our bodies. There was laughter and thoughtfulness, and we then sat down around the fires for the next part of our ritual.

We had prepared words of love; words of love that we wished someone would write or say to us. We wrote love poems to ourselves, with words honouring the fact that love must first come from within. We shared the poems and words with laughter and with tears, and then burned the papers in offering to the spirits. We then stood, delighting in an energy shower/chant that one of our group taught to us on the spot, and then we did a drum healing for all.

All in all, it was the most blessed Beltane ritual that I have ever had the pleasure of attending. This year feels so…. it just feels so much more. Things are happening. Things are moving, changing. The gods are calling, the woods beckon, the fire of light and life ignites in our souls. Welcome summer.