by Melanie Fire Salamander
As a pagan, you may well light a bonfire Midsummer night and jump it, for Litha is a fire festival. Likewise, you may stay up to greet the Midsummer dawn.
If you do, keep a pair of garden shears handy. Midsummer’s Eve at midnight, Midsummer’s Day at dawn and Midsummer noon are prime times to collect plants sacred to the sun or special to the fey. In fact, any magickal herb plucked at Midsummer is said to prove doubly effective and keep better. Divining rods cut on Midsummer’s Eve are said to be more infallible, too. You can charge your charms, depending on their purpose, at midnight, noon or in dawn’s first light.
Charms traditional at Litha include those for courage, dream divination, fertility, invisibility, love, luck, protection, wealth, the restoration of sight and the ability to see the fey. Midsummer is a fey time, both by tradition and observation. The scent of the air is thick, green and juicy; it’s lost its spring astringency and is simply lush. The whole world is stretching its limbs and frolicking. The fey are big on that.
Especially for charms of love, gardening and magickal abilities, the fey are a great help in herb collecting. In exchange, they like gifts of milk and honey, cookies, sweet liqueurs, or any sweet food, drink or liquor. They also like baubles, particularly pretty or shiny. Or cold hard cash — but in coin, not paper, and it’s best if shiny.
To stay in good with the fey and the herbs you collect from, leave enough of the plant or other plants of the type that the herb survives in the spot collected from. Remember too to always ask the plant before taking a cutting, and to wait for an answer. A quid pro quo usually works: a shiny dime, some fertilizer, or a bit of your hair or clothing — whatever you think the plant most wants.
Courage: Tuscans use erba della paura (stachys)collected on Midsummer’s Day as a wash against fear. Steep the herb in hot but not boiling water, then rinse the limbs with long strokes moving outward from the torso. You might substitute wood betony, a relative more common in North America.
Dream divination: Litha is a good time for foretelling things in dreams. Specifically, to induce dreams of love and ensure them coming true, lay a bunch of flowers under your pillow on Midsummer Eve. That’s what the girls of old Scandinavia did.
For effective dream divination, remember to keep a notebook beside your bed. At bedtime, relax, ground and center, then clearly define your question. Meditate on that question until it’s firm in your mind, and assure yourself you will remember your dream on waking. Then go to sleep.
As soon as you wake, record your dream. One trick is to set an alarm clock so you’re wakened artificially, which can help dream recollection. Dreams dreamed on Midsummer’s Eve are said to be more likely to come true.
Fertility for your garden: For a lush garden, mix ashes from the Midsummer bonfire with any seeds yet to plant. (You still have time to plant cosmos and a handful of fall-blooming flowers.) Likewise, for fertility sprinkle bonfire ashes on any flowers or vegetables you have growing.
Fey charms: To see the fey, pick flowers from a patch of wild thyme where the little folk live and place the flowers on your eyes. A four-leafed clover not only grants you a wish but also, carried in your pocket or a charm, gives you the power to see fairies dancing in rings. A good place to look is by oaks, said in Germany to be a favorite place for fey dances. To penetrate fey glamour, make and wear an ointment including fourleaved clovers.
St. John’s wort, also known as ragwort, has a strong connection to the fey and transportation. You might add it to charms to travel quickly. The Irish call the plant the fairy’s horse, and the fey are said to ride it through the air. But beware: The Manx say if you step on a ragwort plant on Midsummer’s Eve after sunset, a fairy horse springs out of the earth and carries you off till sunrise, leaving you wherever you happen to be when the sun comes up.
Invisibility: Collect fern seed on Midsummer Eve for use in charms of invisibility. To become invisible, wear or swallow the seed (that is, the spores) you have collected. Such spores also put you under the protection of spirits.
The fern is said to bloom at midnight on Midsummer Eve, either a sapphire blue or golden yellow depending on your source.
Love: Plant two orpine starts (Sedum telephium) together on Midsummer Eve, one to represent yourself, one to represent your lover. If one withers, the person represented will die. But if both flourish and grow leaning together, you and your lover will marry.
Luck and human fertility: As at Beltaine, leap the Midsummer bonfire for fertility and luck.
Protection: Herbs traditional to Litha (also know as St. John’s Day) in England include St. John’s wort, hawkweed, orpine, vervain, mullein, wormwood and mistletoe. Plucked either at Midsummer’s Eve on midnight or noon Midsummer Day and hung in the house, they protect it from fire and lightning. Worn in a charm on your body, they protect you from disease, disaster and the workings of your enemies.
Sight: Dew gathered Midsummer Eve is said to restore sight.
Wealth: The fern also has a connection with wealth. Sprinkle fern seed in your savings to keep them from decreasing. The alleged golden-yellow fern flower, plucked on Midsummer Eve at midnight, can be used as a dowsing tool to lead to golden treasure. Alternatively (the Russian version), you throw the flower in the air, and it lands on buried treasure. Or, if you’re Bohemian, you pluck the flower and on the same Midsummer Night climb a mountain with blossom in hand. On the mountain, you’ll find gold or have it revealed in a vision.
If you wait patiently till midnight on Midsummer Eve and see no such golden fern flower, perhaps invisibility will have to do.