Holding a Midsummer Night’s Fire Ritual


Litha Comments & Graphics
Holding a Midsummer Night’s Fire Ritual

 

The Summer Solstice, known to some as Litha, Midsummer, or Alban Heruin, is the longest day of the year. It’s the time when the sun is most powerful, and new life has begun to grow within the earth. After today, the nights will once more begin to grow longer, and the sun will move further away in the sky.

If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, consecrate a space, or call the quarters, now is the time to do so. This ritual is a great one to perform outside, so if you have the opportunity to do this without scaring the neighbors, take advantage of it.

Begin this ritual by preparing the wood for a fire, without lighting it yet. While the ideal situation would have you setting a huge bonfire alight, realistically not everyone can do that. If you’re limited, use a table top brazier or fire-safe pot, and light your fire there instead.

Say either to yourself or out loud:

Today, to celebrate Midsummer, I honor the Earth itself. I am surrounded by tall trees. There is a clear sky above me and cool dirt beneath me, and I am connected to all three. I light this fire as the Ancients did so long ago.

At this point, start your fire. Say:

The Wheel of the Year has turned once more
The light has grown for six long months
Until today.

Today is Litha, called Alban Heruin by my ancestors.
A time for celebration.
Tomorrow the light will begin to fade
As the Wheel of the Year
Turns on and ever on.

Turn to the East, and say:

From the east comes the wind,
Cool and clear.
It brings new seeds to the garden
Bees to the pollen
And birds to the trees.

Turn to Face South, and say:

The sun rises high in the summer sky
And lights our way even into the night
Today the sun casts three rays
The light of fire upon the land, the sea, and the heavens

Turn to face West, saying:

From the west, the mist rolls in
Bringing rain and fog
The life-giving water without which
We would cease to be.

Finally, turn to the North, and say:

Beneath my feet is the Earth,
Soil dark and fertile
The womb in which life begins
And will later die, then return anew.

Build up the fire even more, so that you have a good strong blaze going.
If you wish to make an offering to the gods, now is the time to do it. For this sample, we’re including the use of a triple goddess in the invocation, but this is where you should substitute the names of the deities of your personal tradition.

Say:

Alban Heruin is a time of rededication
To the gods. The triple goddess watches over me.
She is known by many names.
She is the Morrighan, Brighid, and Cerridwen.
She is the washer at the ford,
She is the guardian of the hearth,
She is the one who stirs the cauldron of inspiration.

I give honor to You, O mighty ones,
By all your names, known and unknown.
Bless me with Your wisdom
And give life and abundance to me
As the sun gives life and abundance to the Earth.

I make this offering to you
To show my allegiance
To show my honor
To show my dedication
To You.

Cast your offering into fire. Conclude the ritual by saying:
Today, at Litha, I celebrate the life
And love of the gods
And of the Earth and Sun.
Take a few moments to reflect upon what you have offered, and what the gifts of the gods mean to you. When you are ready, if you have cast a circle, dismantle it or dismiss the quarters at this time. Allow your fire to go out on its own.

Source:
Author: Patti Wigington
Website: About.com

Celebrating Other Spirituality 365 Days a Year – Midsummer Eve/Summer Solstice


Litha Comments & Graphics
June 20, 21, and 22

Midsummer Eve/Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice is celebrated between June 20 and June 22—the longest day and shortest night of the year. The festival of Midsummer venerates the potential of the life-sustaining powers of fire and water, forces that were vital to our ancestors’ survival. It was believed that fire would help keep the sun alive and that the blessing of water wells would continue their flow to nurture the parched earth. Without sun and water, there would be no crops and all would perish.

One of the most popular customs that grew out of the early fertility rites was that of jumping or leaping over Midsummer bonfires. The idea being, the higher one jumped, the higher the crops would grow.

Another symbol that was popularized at this time was the Wheel. The turning of the Wheel represented the turning or progression of the seasons. Wheels decorated with brightly colored ribbons and fresh flowers. Lighted candles were placed on them, and then they were set afloat on the lakes and rivers.

Midsummer Eve and Midsummer Night are genuinely thought to be particularly uncanny times. It was reasoned that certain plants were endowed with magickal properties on this night, that, if gathered before sunrise, could be used for protection against all evil spirits and forces.

With the sun at its zenith, Midsummer was, and still is, a time for marriages, family celebrations, and coming-of-age parties.

Symbolically, Midsummer is the time to nurture those goals you made at the beginning of the year as you reflect on the progress you made toward bringing them into fruition.

Celebrating Litha: Hold a Midsummer Night’s Fire Ritual

Hold a Midsummer Night’s Fire Ritual

 

The Summer Solstice, known to some as Litha, Midsummer, or Alban Heruin, is the longest day of the year. It’s the time when the sun is most powerful, and new life has begun to grow within the earth. After today, the nights will once more begin to grow longer, and the sun will move further away in the sky.

If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, consecrate a space, or call the quarters, now is the time to do so.

This ritual is a great one to perform outside, so if you have the opportunity to do this without scaring the neighbors, take advantage of it.

Begin this ritual by preparing the wood for a fire, without lighting it yet. While the ideal situation would have you setting a huge bonfire alight, realistically not everyone can do that. If you’re limited, use a table top brazier or fire-safe pot, and light your fire there instead.

Say either to yourself or out loud:

Today, to celebrate Midsummer, I honor the Earth itself. I am surrounded by tall trees. There is a clear sky above me and cool dirt beneath me, and I am connected to all three. I light this fire as the Ancients did so long ago.

At this point, start your fire. Say:

The Wheel of the Year has turned once more
The light has grown for six long months
Until today.

Today is Litha, called Alban Heruin by my ancestors.
A time for celebration.
Tomorrow the light will begin to fade
As the Wheel of the Year
Turns on and ever on.

Turn to the East, and say:

From the east comes the wind,
Cool and clear.
It brings new seeds to the garden
Bees to the pollen
And birds to the trees.

Turn to Face South, and say:

The sun rises high in the summer sky
And lights our way even into the night
Today the sun casts three rays
The light of fire upon the land, the sea, and the heavens

Turn to face West, saying:

From the west, the mist rolls in
Bringing rain and fog
The life-giving water without which
We would cease to be.

Finally, turn to the North, and say:

Beneath my feet is the Earth,
Soil dark and fertile
The womb in which life begins
And will later die, then return anew.

Build up the fire even more, so that you have a good strong blaze going.

If you wish to make an offering to the gods, now is the time to do it. For this sample, we’re including the use of a triple goddess in the invocation, but this is where you should substitute the names of the deities of your personal tradition.

Say:

Alban Heruin is a time of rededication
To the gods.
The triple goddess watches over me.
She is known by many names.
She is the Morrighan, Brighid, and Cerridwen.
She is the washer at the ford,
She is the guardian of the hearth,
She is the one who stirs the cauldron of inspiration.

I give honor to You, O mighty ones,
By all your names, known and unknown.
Bless me with Your wisdom
And give life and abundance to me
As the sun gives life and abundance to the Earth.

I make this offering to you
To show my allegiance
To show my honor
To show my dedication
To You.

Cast your offering into fire. Conclude the ritual by saying:

Today, at Litha, I celebrate the life
And love of the gods
And of the Earth and Sun.

Take a few moments to reflect upon what you have offered, and what the gifts of the gods mean to you. When you are ready, if you have cast a circle, dismantle it or dismiss the quarters at this time. Allow your fire to go out on its own.

 

Source:

Gothic Gardening

Gothic Gardening

A Garden as Black as Your Cloak!

by mAlice

Need an idea for your garden? Don’t want the same old pansies and marigolds this year? Here’s some ideas for making your garden a more gothic place…

Gardening for the Fey

Let’s get one thing straight here: Fairies are not cute. Shakespeare made them seem cute, and Disney finished off the job (sorry, Heather, but it’s true). The fey are capricious, mischievous, arrogant, menacing and sometimes downright evil and dangerous to humans. The fey include elves, fairies, gnomes, trolls, goblins and a host of other supernatural beings who are somewhere “between men and angels.” Almost all of these beings have a very close connection to nature.

Rosemary: Sicilians thought that this was a favorite plant of the fairies and that young fairies would take the form of snakes and lie amongst the branches, and the baby fairies would sleep in the flowers.

Ragwort: Also known as St. John’s wort, this plant has a strong connection with the fey. In Ireland, it’s called fairy’s horse, since supposedly fairies would ride through the air on it. Leprechauns are supposed to have buried their treasure underneath the roots of this plant. And on the Isle of Man, there is the belief that if you stepped upon a ragwort plant on St. John’s Eve (Midsummer Eve) after sunset, a fairy horse would spring up out of the earth and carry you off until sunrise, at which time it would leave you wherever you happened to be.

Elder: Almost all trees are home to some sort of elven kind, including elm, oak, willow, yew, fir, holly and so on. However, elder trees have the highest elf population. The Elder Mother who dwells within the tree is very protective of her domain, and it is taboo to cut part of the tree without asking her permission first. Stories tell of the Elder Mother tormenting children who were in cradles of elderwood (which had not been asked for) by pulling them by the legs. The chant for asking permission is:

“Old Woman, Old Woman, Give me some of your wood And when I am dead I’ll give you some of mine.”

And if you stand under an elder tree at midnight on Midsummer Eve in Denmark, you will see Toly, the King of the Elves, go by.

Oak: In Germany, this is the fairies’ favorite dwelling place, and they are especially fond of dancing around it.

Barley: A common grain, but one of the main foods of the fairy. Fairies would often borrow oatmeal from storehouses and return a double measure of barley as repayment.

Silverweed: Also known as silver cinquefoil, the roots of this plant were another of the fairies’ favorite foods, which they called brisgein. However, it likes to grow in marshy areas, so cultivating it might be a problem.

Heather: This is another of the fairies’ favorite foods.

Wild thyme: Another herb that was thought to be home to fairies, since they liked the aromatic flowers and spent their leisure time among them. If you picked the flowers from a patch of wild thyme where the little folk did live and placed them on your eyes, you would be able to see the fey.

Cowslip: This flower is also known as fairy cups in Lincolnshire and was often a hiding place for frightened fairies. At dawn, as the light shines on the dewdrops, the fairies “hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.”

Ferns: This plant was guarded by Oberon on Midsummer Night, since this is when the fern would flower – a beautiful sapphire blue – and Oberon wanted to prevent mortals from obtaining the fern seed. If you managed to collect it despite him, you would be under the protection of spirits, and while you carried the seed it would render you invisible.

Clover: Finding a four-leaved clover grants you a wish and gives you the power to see the fairies dancing in their fairy rings. This is also the main ingredient of fairy ointment, which gives you the power to penetrate the fairies’ glamour and see them as they truly are. Be careful, though: If you unknowingly carry a four-leaved clover (in a bundle of grass), the fairies have the power to enchant you.

Foxglove: The flowers serve as petticoats for the fairies, and in Ireland they serve as fairies’ gloves. Also, flowers are used as thimbles when fairies mend their clothing.

Furze bushes: The cobwebs collected on their branches are used to make fairies’ mantles.

Stichwort: In Devonshire, people do not pick this for fear they be “pixy led.” Held in special honor by fairies.

Strawberries: In Bavaria, fairies are very fond of strawberries and peasants will tie a basket of strawberries between cows’ horns to assure an abundance of milk.

Rose: In Germany and Scandinavia, this plant is under special protection of dwarfs and elves, both who are ruled by King Laurin, Lord of the Rose Garden.

Cabbage stalks: Also serve as transportation for fairies, who ride these like horses.

Cuscuta Epithymum: In Jersey, known as “fairies’ hair.”

Peziza Coccinea: Used for fairies’ hats.

Elecampane: In Denmark, this is known as “elf-dock.”

Toadstools: These are thought to be “stylized pixy stools” and in the north of Wales are called “fairy tables.”

Pyrus Japonica: Used as kindling for fairy fires.

Tulips: Flowers are used as cradles for fairy children.

Wood anemone: Shelters fairies in wet weather.

Wood sorrel: From Wales, its white flowers are known as “fairy bells” and are used to summon fairies to their reveries.

Mallow: The fruit of this plant is called “fairy cheeses” in the North of England.

Nightwort: Evil elves prepare poison in this plant. It is also one of the sacred plants of the Dutch Alven, along with elf-leaf, which they watered and strengthened against the coming day. The Alven would sicken or kill people or cattle that touched the plants.

Globe flower: Also called the “troll flower.”

Hawthorn: In Brittany and Ireland, also called “fairy thorn,” this tree is the trysting place of fairies. To pick a branch or leaf from a hawthorn is to court the displeasure of the fairies.

Wormwood: This is “Dian’s bud,” which Oberon used to remove the enchantment from Titania. Wormwood is also protection against the Rusalky of Russia, who will tickle you to death if they find you in the woods without some of this in your pockets.

Flax: The flowers are not only protection against sorcery but also are beloved of Queen Hulda, who leads a procession through the valley between Kroppbuhl and Unterlassen while the flax is blooming. Fairy-flax is used by the fairies to weave all their linen. Poludnitsa, the Noon Woman, interrogates women she finds in the flax fields at noon, to make sure they know how to cultivate and spin flax. If they answer incorrectly, she kills them.

To prepare a sleeping place for Queen Titania, you should plant these flowers:

“Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, Quite over-canopied with lush woodbine, With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine, There sleeps Titania sometime of the night Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.”

Any fruit out of season or remaining after the harvest is the property of the fairies. In the West of England, strays are left to assure fairy goodwill. Fairies, like witches, don’t like yellow flowers and will go out of their way to avoid them.

Many thanks to my gothic garden researcher, Anagram…..

Ritual Death: The Adonis Garden

Adonis was worshipped as a god of vegetation, or at least a god associated with vegetation, in the Hellenic world. (I won’t discuss the radically differing viewpoints on this.) Adonis was born of Myrrha, the myrrh tree, seduced both Persephone and Aphrodite with his androgynous charm and died young, killed by his ineptitude in a boar hunt, and his body was found in a bed of lettuce. Some tales even have Aphrodite hiding him in that bed of lettuce.

Devotees of his cult, mostly concubines and courtesans, would grow on their rooftops a garden with fast-sprouting plants in baskets and small pots, which surrounded a statue of the god. The plants were always lettuce, barley, wheat and fennel. The rites of Adonia were performed in the middle of the summer, during the time when the sun was at its hottest, so these plants quickly sent up tender young shoots and just as quickly withered in the heat from the sun. They were allowed to grow for only eight days, after which the dry, withering sprouts were throw into the sea, along with an image of the god.

Lettuce, in particular, seems to have a lot of associations with death and sterility in the minds of the Greeks. Of course, it was in a lettuce bed where Adonis met his fate. The Greeks considered lettuce a “wet” plant, and this wet nature suggested to them bogs and decaying corpses. In fact, in one of his comedies, Euboulos wrote, “Lettuce is a food for corpses.”

The Somber Garden

This is the original theme that gave me the idea for Gothic Gardening and will obviously discuss black (or near-black, since in nature black is a fairly rare color) plants. It seems that about once a month on rec.gardens someone asks the question “Are there any black flowers I can grow?” This list is not all-inclusive, but it’s as complete as possible.

Note: I’ve included many plants in this list that I have no earthly idea of where to find them.

Flowers

Roses: I’m sorry to say, there’s just no such thing as a black rose. I could probably write an entire column on near-black roses alone, since this seems to be the black flower everyone wants (but not me… I’d rather have true-black tulips). “Taboo” claims to be the nearest yet, but I found the flowers to be fairly red. The Taboo rose came from Germany, which does earn it some goth points, but it’s still not dark enough for me. In Germany, it’s known as Barkarole. The experts on rec.gardens.roses recently discussed the question of black roses, and the list of cultivars I have is derived mainly from them. I haven’t personally seen many of these roses, so I can’t vouch for just how dark they are, and I am most certainly not a rose expert….

(Note: Many people have e-mailed me to tell me many of these roses are nowhere near black. Caveat emptor.)

  • “Ink Spots”: supposed to be slightly darker than “Taboo” and also supposed to be better able to withstand heat. One description was “sooty black over fiery red.”
  • “Ingrid Bergman”: dark red rose, highly recommended.
  • “Oklahoma”: dark red buds, a dark, purplish red bloom, hybrid tea rose, also highly recommended.
  • “Sympathie”: a climbing rose with dark red buds.
  • “Black Jade”: a miniature rose that is dark red, reportedly about the same shade as “Ink Spots.”
  • “Brian Donne”: another miniature, slightly lighter than “Black Jade.”
  • “Love’s Promise”: a black/red rose with a raspberry scent.
  • “Tuscany” and “Tuscany Superb”: antique roses, deep red with blackish overtones and lots of fragrance.
  • “The Squire”: a David Austin rose with near-black buds and dark red blooms.
  • “Souvenir du Dr. Jamain”: a Hybrid Perpetual, deep burgundy, with some purple.
  • “Nuits de Young”: a purple-black moss rose.
  • “The Prince”: a dark red-purple English rose.
  • “Papa Meilland”: dark red-black in colder climates.
  • “Kentucky Derby”: similar to Papa Meilland.
  • “Onyx”: a Hybrid Tea, dark red-black.
  • “Black Tea”: not really black, but brown.
  • “Deep Secret”: red-black buds, dark red flower, fragrant.
  • “Black Lady”: again, near-black buds and dark red blooms.
  • “Cardinal de Richelieu”: a dark purple Gallica rose.
  • “Deuil de Paul Fontaine”: a dusky purple-red moss rose. Goth points for the name – it translates to “mourning for Paul Fontaine.”

Hollyhocks: Found labeled as Althaea rosea nigra, A. nigra or “The Watchman,” these are single saucer-shaped blooms that are a deep, chocolate maroon. This was grown by Thomas Jefferson. I wonder if he was secretly a goth….

Snapdragon: The “Black Prince” cultivar has foliage that is dark green with dark reddish maroon overlay. When it flowers, the blooms are very dark, velvety crimson.

Gladiolus: Cultivars I’ve seen listed that all seem to be dark black-red, rather than a true black, are “Morocco,” “Black Stallion,” “Black Swan,” and “Bewitched.”

Canna lily: The “Black Knight” canna lily doesn’t look that dark to me. It’s supposed to be deep red with burgundy foliage.

Sunflowers: There isn’t any such thing as a black sunflower, but there are several options for dark colored ones… which are a dramatic change from the big, bright yellow ones people are used to. Deep-hued “Evening Sun” sunflowers have deep, rich, earthen tones (mahogany-red, rusty bronze, deep gold, burgundy and bicolored combinations all with dark center disks). Two other dark cultivars I’ve seen are “Floristan” and “Velvet Queen.”

Salvia: Andean Silverleaf or Peruvian Sage, Salvia discolor, has spikes of dark purple-black flowers and silvery foliage. The scent is a combination of fruit, eucalyptus and resin.

Tulips: “Queen of Night” dwarf tulips are a deep velvety maroon, as is “Black Diamond.” Supposedly, when tulip breeding was an art several centuries ago, there were black tulips. This is the closest I’ve seen commercially available. There’s also a “Black” Parrot tulip, which is deep purple and has “whipped” petals, and a “Black Hero” double tulip, which is derived from “Queen of Night” and has flowers resembling a peony. I’ve also seen a listing for the “Black Swan Tulip,” Tulipa gesneriana, but I don’t know how black it is, or if you can buy it.

Bachelor’s Buttons: Also know as cornflowers, there is a deep maroon variety, known as “Black Ball” or “Black Boy.”

Columbine: Aquilegia vulgaris has a deep maroon and white spurred variety, which is known as “Magpie” or “William Guiness.” A. atrata is the black columbine and has purple-black flowers. A. viridiflora has jade green and black flowers.

Cosmos: The chocolate cosmos has burgundy-black flowers and a slight chocolate scent.

Kangaroo paws: This flower is native to Australia. The black kangaroo paw has flowers and stems that are covered by black hairs – the green barely peeks through.

Fritillaria: F. camschatcensis, also known as the black rice root lily, black lily, chocolate lily, or Black Sarana, has bell-like flowers that are ruby-black. F. davisii has deep-green bell flowers that are heavily tessellated with purplish-brown so they appear black. F. persica has spikes of very dark plum flowers.

Daylilies: The darkest daylily cultivar I’ve seen is “Smoking Gun,” which is a maroon-brown-black color with yellow star points. There are lots deep red-black and purple-black daylilies, including “Eleventh Hour,” “Night Raider,” “Cairo Night,” “Vintage Bordeaux,” “Dominic,” “Ed Murray,” “Khans Knight,” “Midnight Magic,” “Night Wings,” “Super Babe” and “Troubled Waters.”

Scabiosa: Also known as the pincushion flower, the “Satchmo” variety is a deep maroon. These are excellent cut flowers.

Hyacinth: “Distinction” isn’t that close to black but is deep cherry with a maroonish-black stripe down the center of each petal. Simply gorgeous.

Dianthus: Dianthus includes pinks, carnations and sweet william. Dianthus nigricans has very dark flowers, and there is a cultivar known as “King of Black,” which I haven’t seen, but I suspect is dark. There is also a cultivar that is deep purple-black with white edging, which I’ve seen named “Velvet and Lace” or “Black and White Minstrel.” I’ve seen mention of a black carnation, but the closest I’ve found is a deep crimson variety, “Douglas Phu.” Sweet william, Dianthus barbatus, has a variety called “Sooty,” which is near black and has green-black leaves.

Dahlia: The pompom form of this flower has several deep purple-black varieties available, including “Glenplace,” “Moorplace,” and “Black Tuber.”

Nemophilia: This is a very short plant with penny sized blooms. “Penny Black” has flowers black flowers edged with white, and “Freckles” has white flowers covered with tiny black spots.

Poppy: The peony-flowered poppy has a black cultivar, sometimes listed as “Black Cloud.” These are a deep purple-black.

Iris: Unlike other flowers, black varieties seem to plentiful in the iris family. Bearded iris varieties include “Superstition,” “Study in Black,” “Licorice Stick,” “Swazi Princess,” “Night Ruler,” “Hello Darkness,” “Paint It Black,” “Night Owl,” “Black Tie Affair,” and “Before the Storm.” There’s the “Black Gamecock” Louisiana iris. And the Chinese iris, Iris chrysographes, has a black, non-frilly flower.

Butterfly Bush: The “Black Knight” cultivar has blue-black flowers.

Hellebores: Hellebores are one of those flowers that have a range of colors from white to near-black. They are prized by many because they are in bloom in late winter, when not much else is growing, let alone blooming. The H. orientalis hybrid “Atrorubens” is fairly easy to find and has plum colored flowers. However, there are blacker varieties out there; they’re just more difficult to find. Some blackish-purple strains I’ve seen listed include “Alberich,” “Andromeda,” “Ballard’s Black,” “Black Knight,” “Castor,” “Pollux” and “Sorcerer.” “Nigricans” is indigo blue-black, and “Philip Ballard” is a very dark blue-black. I’ve also seen some stunning pictures of H. torquatus, which grows wild in (the former) Yugoslavia. The flower color is variable, with dark plum, violet-black, grey (!), and green inside/black outside all seen. This is often the species used to hybridize H. orientalis to get the darker colored flowers.

Geraneum: Geraneum phaeum has very dark purple flowers. It was once known as Mourning Widow because its flowers are so dark.

Sweet Peas: Grown for the blooms, not a vegetable. “Pageantry” is a beautiful deep red-purple. Sweet peas are found most commonly in mixes, though, and almost all the mixes will include a deep maroon or deep purple one.

Primrose: There are very deep purple primroses that look almost black available at most nurseries. There is also a gold-laced primrose, “Black and Gold,” which has a yellow eye at the center of the flower, nearly black petals and a rim of yellow on each petal (the “lacing”). There are show auriculas that have white centers and black petals, although the color of the petals is obscured by either a grey-green or green color, so that there’s only a ring of black around the center.

Heather: The darkest colored heather I’ve seen mentioned is a cultivar of Erica cinerea known as “Velvet Night.” The blooms are supposed to be purple-black.

Rudbeckia: An unusual daisy, “Green Wizard” has only green sepals (no petals), and a prominent black cone. Very odd.

Viola or pansy: Violas and pansies are not the same flowers but are often listed interchangeably. The black pansy really looks black, although you can see the slightest hint or purple around the yellow eye. I’ve seen it listed as “Bowles Black,” “Black Prince,” “Molly Sanderson,” and “Black Magic.”

The Gothic Gardening “Black Thumb” award goes to Clive Lundquist for sending all of the following suggestions for black flowers:

  • Arum conophalloides var. caudatum: Gorgeous, deep purplish black arum.
  • Eminium rauwolfii: As above but very black. Needs dryness.
  • Trillium sessile: Commoner, blacky/purplish “flower.”
  • Calochortus nigrescens: Black hairy flowers but needs warmth and likes it dry in winter.
  • Roscoea scillifolia: Very black, very small, short-lived flowers
  • Gladiolus atroviolaceus: Needs dry summer, black flowers in spring.
  • Arisaema ringens / triphyllum: Black, gorgeously gothy.
  • A. speciosum / griffithii: Brownish but still very gothy aroids.
  • Bellevalia pycnantha: Deep browny-black grape hyacinth.
  • Muscari commutatum: As above.
  • Iris nicolai: Black and white flowers in midwinter (often called I. rosenbachiana black and white).

Ornamentals

Clover: Black four-leaf clover, Trifolium repens “Purpurascens,” is actually chocolate brown with light green edges.

Tiarella: False Miterwort has a new cultivar known as “Inkblot,” which has glossy leaves that are green on the edges, but blackish in the center. It has light pink flowers in the spring (cut ’em off!).

Heuchera: The “Pewter Moon” variety of this plant has purplish black leaves with a silver gloss.

Pussy willow: The black pussy willow comes from Japan. The catkins are so dark that they appear black against the red twigs.

Black Mondo Grass: Ophiopogon planiscapus “Nigrescens” is not actually a grass (it’s really a member of the lily family). It has purple-black leaves and small pink flowers that are followed by glossy black berries.

Bamboo: Phylostachys nigra has pitch black stems. Warning: Bamboo is usually invasive. Grow it in a pot.

Ornamental Sweet Potato: Ipomoea batatas “Blackie” has black leaves and stems.

Taro: The “Jet Black” ornamental taro is actually deep burgundy.

Fountain grass: Black fountain grass, Pennisetum alope “Moudry,” has ribbon foliage with ebony seed plumes. P. staceum “Rubrum” has bronze-purple leaves and flower spikes.

Smoke Bush: The “Royal Purple” cultivar has foliage that opens red but matures to a deep purple. The flowers are feathery purple plumes.

Carpet Bugle: Ajuga “Royalty” has midnight purple leaves. This is used as a ground cover and can be walked on!

Ornamental Pepper: Capsicum annuum “Black Prince” has black-purple foliage. The young fruit is red but turns black as it matures.

Durum (ornamental wheat): “Black Bearded” durum has cream-colored heads that splay out into 4- to 6-inch stiff bristles, which turn dark black when mature. “Black Eagle” has glumes that are partially black and continue onto the awns.

Broomcorn (sorghum): Two varieties are of interest: “Black Kafir” has black club-shaped heads. “Black Amber” has amber seeds covered with a shiny black coating.

Oats: Yet another ornamental grain, the “French Black” cultivar has jet black heads. All of the ornamental grains work well for unusual flower arrangements.

Vegetables

Everyone knows eggplants are nearly black, but here are a few unusual black vegetables….

Tomato: “Black Krim,” “Black Prince” and “Southern Nights” are all varieties that produce black tomatoes, which are really a dark brown-red or garnet. All of these varieties are heirlooms from Russia. The reason these tomatoes are black is that they retain their green pigment even as they develop the red pigment… other tomatoes lose the green.

Lettuce: The “Ibis Hybrid” variety is such a dark red that it appears black. Another “greens” alternative is Tatsoi, which is an oriental green with black-green spoon shaped leaves.

Bell pepper: There are chocolate peppers, which are really dark brown, but closer to black is the “Purple Beauty” cultivar, which as you may have guessed is very dark purple.

Black Spanish radish: One of the oldest of heirloom vegetables, black Spanish radish has been cultivated since the sixteenth century. The skin of the roots is deep, deep, purple, almost black, with white flesh. Of course, you can’t see the roots while it’s growing, but you could always prepare a gothic salad of black lettuce, black tomato, black bell pepper and black radish.

Black Aztec corn: A sweet corn that should be eaten when the kernels are white but will turn black when fully mature. This was apparently the first corn noted by the Europeans in 1493.

Basil: This is an herb, not a vegetable. The “Dark Opal” variety has very dark purple leaves. It is excellent for flavoring vinegars and oils.

Snap Beans: The “Royal Burgundy” or “Purple Tepee” varieties have beans that are almost black – but unfortunately turn green when cooked.

Fruit: This is a fairly common province of black in nature, including black cherries, black raspberries, blackberries and black plums. These are all really common, so look them up yourself.

The Night Garden

Since you gothy types rarely seen the light of day, what good does a garden do you? Well, here is the answer: a garden that consists of night-fragrant or night-blooming plants. Of course, you can’t really see that black garden at night. The key color here is white. White glows in moonlight. And there are several varieties of plants that bloom exclusively at night, or whose flowers may be open during the day but don’t release their scent until the evening.

Night-Flowering Plants

Evening primrose: “These soft-scented flowers have four satiny heart-shaped petals that come together forming 2-inch open cups with frilly long stamens. When they open in the evening, the blossoms are a soft clear white that gradually fades into pink as the flowers mature. Their luscious scent reminds us of a cross between honeysuckle and lemon custard. The flowers open every evening throughout summer until first frost.”

Sweet-scented nicotiana: These nicotianas (yes, that’s the tobacco plant) have creamy-white tubular flowers borne in graceful sprays on softly draping branches. The 2- to 3-inch trumpet-shaped blossoms are closed in the daytime, but in the late afternoon and evening they fill the air with a jasmine-like scent.

Moonflowers: These 6-inch trumpet flowers unfurl in slow motion every night just at sunset. Pure white with faint green tracings, the blossoms are very fragrant all evening. By noon, the flowers dwindle and close and are barely seen in the dense foliage.

“Midnight Candy” night phlox: “These tidy upright plants bear umbrella-like clusters of small, delicate phlox-like flowers. The insides of the petals are pure white, and the outsides are a satiny maroon with a hint of white where petals overlap. During the day, the flowers are tightly closed, just showing a hint of color. As dusk comes on, there is a magic moment when they open like a display of little firework stars, releasing a delicious almond/ honey/vanilla-like fragrance that wafts throughout the garden.”

Angel’s Trumpet: Datura meteloides has 6-inch white trumpet flowers that open at night and remain open well into the following day. This flower is a favorite subject of Georgia O’Keefe. This was also used by California Indians as a narcotic for the youth to seek their visions and be initiated into society. Warning: poisonous. Don’t eat it to get a high.

Evening stock: Many-branched 1½-foot plants have grey-green leaves and 1-inch star-shaped flowers of very pale violet. The blooms are closed tightly all day but open at dusk to pour out a fantastic spicy fragrance.

Nottingham catchfly, night-flowering catchfly and white campion: These are all members of the genus Silene, which also has several day-blooming members. These plants have sticky stems, hence the name “catchfly.” The odor of the Nottingham catchfly is described as sweet and reminiscent of hyacinths, and its flowers open on three successive nights before withering.

Bouncing Bet (also known as soapwort): With either pink or white blossoms, this plant fills the night with sweet perfume. Also used to make detergent – hence the soapwort moniker.

Four o’Clocks: In late afternoon, Mirabilis jalapa’s 2-inch trumpet-shaped flowers unfurl, releasing a rich jasmine-like perfume. These plants, with blooms in pink, rose, white, orange and yellow, are very easy to grow and fast growing. They’re also known as “Marvel of Peru.”

August lily (fragrant Hosta): The leaves are about six inches long and four inches wide, with eight pairs of impressed veins. The white, waxy, trumpet-shaped flowers appear on 30-inch scapes, and each is five inches long and three inches wide. The scent is of pure honey.

Vesper iris: A native of Mongolia, the sweetly fragrant flowers are a dull greenish white spotted with brownish purple or reddish purple with white splotches. Like many iris blossoms, they become spirally twisted after flowering.

There are also about 50 different cultivars of daylilies that bloom at night. Some of my favorites are called “After the Fall” (tangerine and copper blend with yellow halo), “Jewel of Hearts” (dark red flowers with a red-black center), “Moon Frolic” (near white), “Toltec Sundial” (fragrant sunshine yellow) and “Witches Dance” (dark red with a green throat).

Night-Fragrant Plants

Many plants will have flowers open during the day, but they don’t release their scent until evening.

Perfumed fairy lily: Chlidanthus fragrans has a rich lily fragrance at night. Three or four yellow, funnel-shaped flowers are carried on stems up to a foot high.

Night gladiolus: Gladiolus tristus has creamy yellow blossoms that are intensely fragrant at night with a spicy-sweet perfume, and the unusual leaves look like a pinwheel cut in half.

Tuberose: Victorians loved this sweet and heady (almost overpowering) fragrance. The flowers are waxy white and two inches long.

Carolina jessamine (also known as evening trumpet flower): The evergreen leaves surround sweetly fragrant, bell-shaped flowers of bright yellow that are particularly sweet as evening approaches. This grows wild in the South.

Finally, some suggestions for plants that don’t necessarily bloom only at night or release fragrance then but which have white blooms to glow in moonlight:

  • “Purity” cosmos
  • “Armour White” verbena
  • “Alba” foxglove
  • Summer hyacinth
  • “Bride” impatiens
  • “Alba” bleeding heart
  • “Moonraker” Cape fuchsia
  • “Perry’s White” oriental poppy
  • “White Swan” camellia
  • White forsythia
  • “Alba” columbine
  • “White Lace” Dianthus

And for a note of interest: silver thyme, “Alba” eggplant (egg-shaped fruits of glistening white), “Casper” or “Boo” white pumpkins and Fraxinella (the gas plant: at night, if you hold a match to the plant, either the plant glows with a blue flame – that doesn’t harm it – or the flowers burn with an orange flame and release the smell of lemon into the air).

The perfect accessory for any night garden, besides some lovely gargoyles, would be a moondial.

There are many, many more plants that can be included in the night garden. If you want more information, I suggest either The Evening Garden by Peter Loewer, or Evening Gardens by Cathy Barash, both written exclusively about gardening for the evening and night hours.

A Midsummer Night’s Lore

by Melanie Fire Salamander

Cinquefoil, campion, lupine and foxglove nod on your doorstep; Nutka rose, salal bells, starflower and bleeding-heart hide in the woods, fully green now. Litha has come, longest day of the year, height of the sun. Of old, in Europe, Litha was the height too of pagan celebrations, the most important and widely honored of annual festivals.

Fire, love and magick wreathe ’round this time. As on Beltaine in Ireland, across Europe people of old leaped fires for fertility and luck on Midsummer Day, or on the night before, Midsummer Eve, according to Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend.Farmers drove their cattle through the flames or smoke or ran with burning coals across the cattle pens. In the Scottish Highlands, herders circumnabulated their sheep with torches lit at the Midsummer fire.

People took burning brands around their fields also to ensure fertility, and in Ireland threw them into gardens and potato fields. Ashes from the fire were mixed with seeds yet to plant. In parts of England country folk thought the apple crop would fail if they didn’t light the Midsummer fires. People relit their house fires from the Midsummer bonfire, in celebration hurled flaming disks heavenward and rolled flaming wheels downhill, burning circles that hailed the sun at zenith.

Midsummer, too, was a lovers’ festival. Lovers clasped hands over the bonfire, tossed flowers across to each other, leaped the flames together. Those who wanted lovers performed love divination. In Scandinavia, girls laid bunches of flowers under their pillows on Midsummer Eve to induce dreams of love and ensure them coming true. In England, it was said if an unmarried girl fasted on Midsummer Eve and at midnight set her table with a clean cloth, bread, cheese and ale, then left her yard door open and waited, the boy she would marry, or his spirit, would come in and feast with her.

Magick crowns Midsummer. Divining rods cut on this night are more infallible, dreams more likely to come true. Dew gathered Midsummer Eve restores sight. Fern, which confers invisibility, was said to bloom at midnight on Midsummer Eve and is best picked then. Indeed, any magickal plants plucked on Midsummer Eve at midnight are doubly efficacious and keep better. You’d pick certain magickal herbs, namely St. Johnswort, hawkweed, vervain, orpine, mullein, wormwood and mistletoe, at midnight on Midsummer Eve or noon Midsummer Day, to use as a charm to protect your house from fire and lightning, your family from disease, negative witchcraft and disaster. A pagan gardener might consider cultivating some or all of these; it’s not too late to buy at herb-oriented nurseries, the Herbfarm outside Fall City the chief of these and a wonderful place to visit, if a tad pricey. Whichever of these herbs you find, a gentle snip into a cloth, a spell whispered over, and you have a charm you can consecrate in the height of the sun.

In northern Europe, the Wild Hunt was often seen on Midsummer Eve, hallooing in the sky, in some districts led by Cernunnos. Midsummer’s Night by European tradition is a fairies’ night, and a witches’ night too. Rhiannon Ryall writes in West Country Wiccathat her coven, employing rites said to be handed down for centuries in England’s West Country, would on Midsummer Eve decorate their symbols of the God and Goddess with flowers, yellow for the God, white for the Goddess. The coven that night would draw down the moon into their high priestess, and at sunrise draw down the sun into their high priest. The priest and priestess then celebrated the Great Rite, known to the coven as the Rite of Joining or the Crossing Rite.

Some of Ryall’s elders called this ritual the Ridencrux Rite. They told how formerly in times of bad harvest or unseasonable weather, the High Priestess on the nights between the new and full moon would go to the nearest crossroads, wait for the first stranger traveling in the district. About this stranger the coven had done ritual beforehand, to ensure he embodied the God. The high priestess performed the Great Rite with him to make the next season’s sowing successful.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, traces of witchcraft and pagan remembrances were often linked with Midsummer. In Southern Estonia, Lutheran Church workers found a cottar’s wife accepting sacrifices on Midsummer Day, Juhan Kahk writes in Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries, edited by Bengt Ankarloo and Gustave Henningsen. Likewise, on Midsummer Night in 1667, in Estonia’s Maarja-Magdaleena parish, peasants met at the country manor of Colonel Griefenspeer to perform a ritual to cure illnesses.

In Denmark, writes Jens Christian V. Johansen in another Early Modern European Witchcraft chapter, medieval witches were said to gather on Midsummer Day, and in Ribe on Midsummer Night. Inquisitors in the Middle Ages often said witches met on Corpus Christi, which some years fell close to Midsummer Eve, according to Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, by Jeffrey Burton Russell. The inquisitors explained witches chose the date to mock a central Christian festival, but Corpus Christi is no more important than a number of other Christian holidays, and it falls near a day traditionally associated with pagan worship. Coincidence? Probably not.

Anciently, pagans and witches hallowed Midsummer. Some burned for their right to observe their rites; we need not. But we can remember the past. In solidarity with those burned, we can collect our herbs at midnight; we can burn our bonfires and hail the sun.

Midsummer Night’s Fire Ritual

Midsummer Night’s Fire Ritual

By Patti Wigington, About.com Guide

The Summer Solstice, known to some as Litha, Midsummer, or Alban Heruin, is the longest day of the year. It’s the time when the sun is most powerful, and new life has begun to grow within the earth. After today, the nights will once more begin to grow longer, and the sun will move further away in the sky.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: Approximately 60 minutes

Here’s How: If your tradition requires you to cast a circle , consecrate a space, or call the quarters, now is the time to do so. This ritual is a great one to perform outside, so if you have the opportunity to do this without scaring the neighbors, take advantage of it.

Begin this ritual by preparing the wood for a fire, without lighting it yet. While the ideal situation would have you setting a huge bonfire alight, realistically not everyone can do that. If you’re limited, use a table top brazier or fire-safe pot, and light your fire there instead.

Say either to yourself or out loud:

Today, to celebrate Midsummer, I honor the Earth itself. I am surrounded by tall trees. There is a clear sky above me and cool dirt beneath me, and I am connected to all three. I light this fire as the Ancients did so long ago.

At this point, start your fire.

Say:

The Wheel of the Year has turned once more
The light has grown for six long months
Until today.

Say:

Today is Litha, called Alban Heruin by my ancestors.
A time for celebration.
Tomorrow the light will begin to fade
As the Wheel of the Year
Turns on and ever on.

Turn to the East, and say:

From the east comes the wind,
Cool and clear.
It brings new seeds to the garden
Bees to the pollen
And birds to the trees.

Turn to Face South, and say:

The sun rises high in the summer sky
And lights our way even into the night
Today the sun casts three rays
The light of fire upon the land, the sea, and the heavens

Turn to face West, saying:

From the west, the mist rolls in
Bringing rain and fog
The life-giving water without which
We would cease to be.

Finally, turn to the North, and say:

Beneath my feet is the Earth,
Soil dark and fertile
The womb in which life begins
And will later die, then return anew.

Build up the fire even more, so that you have a good strong blaze going.

If you wish to make an offering to the gods, now is the time to do it.

Say:

Alban Heruin is a time of rededication
To the gods.

The triple goddess watches over me.
She is known by many names.
She is the Morrighan,

Brighid, and Cerridwen.
She is the washer at the ford,
She is the guardian of the hearth,
She is the one who stirs the cauldron of inspiration.

I give honor to You, O mighty ones,
By all your names, known and unknown.
Bless me with Your wisdom
And give life and abundance to me
As the sun gives life and abundance to the Earth.

Say:

I make this offering to you
To show my allegiance
To show my honor
To show my dedication
To You.

Cast your offering into fire.

Conclude the ritual by saying:

Today, at Litha, I celebrate the life
And love of the gods
And of the Earth and Sun.

Take a few moments to reflect upon what you have offered, and what the gifts of the gods mean to you. When you are ready, if you have cast a circle, dismantle it or dismiss the quarters at this time.

Allow your fire to go out on its own.

What You Need

A place to build a fire

An offering to the gods (optional)

The Enchanted Nights of Midsummer

by Asherah

When I was a young  girl, I had a book of tales and poems about fairies. I don’t know where it is now, probably on  one of my parents’ dusty bookshelves, missorted after a move. It was a  big book, mostly pictures, and it fascinated me: I wanted to get into  that world, in with the fairies.

I only remember one verse: “The fairies will be dancing, when there’s a  ring around the moon.” But I remember that the big fairy holiday was  Midsummer Night.

On Midsummer Night, the witches, the fairies, the spirits of the dead, the wraiths of the living: all will be abroad and visible.

I couldn’t have been more than five, but it enchanted me, the idea of  slipping out at midnight, stars veiled in the humid dark of summer,  maybe with a flashlight (a candle would have been more romantic but  harder to get), to a ring trodden bare in grass that flickered around my  ankles. The circle would break, a small, bony hand  held out to  mine…

But I knew if I tried slipping out I’d get in trouble. Moreover, I was  confused. It seemed Midsummer Night was June 21, or thereabouts, but  wasn’t that the beginning of summer? If so, why was it called midsummer?  I consulted my mother, but the contradiction didn’t bother her; she said  that was just the way it was. It was only much later that I stumbled on  the answer, that if Beltaine is summer’s start the solstice falls at  Midsummer.

In medieval times, Midsummer was the feast of St. John the Baptist. The herbs of St. John are St. Johnswort, hawkweed, orpine, vervain, mullein,  wormwood and mistletoe. Plucked (depending on your tradition) either at  midnight St. John’s Eve or at noon St. John’s Day and hung in the house,  they will protect it from fire and lightning. Worn about the body, they  will protect you from disease, witchcraft and disaster.

Previously, Midsummer was one of the great fire festivals of Europe. At Stonehenge, it is said, Midsummer was a time of human sacrifice. The  children’s counting-out rhyme “Eeny, meeny, miney, mo” may be a relic of  the means by which the Druids chose their sacrifices.

It was around Midsummer when my friend Holly and I decided to enchant  David, who was the cutest boy in our class. We were 11, and what might  happen if he really fell in love with both of us didn’t cross our minds.  (I think each of us in her heart of hearts felt he’d choose her.) Holly  got a copy of the Dell pocketbook Everyday Witchcraft from the stand at  the grocery store checkout line, and I talked my mother into buying me  one too. One of the love spells instructed us to collect grass from his  lawn and make a charm from it.

So we slipped out and met at dawn . I remember the feel of dawn asphalt  cool beneath my feet. In Kansas City the lawns are pretty big; sitting  on the sidewalk at the far corner of David’s lawn, at the bottom of a  steep incline, we ran little risk of being seen. So we collected a few  strands and sat a while, basking in his nearness.

If an unmarried girl, fasting, on Midsummer Eve at midnight sets the table with a clean cloth, bread, cheese and ale, leaves the yard door  open and waits, the boy she will marry, or his spirit, will come in and  eat with her.

Plant two slips of orpine (Sedum telephium) together on Midsummer Eve, one to represent yourself, one to represent your lover. If one slip  withers, the one it represents will die. But if both take hold, flourish  and grow leaning together, you and your lover will marry.

It was around Midsummer also, and I, 13, but not much the wiser, when my  friend Vanessa and I did candle-magic on a mutual friend, Troy. Vanessa  made a good, thick candle-poppet of him, with the wick for his head. She  was angry at him, and her spell was to banish him; she buried the  candle-poppet in the gutter outside her house. I had a crush on him, and  my spell was quite the opposite, though I didn’t confess this to  Vanessa. Our spells must have crossed, because while Vanessa and Troy  made up, ever afterward Troy had an aversion to me.

To become invisible, wear or swallow fern seed (that is, fern spores) that you collected on Midsummer Eve.

On Midsummer Eve at midnight, the fern blooms with a golden flower. If you pluck this flower, it will lead you to golden treasure. In Russia,  the flower must be thrown in the air, and it will land on buried  treasure. The Bohemians believe that if you pluck the flower and on the  same Midsummer Night climb a mountain with the blossom in hand, you will  find gold or have it revealed to you in a vision. Bohemians also  sprinkle fern seed in their savings to keep them from decreasing.

It was the fairies, and charms like those of Midsummer, that led me to  the Craft. I won’t swear all the high points of the summers of my youth  happened on Midsummer Night, but Midsummer is a kind of distillation of  all summer. On that night, perhaps you can brush back a feathery, green- smelling branch to see, dancing in a ring, fairies. Or  sometimes you  might find such a ring indoors.

[Enter Puck, carrying a broom]

“Now it is the time of night That the graves, all gaping wide, Every one lets forth his sprite, In the church-way paths to glide. And we fairies, that do run By the triple Hecate’s team From the presence of the sun, Following darkness like a dream, Now are frolic. Not a mouse Shall disturb this hallowed house. I am sent with broom before, To sweep the dust behind the door.”

(from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare)

Merry Midsummer to all.