History of Litha

The History Of Litha

 

The celebration of Midsummer’s Eve (St. John’s Eve among Christians) was from ancient times a festival of the summer solstice. Some people believed that golden-flowered mid-summer plants, especially Calendula, and St. John’s Wort, had miraculous healing powers and they therefore picked them on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. In later years, witches were also thought to be on their way to meetings with other powerful beings.

In Sweden, Mid-summer celebration originates from the time before Christianity; it was celebrated as a sacrifice time in the sign of the fertility.

The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times. The concentration of the observance is not on the day as we reckon it, commencing at midnight or at dawn, as it is customary for cultures following lunar calendars to place the beginning of the day on the previous eve at dusk at the moment when the Sun has set. In Sweden, Finland and Estonia, Midsummer’s Eve is the greatest festival of the year, comparable only with Walpurgis Night, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.

In the 7th century, Saint Eligius (died 659/60) warned the recently converted inhabitants of Flanders against the age-old pagan solstice celebrations. According to the Vita by his companion Ouen, he’d say: “No Christian on the feast of Saint John or the solemnity of any other saint performs solestitia [summer solstice rites] or dancing or leaping or diabolical chants.”

As Christianity entered pagan areas, MidSummer celebrations came to be often borrowed and transferred into new Christian holidays, often resulting in celebrations that mixed Christian traditions with traditions derived from pagan Midsummer festivities. The 13th-century monk of Winchcomb, Gloucestershire, who compiled a book of sermons for the feast days, recorded how St. John’s Eve was celebrated in his time:

Let us speak of the revels which are accustomed to be made on St. John’s Eve, of which there are three kinds. On St. John’s Eve in certain regions the boys collect bones and certain other rubbish, and burn them, and therefrom a smoke is produced on the air. They also make brands and go about the fields with the brands. Thirdly, the wheel which they roll.

The fires, explained the monk of Winchcombe, were to drive away dragons, which were abroad on St. John’s Eve, poisoning springs and wells. The wheel that was rolled downhill he gave its explicitly solstitial explanation:

The wheel is rolled to signify that the sun then rises to the highest point of its circle and at once turns back; thence it comes that the wheel is rolled.

On St John’s Day 1333 Petrarch watched women at Cologne rinsing their hands and arms in the Rhine “so that the threatening calamities of the coming year might be washed away by bathing in the river.”

Wikileaks’ Julian Assange Loses Extradition Appeal

by Kristina Chew

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has lost his extradition appeal to the UK Supreme Court and could now face deportation to Sweden on allegations of sexual abuse brought by two Swedish women. His lawyers have been granted two additional weeks to submit fresh arguments as to whether they want to take issue with a central point of the judgement or to challenge the correct interpretation of international treaties — of, specifically, Article 31.3 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

Assange, who has been on conditional bail and subjected to electronic monitoring, curfew and regular reports to local police, was not himself present for the decision due to being “stuck in traffic” according to his lawyer. Assange tweeted “We got the news not hoped for” after learning of the decision, says the BBC.

The 40-year-old Australian is charged with raping one woman and “sexually molesting and coercing” another in Stockholm and a nearby town in August 2010, when Wikileaks was in the midst of releasing a vast trove of classified United States military and diplomatic documents. The women, who were both Wikileaks volunteers, both made complaints that what had been consensual encounters became non-consensual. Assange was present for an initial interview with Swedish police than fled to London,prior to further questioning could be completed. Swedish authorities issued an arrest warrant for him, leading to him being briefly imprisoned in December 2010.

Assange has insisted on his innocence and his lawyers have spoken of a “honey trap” set for him, to prevent him from releasing more documents on Wikileaks. Assange has railed against Sweden as a “Saudi Arabia of feminism.” His legal battle has been going on for 18 months.

Britain’s highest court ruled by a vote of 5 to 2 to reject Assange’s appeal for extradition. The judgement hinged on whether the Swedish authority who issued the extradition order had the “judicial authority” to do so under the 2003 Extradition Act or whether that power was granted only to a judge or a court, says the BBC. Judge Nicholas Phillips, the president of the court, said that the decision “has not been easy to resolve” but was “lawfully made.” Assange’s lawyers are honing in on a “fine point of European law” in appealing the court’s ruling, namely that the judgement was “based on a point which was neither heard nor argued in the case,” says the BBC’s Dominic Casciani.

As the New York Times observes, this new delay in Assange’s extradition case pushes back “indefinitely” any attempts by the US to extradite Assange on charges for his role in Wikileaks’ release of classified US diplomatic and military documents.

 

The NYT says that there have been “frequent but unconfirmed reports … that a secret grand jury hearing in Alexandria, Va.” is preparing a US Justice Department bid to charge Assange with espionage. A 4-page Wikileaks statement, issued some 12 hours before the British Supreme Court’s ruling, has “depicted the decision in London as a prelude to a much grimmer challenge awaiting” Assange than the sex abuse charges in Sweden. If convicted of the latter, Swedish lawyers say that he faces a stiff fine or, at most, a brief prison term. If convicted of espionage in the US, he could face a life sentence in a maximum-security prison.

Bradley Manning, the US army private charged with leaking massive amount of classified government information to Wikileaks, is seeking dismissal of 10 of the 22 counts he faces. Manning, who is currently being held in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, contends that eight of the counts are unconstitutionally vague and that two others fail to state a prosecutable offense. He faces life in prison if convicted of aiding the enemy, the most serious charge. On June 6, a military judge will hear pre-trial arguments in Fort Meade, Md.; Manning faces a full court-martial in September. A Guardian interview with his aunt, who has been visiting him frequently, says that Manning is “keeping himself in a relatively positive state of mind, buoyed by trust in his lawyers and the support of close family and backers from around the world.”

Astronomy Picture of the Day for Jan. 28th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 January 28
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Planet Aurora Borealis
Image Credit & Copyright: Göran Strand 

Explanation: Illuminated by an eerie greenish light, this remarkable little planet is covered with ice and snow and ringed by tall pine trees. Of course, this little planet is actually planet Earth, and the surrounding stars are above the horizon near Östersund, Sweden. The pale greenish illumination is from a curtain of shimmering Aurora Borealis also known as the Northern Lights. The display was triggered when a giant solar coronal mass ejection (CME) rocked planet Earth’s magnetosphere on January 24th and produced a strong geomagnetic storm. Northern hemisphere skygazers will also recognize the familiar orientation of stars at the left, including the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters and the stars of Orion. Increasing solar activity has caused recent auroral displays to be wide spread, including Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights, at high southern latitudes.

Daily OM for January 19th – As the Day You Were Born

As the Day You Were Born
Being Naked

There is a freedom in being naked that few enjoy because we have been learned to be embarrassed. 

For most of us, it is probably difficult to remember the last time we were comfortably naked for a period of time longer than 20 minutes or so. Many of us are only naked for the length of time it takes us to shower or bathe. We quickly dry off and put our clothes or pajamas on, without taking even a moment to enjoy the feeling of the air against our bare skin. Most of us learned that this was the way to do things from a young age, and we may not have been exposed to another way of thinking, but many cultures regard nudity as completely acceptable, even in somewhat public settings. If you have ever had the good fortune to assimilate yourself to this way of doing things, you may have found the experience liberating enough to allow it to influence the rest of your life.

Perhaps you swam topless in Tahiti or took a sauna in Sweden or Finland. In many American cities, you can find the experience of unselfconscious nudity in a Russian or Korean spa. You may have noticed the lack of vanity in people who are comfortable with their naked bodies. Old ladies and young girls sit side by side, seemingly without concern for how they appear. We see that it is not necessary to hide our imperfections; from cellulite to wrinkles, all is accepted with equilibrium. We can see the beauty and naturalness of our different bodies, accepting ourselves as just right, just as we are. Being naked in front of children can be discussed with your spouse and a plan developed for your family. Children have their way of letting you know when they are ready for a clothes-only family.

If this sounds appealing, you might try carving out some time in your day in which you let yourself be naked. You could delay dressing for 10 minutes after your shower, gradually increasing the time to 20 minutes or half an hour. You might also want to try sleeping naked, a sensual delight that is especially wonderful in hot summer months. If you have a private garden, a naked sunbath might be just the thing. Whatever your choice, finding time to be as naked as the day you were born can awaken feelings of contentment, freedom, and self-love.

Winter Solstice Celebrations Around The World – Beiwe Festival


Winter Comments & Graphics

Beiwe Festival

 (Sámi of Northern Fennoscandia)

 

The Saami, indigenous people of Finland, Sweden and Norway, worship Beiwe, the sun-goddess of fertility and sanity. She travels through the sky in a structure made of reindeer bones with her daughter, Beiwe-Neia, to herald back the greenery on which the reindeer feed. On the winter solstice, her worshipers sacrifice white female animals, and thread the meat onto sticks which they bend into rings and tie with bright ribbons. They also cover their doorposts with butter so Beiwe can eat it and begin her journey once again.

 
~Magickal Graphics~

Herb of the Day for June 24 is Quinsy-Wort

Quinsy-Wort

Botanical: Asperula cynanchica (LINN.)

—Synonym—Squinancy-wort.

Quinsy-Wort was formerly esteemed a remedy for the disorder the name of which it bears. The specific name, cynanchica, is derived from the GreekKunanchi(dog strangle), from its choking nature.

Its roots, like those of the Galiums and Rubia, yield a red dye, which has been occasionally used in Sweden.

It is no longer applied in medicine.

This is not a common British plant, except locally in dry pastures on a chalky or limehouse soil.

It is a small, smooth plant, 6 to 10 inches high, with very narrow, close-set leaves, four in a whorl, two of each whorl much smaller than the others.

The flowers are in loose terminal bunches, the corollas only 1/6 inch in diameter, pink externally and white inside, and are in bloom during June and July.