June 21st 2019 is the longest day and the first day of summer, known as the Summer Solstice.
Here in the northern hemisphere the earth is at its maximum tilt towards the sun. This is the day that the northern hemisphere experiences the longest amount of daylight. It is also known as midsummer and later, in the Christian world, St John’s Day, as it is believed to be when John the Baptist was born.
Midsommar is a particularly important event in Scandinavia and the Baltic. In pagan times, bonfires were lit to drive out evil spirits and the healing properties of plants such as St John’s Wort and Calendula were thought to be enhanced. Will-O’-The-Wisps are supposed to appear on this night, hovering over hidden treasure, sadly the phenomenon is probably just marsh gas.
In the UK Neo-Druids are allowed access to Stonehenge. It is thought that Stonehenge may have been built, approximately 3000 years BC, to make the best use of the sunrise at the summer solstice and that the stones could have been used as some sort of calendar. In Cornwall many old midsummer festivals have been revived in the Golowan festival, including lighting bonfires and parading hobby horses.
The National Geographic website has some photos celebrating the summer solstice here.
“Glad midsommar och SKÅL”.
I shall leave the last word on the subject to William Shakespeare, from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”:
Puck. How now, spirit! whither wander you?
fairy Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moone’s sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,