The vibrational impact of the Moon not only affects the tides within our ocean, it also greatly affects the tides of our blood, our subconscious, our emotions, and intuition. The plants associated to the Moon act principally on all the major fluids of the body (water and blood), stomach and overall gut. The primary action of fluids within the body is to regulate, nourish and eliminate. Much of our digestive activity, and “gut feeling” greatly influence our mood and emotional body.
The Moon is known to house our intuition and our emotions. Astrologers look at the Moon’s position in a natal chart to understand the part of one’s being which is most vulnerable, including the emotions which we nurture and protect. Important lunar transits and aspects to the natal Moon (the moon’s placement in your birth chart) may indicate vulnerability to certain health issues. Some examples could be difficulties with the menstrual cycle, digestive difficulties, constipation,
L U N A R A N A T O M Y
“The lunar correspondences with human anatomy include much of the brain and the rear pituitary. The left eye and the digestive system (esophagus, stomach, and hormones associated with the alimentary system), the uterus, the breasts, ovaries and menstrual cycle are also governed by the Moon. Most modern medical astrologers place the lymphatic system and the sympathetic nervous system with the Moon as well.” (Dr. Paul Beyerl)
Doctors and healers of the past, like in Chinese Medicine, used astrology as a means to mapping and observing the illness of a patient and particularly used the Moon to track its progression. Some imbalances, like colds, arise when we are more vulnerable due to emotional stress or anxieties which threaten the health of one’s unconscious. Try to pay attention to this on a monthly basis. Learn about where your natal moon is located, and how you feel throughout the course of the month along with the ongoing lunar cycles. This can greatly help you unlock fluctuations with hormones, moods, eating patterns and thought patterns.
L U N A R E N E R G E T I C S
By nature, lunar herbs are cool and moist. They represent the feminine or Yin aspects of the Universe and may be worked in polarity with solar herbs. Lunar herbs promote a nurturing quality within the individual and work compatibly with the receptive aspects of one’s being.
P H Y S I C A L
Digestive herbs, both cooling and warming herbs that assist the digestive system.
Kidney Herbs that prevent the over-accumulation of uric acid, preventing the formation of kidney stones. Diuretics These particular herbs naturally can prevent the formation of gallstones as well.
Blood herbs that assist as anti-coagulants, and diuretics.
E M O T I O N A L
Many of the dopamine-regulating herbs (feel-good herbs) are lunar. Herbs that help us tap into the feeling body, and abandon the mind. Herbs that soothe the heavy heart, and assist deep relief to pain and/or trauma.
S P I R I T U A L
Herbs of the Moon can greatly affect the subconscious mind. Their powerful action on our body’s watery reserves is known to pave the ways to the intuitive mind. Many of the mystical and visionary herbs fall under this category as they focus on dilating our pituitary gland and generally known as spirit tonics. They are a very good aid in the development of the intuition and of psychic abilities as well as in remembering dreams. These herbs can be great assistants when paired with visionary herbs, like ayahuasca, iboga, bufo alvarius, etc. as they help assimilate the intensive experience within the shamanic journey back with the natural ebb and flow of life.
The green world of plants grows at night, having generated its fuel during the day from the radiant light of the Sun. It is against a starlit night that life is simpler, that we must see with our feelings rather than with our logic. Herbs of the Moon render us more sensitive, and wisely, help us uncomplicate our lives so that fulfillment becomes a more realistic goal.
HERBS of the MOON
~ favorites ~
anise, blue lotus, clary sage, milk thistle, fleur-de-lis, ginger, hibiscus,
milk thistle, poppy, rose.
OTHER HERBS / BARKS / RESINS:
aloe, chanca piedra, copal, frankincense, kava kava, kalea sacatechichi, myrrh,
pau d’arco, passionflower, orris, sangre de drago, yerba santa.
almond, bamboo, chickweed, coconut, maracuja, passionfruit, tamarind,
tapioca, turnip, watercress.
ayahuasca (banisteropsis caapi), san pedro, poppy.
A LUNAR POTION
for your emotional body
: healing properties :
Blue Lotus ~ a powerful flower known for its deeply calming, and restorative properties. Contains quite a wide healing spectrum, contains anti-depressive qualities, anti-anxiety, nervous system tonic and even as a natural aphrodisiac!
Roses ~ The cultural role of roses for thousands of years has been one of reverence, divinity, and purification. A heart and blood tonic, with anti-spasmodic properties, also used for its calming effects on the nervous system. Energetically, roses help quell stress by connecting you to your heart-center, growing your sense of self-love, and reminding you to enjoy life. Rose is the motherly herb to nurture your heart and make it feel safe.
R E C I P E
1 heaping teaspoon blue lotus petals
12 oz hot water
2 tablespoons coconut cream powder
2 teaspoons plant-based milk of choice
1/8 teaspoon rose water (infusion)
honey or maple to taste
Pour the hot water of the blue lotus petals and let steep for 5 minutes.
Strain the tea and add the milk. Whisk vigorously or use a hand-held blender to froth it milk.
(*)making it as an infusion on its own without milk is also exquisite!
We are in our Dark Moon time until tomorrow night when she moves into the New Moon in Cancer at 7:48 pm PST, (10:48 pm EST). She moves into the sign of cancer tomorrow morning at 10:59 am PST (1:59 pm EST).
During this New Moon phase, we will also be experiencing a partial solar eclipse. A solar eclipse is when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth and the Moons shadow blocks the Suns light from sharing her ultraviolet radiation with our ionosphere. The ionosphere is an electrified layer of charged particles that surrounds the Earth. This energy exchange of incoming radiation from the sun causes a swelling in the ionosphere and therefore this layer is always larger during the day than at night.
Cancer is a cardinal, water sign that is ruled by the Moon and rules the stomach teaching us to go with our intuitive, gut feelings. When the Moon is in Cancer we can find her influencing our emotions and focusing us on home, family and the nurturing of ourselves and others.
This dark moon I encourage you to explore the archetypal energy of Lilith, a Dark Moon Goddess.
My dear friend, Candice Covington, describes the Dark Goddess as the goddess of the unconscious, of the dissolution or undoing of things. She shares, “the Dark Goddess teaches us that by going inward to the cause instead of ascending away if we can deal with the aspects of the self and life. We are often taught to fear the power of the Dark Goddess ~ darkness, destruction, dissolution – but her energy is that of the dark moon, the force of rebirth.” Candice describes Lilith as a catalyst for thriving in your original nature. Lilith, she says, “shows us that being cut off from our soul and our sense of self-worth is to be cut off from our power, strength, and potential. To connect with her energy is to open ourselves to our own inner bravery until we find firm footing in our unique, perfect soul. She is the energy of pure possibility without restriction.”
Under these mixed energies of Dark Moon, New Moon, and partial Solar Eclipse, I offer the following thoughts for ritual:
The Moon is there for us to learn to how to cycle through the dark to light and back into the dark again ~ it is a daily, monthly, yearly, lifetime of death and rebirth. She is here to guide us on our journey with ourselves.
As if entering eclipse season wasn’t intense enough, we also have 5 planets in retrograde this month. Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, Mars, Neptune, Uranus, and Mercury are all retrograde during July.
When a planet goes retrograde, we get a unique opportunity to slow down and reflect on different areas of our lives that each planet represents. Retrograde energy is about pushing pause and turning inward. We will talk more about each planet’s retrograde as we go deeper into our reading.
HERBS & PLANETS
Like humans, herbs have complex personalities. They grow and develop under cosmological influences just as much as we do, they favor and thrive in certain environments, they have a nervous system and feel as much (and more!) as we do. And, just like us, some of us thrive under certain astrological transits, while others don’t. Roses, for example, thrive under certain Jupiter and Venus transits, and just like some of us, we might manifest a soulmate under Jupiter-Venus transits as well! So, it’s no coincidence that Roses, with a medicinal landscape known to boost the heart and blood, along with providing dopamine and aphrodisiac properties — prosper under this transit.
The archetypes within each constellation and planetary body are said to contain complex patterns of energy, that give the origin to our personality. Therefore the astrological configurations that exist when we are born are that which create our base persona, and perhaps the multiple possibilities of “destiny”. Stellar influences are absorbed into anything that is alive on this planet. Plants absorb these stellar vibrations through photosynthesis, detailing the complex nutritious chemistry that it has.
Correspondences between herbs and planets were already in use during Hippocrates’ life and continued to be expanded through the centuries. Another infamous herbalist, physician, and astrologer, is Nicholas Culpeper. He further developed highly esoteric writings on astrology and herbal configurations, basically becoming today’s definitive source on the subject. His masterful books covered herbal energetics in-depth, medical astrology, the astrology of healing & disease, etc. In those times, prior to the discovery of Neptune and Pluto, was based on the 7 visible planets, also known as the “trans-saturnial” planetary influences. We will be integrating Neptune and Pluto into the herbal elements, as those are vital components to today’s configurations.
In astrology, the planets represent different types of energy which manifest in reality. The study of astrology is very vast and definitely a lot more involved than what we will be able to provide on here. But it’ll be broken down in a generalized way so even beginners can be exploring the archetypes through herbal magic.
HERBS OF THE SUN
In astrology, the Sun is the central emanation of our ego, it is ruling force of our ego consciousness. Just as its the central presence of our solar system, the Sun represents our base personality and one’s overall health.
Herbs of the Sun have long been held as herbs for the heart. It is also said to govern the front of the pituitary gland, thymus, spleen, and thyroid. “The Sun indicates the presence and function of oxygen within the body. Difficult aspects with the Sun may affect the health of the body’s vital fluids.” (Culpeper) Many dis-eases arrive due to love self-esteem, and harsh self judgement. People that live in a constant state of self-criticism, self-doubt, or any level of self-hatred, can greatly benefit from solar herbs.
S O L A R E N E R G E T I C S
Solar herbs tend to be hot and dry. They tend to be Yang — expansive, and radiant.
Through working with solar herbs, the inner seed within one’s spirit is more easily broth into manifestation. We are better able to recognize our role, and what we are here to do in this life. It provides us with the creativity on how to visualize our life within this Universe. “Just as the radiance of that star which lights our solar system is an emanation of its inner energy, so too does one’s ego seek to shine brightly, frequently seeking to radiate and be recognized as a star among one’s peers.” (Beyerl, P.) Solar herbs help us direct our ego in a useful way in order to achieve spiritual wisdom. The Sun represents our little Ego, and our Super Ego, meaning that it encompasses the entire consciousness, and it is up to us to conduct it in the way that we’re ready for.
Herbs of the Sun help us better understand the divine nature of manifest reality. Just as herbs are dependent upon the Sun’s rays, so too are our creative endeavors dependent upon a positive, divine radiance from our own inner self. “Solar herbs help open your view of life around you. They are able to assist you in avoiding the magnetic tug of incarnate reality which seeks to place one’s ego upon the very altar of one’s circle.” (Beyerl, P.)
Solar herbs are capable of grounding those with narcissistic and egocentric tendencies. It is important to understand that by strengthening one’s self-image, with the tone of balance, naturally ground the superfluous elements of certain personalities.
R I T U A L S
Using solar herbs in ritual brings expansive clarity to that which you are seeking. It helps us understand aspects of our life, our ego, and situations that we need clarity on. These herbs help us put things back into perspective, and help us find the flow that actually suits our own authentic rhythm. They endow us with the courage to fearlessly seek our true vision, and the means to manifest it. This naturally connotes tapping into universal abundance.
Careful work within ritual requires us to be very selective and precise with what we’re attracting. Be very clear with the image, and change you’re looking to bring in, no matter how painful that change might be, so that the highest ideals might manifest properly into your life. Solar herbs are extraordinary for visualization and to bring in the success to what you’re looking to accomplish.
S O L A R H E R B S
Restores the energy, vitality, and immunity overall. Stimulant tonics and most adaptogens. Cardiotonics that strengthen the heart. Nutritive herbs that hold powerful nutrition. Herbs that improve the eyes and clear the vision (metaphorically and literally). Their “hot” and “dry” overall energy helps dispel cold, damp rheumatic and phlegm from the lungs and respiratory tract. Herbs that resist poison and aid in the recuperation of the vital forces. Anodyne herbs that relieve pain by their relaxing warmth.
Herbs (applies to all spp. within the common name below)
Almond, Angelica, Bay Laurel, Bergamot, Chamomile, Centaury, Chia, Cinnamon, Eye Bright, Frankincense, Guarana, Juniper, Jergon Sacha, Life-Everlasting, Marigold, Mistletoe, Myrrh, Moringa, Oats, Peony, Rice, Rhodiola, Rosemary, Rue , St Johns Wort, Sunflower, Turmeric, Walnut, Yellow Dock
E X T R A – O R D I N A R Y A B I L I T I E S
Golden yellow herbs that look like the Sun: Chamomile, Celandine, St. John’s Wort. Yellow roots: Rhodiola, yellow dock, turmeric.
Evergreens or herbs that provide longevity: Bay Laurel, Rhodiola, Fo-Ti, Turmeric.
Cardio-tonics: Angelica, Mistletoe, Saffron, Lovage.
Herbs are known to resist poison and restore vitality: Angelica, Juniper, Rue, Jargon Sacha.
Herbs that clear the vision and often used for psychic vision: Eyebright, Rue, and Rosemary
In order to truly follow our bliss, we must align with our centers once again. Our energy centers, or Chakras, run along our spine and are located along the center of our body. When we align back to our center we can truly connect to our purpose, find clarity, and our bliss will be easy to follow!
So let’s do a simple Chakra alignment meditation under the Full Blessing Moon! Gather 7-8 stones, one for each Chakra, your Blessing Moon card from the deck, and a glass jar of spring water. That’s it!
The stones shown here from bottom to top: Red Jasper, Carnelian, Citrine, Green Jade, Turquoise, Blue Apatite, Amethyst, and Clear Quartz.
The skies this week are potent with the high energy of a rather stern Full Moon in early Capricorn just as Mars makes his station retrograde at 9°Aquarius. The Capricorn Full Moon is exact at 11:53pm US/Eastern on June 27, 2018, and spotlights the planet that rules Capricorn, Saturn, as well as the rogue comet Chiron, who has recently entered the fiery sign of Aries. This lunation speaks to both the intolerable pain of separation and the potential for a very poignant or problematic reunion with “lost children,” whether these are inner aspects of our being, outer representations of those aspects, or more literal children. We could be confronted with the pain of taking up our responsibilities after a long period of neglect or incapacity, as well as squarely facing various obstacles in our way. Anger, frustration and even rage may surface as the themes of independent will and authority collide with various aspects of dependence and vulnerability.
Mars will appear to stand still in the sky on June 26 at 9° Aquarius and travel backward all the way to 28° Capricorn before appearing to stand still once again and return to direct motion on August 27. The stationary points of this period are particularly evocative, as Mars energy doubles up and functions more like the overwhelming force of Pluto for several days. You could feel the simultaneous urge to overthrow something in your life and encounter powerful barriers to doing so, and examining the meanings and themes of the houses this retrograde travels through your personal chart could reveal what aspects of your life may be churned up or break free. You may witness inner or outer power struggles, sabotage and self-sabotage and brazenly breaking the previous rules of conduct. Mars retrograde periods on a personal level also tend to call into question our goal orientation, our current trajectory, and our physical capacity to accomplish things. It can also represent an exploration of the role of anger, self-assertion, boundary protection and aggression in our lives.
FULL MOON in Capricorn coming up
“Full Moon conjunct Saturn is functional and critical. This will not be the most adventurous or playful moon, but it will be your rock and anchor. It is extremely tempting to Saturnian or Capricorn people around you to take complete control of your life, but if you do surrender to their efficiency drive, expect their command to be 100%. Those touched by this full moon may meet folk who provide protection and security like no other. However, if this person happens to be your romantic partner and there is synastry with this Saturn/Moon, the relationship will often feel too parental for comfort. This full moon is great for extremely disciplined, organized and responsible individuals. Challenges and responsibilities accepted at the full moon June 2018 will help build us a backbone of steel and broad metaphorical shoulders.”
DO NOT RUSH THINGS
This particular Mars retrograde may feature a great deal of wrestling with the nature of time. For those of us who rush around with little to no regard for how much time things actually take, heedless of material constraints or perhaps bureaucratic or institutional inertia that can slow things down, we could receive a very disappointing or overwhelming reality check. It may be very difficult to accomplish some things without letting go of something precious along the way, such as relinquishing control or the sense of personal will and submitting to a greater will or timeline. There may, in fact, be a kind of divine timing at play, but it may not feel divine at all as delays, barriers and even self-sabotage interfere with progress.
Many of us can expect a kind of shearing away of our past—on a personal level as well as a collective level. This is laying the ground for new territory that has been steadily opening up, a new and hopefully more responsive and responsible way of being in the world and with each other. But such shifts can also be accompanied by disorientation and a bit of chaos. Taking time to deliberately center on your divine source is a good use of delays or a slowing pace. Mercury enters Leo on June 28, where they will square Uranus (exact June 30) and perhaps tempt us to push our minds to work at a faster pace than our hearts. Outthinking our feelings will only bring cold comfort, as those feelings and what they’re trying to point to will catch up to us sooner or later. A profound insight or wisdom could emerge from being with discomfort. Held with emotional intelligence, different, opposing and even disturbing viewpoints could unfold in expected ways, and strengthen our strategies for coping with delays as well as achieving goals.
The ancient Romans held all species of the vervain in admiration and used the ‘sacred’ herb to sanitize their homes and temples. In addition, they knew several therapeutic advantages of the herb and used it to treat numerous disorders. Incidentally, despite its multi-purpose use, the vervain is a commonly growing herb that does not appear to be different from many other plants. In ancient times, remedies prepared with the herb were often used to cure snakebite and diarrhea. At the same time, the root of vervain was chewed by people with a view to strengthening their teeth and gums. Interestingly, the herb served to diverse purposes – a love potion for the medieval witches and a substance to cure people of the influence of the ominous spell cast by these witches. In fact, vervain also finds a place in the Christian holy scripts as the herb that was used to stop bleeding from Jesus Christ’s wounds on Calvary – a mountainous terrain near Jerusalem. Therefore, vervain is also regarded as the ‘herb-of-the-cross’ by the Christians as well as others.
In fact, over the years, the therapeutic properties of vervain have made the herbalists as well as the common people to regard the herb as an effective cure for almost all diseases or disorders. For instance, in the ancient times, the herbal medicine practitioners often recommend the herb to treat ailments such as colds, apparent nervous problems, fevers, and gout as well as skin infections. Even today, many herbalists prescribe vervain tea as a stimulant, astringent, diuretic and diaphoretic to alleviate fever by encouraging sweating. In addition, the herb is still considered to be an effective sedative or tranquilizer, anti-spasmodic that reduces cramps and muscle pains and an aphrodisiac for arousing sexual desire. Finally, vervain is an excellent stimulant or tonic that helps to calm down nerves and soothe anxiety.
Vervain, scientifically known as Verbena Officinalis, was brought from Europe to North America by the Puritans. Currently, the herb is common in North America as the continent’s native species American Verbena. In fact, a family member of the American Verbena is also thought to possess therapeutic features.
As mentioned earlier, vervain has been regarded as a consecrated and blessed herb that was particularly used during sacrificial ceremonies of different Western religions. The Druids or priests in the ancient Celtic religion regarded the herb as approvingly as the mistletoe, a parasitic evergreen bush used as a decoration during Christmas. The Egyptians had dedicated the herb to their Goddess of Birth Isis and used it as a common constituent in the love potions prepared by them. In addition, the herb may be taken to alleviate tension, get rid of depression, lethargy, irritability and all other problems associated with stress – headaches, migraines, and even the nervous system fatigue. At the same time, the bitterness of the herb serves as a liver tonic and improves digestion. The herb has also been frequently used to treat gallstones, add to the energy levels during convalescence or recuperation from ailments. When used as a hot infusion, vervain functions as a diaphoretic and helps to lower feverish conditions by inducing sweating.
Vervain is also advantageous for women. The herb not only enhances the lactation and also induces menstruation cycles. In addition, vervain is known to invigorate the contraction of uterine muscles during labor and hence herbalists suggest that it is best to avoid using the herb during pregnancy. However, vervain may be used during labor as it makes childbirth easier. The diuretic features of the herb make it beneficial for retaining fluids as well as treating gout. The herb encloses a substantial amount of tannins that make it an effective astringent and useful as a mouthwash to treat bleeding gums and mouth ulcers. Remedies prepared with the herb are also used effectively to treat sores and wounds. In addition, lotions or ointments prepared with vervain act as valuable medication for insect bites and skin disorders.
Although scientists and researchers have not adequately researched the therapeutic properties of vervain, herbalists, as well as the common people, are well aware of its advantages. Vervain is known to have an effect on the parasympathetic nervous system and also invigorates the uterus. The vervain is a bitter herb and hence it enhances the digestive process. However, here is a word of caution: if taken in excess dosages, the herb may lead to vomiting. Vervain possesses verbenalin that is said to be a gentle purgative and is suspected to be accountable for the vomiting.
Vervain is also considered to be an effective stimulant for digestion and helps the body to soak in the elements in the ingested foodstuff. At the same time, the herb is valued as a restorative or recuperative medication for the nervous system and is hence frequently recommended by the herbal medicine practitioners to treat nervous tension or anxiety. According to herbalists, vervain possesses anti-depressant properties and so it is particularly used to cure anxiety and the fatigued nerves owing to the prolonged period of trauma.
Significantly, vervain is considered to be a very useful stimulant or tonic for people recuperating from persistent ailments as the herb not only improves the digestion process but also soothes and restores the nervous system. In addition, vervain is known to offer relief from headaches and is particularly advantageous for women. This function of the herb has led the Chinese herbal medicine practitioners to recommend it for treating migraine problems related to the menstrual cycle.
In addition to the above-mentioned benefits from the herb, vervain has several other therapeutic advantages. For instance, the herb is often recommended by herbalists to treat jaundice, asthma, gallstone, pre-menstrual anxiety, insomnia, and even fevers, especially at the beginning of flu. The herb has several benefits for women. Vervain is also thought to contract the vaginal muscles during labor and also enhance lactation in the post-natal period.
Vervain is found growing in abundance in the wild all over Europe, North Africa and also in China and Japan. The herb is grown through seedlings during spring or in autumn and the plant flourishes in soil that does not allow water to stand and prefers a lot of sunlight. The aerial parts of vervain are useful for its therapeutic properties and are normally collected during the summer when the plants are in full blossom.
As vervain has multiple medicinal uses, it may be applied in numerous ways. The herb’s aerial parts are most effective for their therapeutic properties and they are taken as infusion and tincture. Externally, they are also applied as poultice and ointments. They also form an effectual mouthwash.
COMMON NAME: Saint John’s Wort
SPECIES: H. calycinum, H. bookerianum, H. patulum
DESCRIPTION: Saint John’s wort is a low-growing, partly woody perennial that produces bright yellow flowers from early summer until frost. The flowers, which measure 1 1/2 to 2 inches across, occur in groups of five to seven. The plant reaches a height of 40 to 60 inches, though dwarf varieties that grow only 18 to 24 inches tall are available. Light green leaves have a silver lining.
CULTIVATION: A hardy plant, Saint Jon’s wort thrives in poor soil and full sun or light shade. The top of the plant might be killed back in severe winter weather but this does not seem to affect its performance since the blossoms appear on new spring growth.
Sun and light are images often associated with Saint John’s wort. The genus was thought to have been named for the Greek Titan Hyperion, father of Helios, god of the sun. According to Teutonic mythology, this plant was dedicated to the sun god, Baldur. It was called the herb of destiny and was thought to be marked by the sun. Small, translucent, sunlike circles appear on the leaves and flowers. The species name perforatum refers to these circles. H. perforatum is a European species widely naturalized in North America.
The history of this plant includes many mystical happenings. As part of certain pagan rituals, it was burned on Midsummer’s Eve to honor the sun and placate the good fairies. On the Isle of Wight it was believed that if you stepped on Saint John’s wort after dark, a phantom horse would sweep you up and carry you on a wild ride, lasting until dawn. Saint John’s wort was also called demon chaser.
Early Christians opposed heathen rituals and tried to put an end to many of these pagan celebrations. Because John the Baptist was born on Midsummer Day, they changed the name of this plant to Saint John’s wort and said that Saint John had blessed it with many healing powers. The ancient Feast of Fires was changed to the Feast of Saint John, celebrated on June 24.
This plant was grown in monastery gardens during medieval times because of its value in healing wounds and treating inflammation of the lungs and throat. In Brazil, this plant was used as an antidote for snakebites. In Russian, it was considered protection against hydrophobia. An early twentieth-century herbal suggests that a concoction made from this plant was good for coughs and colds. According to the doctrine of signatures, the translucent holes in the leaves indicated that the plant would be useful in healing holes or cuts in the body.
Saint John’s wort was brought to America by Rosicrucians, members of a mystical religious sect from Germany who arrived on American shores on Midsummer’s Eve day.
The Pennsylvania Dutch called it “blessed herb” and considered it protection for newborn children, saying that a sprig over the doorway would banish the evil eye.
by Mike Nichols
The young maid stole through the cottage door,
And blushed as she sought the Plant of pow’r;–
‘Thou silver glow-worm, O lend me thy light,
I must gather the mystic St. John’s wort tonight,
The wonderful herb, whose leaf will decide
If the coming year shall make me a bride.
In addition to the four great festivals of the Pagan Celtic year, there are four lesser holidays as well: the two solstices and the two equinoxes. In folklore, these are referred to as the four ‘quarter-days’ of the year, and modern Witches call them the four ‘Lesser Sabbats’, or the four ‘Low Holidays’. The Summer Solstice is one of them.
Technically, a solstice is an astronomical point and, due to the calendar creep of the leap-year cycle, the date may vary by a few days depending on the year. The summer solstice occurs when the sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer, and we experience the longest day and the shortest night of the year. Astrologers know this as the date on which the sun enters the sign of Cancer.
However, since most European peasants were not accomplished at reading an ephemeris or did not live close enough to Salisbury Plain to trot over to Stonehenge and sight down its main avenue, they celebrated the event on a fixed calendar date, June 24th. The slight forward displacement of the traditional date is the result of multitudinous calendrical changes down through the ages. It is analogous to the winter solstice celebration, which is astronomically on or about December 21st, but is celebrated on the traditional date of December 25th, Yule, later adopted by the Christians.
Again, it must be remembered that the Celts reckoned their days from sundown to sundown, so the June 24th festivities actually begin on the previous sundown (our June 23rd). This was Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Eve. Which brings up another point: our modern calendars are quite misguided in suggesting that ‘summer begins’ on the solstice. According to the old folk calendar, summer begins on May Day and ends on Lammas (August 1st), with the summer solstice, midway between the two, marking mid-summer. This makes more logical sense than suggesting that summer begins on the day when the sun’s power begins to wane and the days grow shorter.
Although our Pagan ancestors probably preferred June 24th (and indeed most European folk festivals today use this date), the sensibility of modern Witches seems to prefer the actual solstice point, beginning the celebration on its eve, or the sunset immediately preceding the solstice point. Again, it gives modern Pagans a range of dates to choose from with, hopefully, a weekend embedded in it.
Just as the Pagan mid-winter celebration of Yule was adopted by Christians as Christmas (December 25th), so too the Pagan mid-summer celebration was adopted by them as the feast of John the Baptist (June 24th). Occurring 180 degrees apart on the wheel of the year, the mid-winter celebration commemorates the birth of Jesus, while the mid-summer celebration commemorates the birth of John, the prophet who was born six months before Jesus in order to announce his arrival.
Although modern Witches often refer to the holiday by the rather generic name of Midsummer’s Eve, it is more probable that our Pagan ancestors of a few hundred years ago actually used the Christian name for the holiday, St. John’s Eve. This is evident from the wealth of folklore that surrounds the summer solstice (i.e. that it is a night especially sacred to the faerie folk) but which is inevitably ascribed to ‘St. John’s Eve’, with no mention of the sun’s position. It could also be argued that a Coven’s claim to antiquity might be judged by what name it gives the holidays. (Incidentally, the name ‘Litha’ for the holiday is a modern usage, possibly based on a Saxon word that means the opposite of Yule. Still, there is little historical justification for its use in this context.) But weren’t our Pagan ancestors offended by the use of the name of a Christian saint for a pre-Christian holiday?
Well, to begin with, their theological sensibilities may not have been as finely honed as our own. But secondly and more importantly, St. John himself was often seen as a rather Pagan figure. He was, after all, called ‘the Oak King’. His connection to the wilderness (from whence ‘the voice cried out’) was often emphasized by the rustic nature of his shrines. Many statues show him as a horned figure (as is also the case with Moses). Christian iconographers mumble embarrassed explanations about ‘horns of light’, while modern Pagans giggle and happily refer to such statues as ‘Pan the Baptist’. And to clinch matters, many depictions of John actually show him with the lower torso of a satyr, cloven hooves and all! Obviously, this kind of John the Baptist is more properly a Jack in the Green! Also obvious is that behind the medieval conception of St. John lies a distant, shadowy Pagan deity, perhaps the archetypal Wild Man of the Wood, whose face stares down at us through the foliate masks that adorn so much church architecture. Thus medieval Pagans may have had fewer problems adapting than we might suppose.
In England, it was the ancient custom on St. John’s Eve to light large bonfires after sundown, which served the double purpose of providing light to the revelers and warding off evil spirits. This was known as ‘setting the watch’. People often jumped through the fires for good luck. In addition to these fires, the streets were lined with lanterns, and people carried cressets (pivoted lanterns atop poles) as they wandered from one bonfire to another. These wandering, garland-bedecked bands were called a ‘marching watch’. Often they were attended by morris dancers, and traditional players dressed as a unicorn, a dragon, and six hobby-horse riders. Just as May Day was a time to renew the boundary on one’s own property, so Midsummer’s Eve was a time to ward the boundary of the city.
Customs surrounding St. John’s Eve are many and varied. At the very least, most young folk plan to stay up throughout the whole of this shortest night. Certain courageous souls might spend the night keeping watch in the center of a circle of standing stones. To do so would certainly result in either death, madness, or (hopefully) the power of inspiration to become a great poet or bard. (This is, by the way, identical to certain incidents in the first branch of the ‘Mabinogion’.) This was also the night when the serpents of the island would roll themselves into a hissing, writhing ball in order to engender the ‘glain’, also called the ‘serpent’s egg’, ‘snake stone’, or ‘Druid’s egg’. Anyone in possession of this hard glass bubble would wield incredible magical powers. Even Merlyn himself (accompanied by his black dog) went in search of it, according to one ancient Welsh story.
Snakes were not the only creatures active on Midsummer’s Eve. According to British faery lore, this night was second only to Halloween for its importance to the wee folk, who especially enjoyed a ridling on such a fine summer’s night. In order to see them, you had only to gather fern seed at the stroke of midnight and rub it onto your eyelids. But be sure to carry a little bit of rue in your pocket, or you might well be ‘pixie-led’. Or, failing the rue, you might simply turn your jacket inside-out, which should keep you from harm’s way. But if even this fails, you must seek out one of the ‘ley lines’, the old straight tracks, and stay upon it to your destination. This will keep you safe from any malevolent power, as will crossing a stream of ‘living’ (running) water.
Other customs included decking the house (especially over the front door) with birch, fennel, St. John’s wort, orpin, and white lilies. Five plants were thought to have special magical properties on this night: rue, roses, St. John’s wort, vervain and trefoil. Indeed, Midsummer’s Eve in Spain is called the ‘Night of the Verbena (Vervain)’. St. John’s wort was especially honored by young maidens who picked it in the hopes of divining a future lover.
And the glow-worm came
With its silvery flame,
And sparkled and shone
Through the night of St. John,
And soon has the young maid her love-knot tied
There are also many mythical associations with the summer solstice, not the least of which concerns the seasonal life of the God of the sun. Inasmuch as I believe that I have recently discovered certain associations and correspondences not hitherto realized, I have elected to treat this subject in some depth in another essay. Suffice it to say here, that I disagree with the generally accepted idea that the Sun-God meets his death at the summer solstice. I believe there is a good reason to see the Sun-God at his zenith — his peak of power — on this day, and that his death at the hands of his rival would not occur for another quarter of a year. Material drawn from the Welsh mythos seems to support this thesis. In Irish mythology, Midsummer is the occasion of the first battle between the Fir Bolgs and the Tuatha De Danaan.
Altogether, Midsummer is a favorite holiday for many Witches in that it is so hospitable to outdoor celebrations. The warm summer night seems to invite it. And if the celebrants are not, in fact, skyclad, then you may be fairly certain that the long ritual robes of winter have yielded place to short, tunic-style apparel. As with the longer gowns, tradition dictates that one should wear nothing underneath — the next best thing to skyclad, to be sure. (Incidentally, now you know the real answer to the old Scottish joke, ‘What is worn beneath the kilt?’)
The two chief icons of the holiday are the spear (symbol of the Sun-God in his glory) and the summer cauldron (symbol of the Goddess in her bounty). The precise meaning of these two symbols, which I believe I have recently discovered, will be explored in the essay on the death of Llew. But it is interesting to note here that modern Witches often use these same symbols in the Midsummer rituals. And one occasionally hears the alternative consecration formula, ‘As the spear is to the male, so the cauldron is to the female…’ With these mythic associations, it is no wonder that Midsummer is such a joyous and magical occasion!
The Linden is the national tree of Latvia and is frequently mentioned in folklore, fairy tales, and the Latvian dainas (traditional songs). Associated with the feminine aspects of nature, linden was one of the most important ritual plants for celebrating the summer solstice. It was gathered and woven into garlands and wreaths that decorated the home, the garden, even the livestock. This protected from bad luck and negative forces
And in traditional dances (around the midsummer bonfire) women dancers wore sprays of linden. In Estonia and Lithuania, women brought food offerings at a blooming linden tree asking for fertility and good fortune. Linden was the sacred tree of the Latvian goddess of luck and fate, Laima. She measures the length of the day, the length of a lifespan, and one of her most important duties is prophesying.
Creating your Midsummer Extract is less about a method and more about magic. Herbs and flowers associated with fire and the sun are best suited. St. John’s Wort, rosemary, chamomile, lavender, vervain, hyssop, mullein, lavender, wormwood) bring invigoration, healing, purification, and protection. Rose, Daisy, marigold, cornflower, calendula bring you beauty and love, and linden blossom strengthens your powers of attraction. Ooh, la la!
Most folk customs agree dawn is the best time to gather. Midsummer dew is most magical (granting beauty & eternal youth) so you want to wash your face with it! Others say noon is the best time to gather, some say at midnight. Also, you should be careful that once you harvest the plants, don’t let them touch the ground – apparently this drains their magical energy into the earth!
But whatever you choose to do, creating magical extracts is really about setting an intention, then allowing intuition to guide you. The summer solstice marks the turning point from the waxing to the waning cycle in the great wheel of the year. Afterward, the days get shorter, the nights get longer, and all living things feel a shift in the natural world around them. This marks an energetic cycle of completion, an appropriate time to reflect on what you wish to harvest in the coming autumn.