June 29, 2005
Centuries ago, Eastern and Northern Europeans would celebrate the summer solstice with mystical pagan customs intended to produce healing, fertility and prosperity. During Midsummer Eve, the night before the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere (usually June 21st), and people would light huge bonfires to symbolize light triumphing over darkness and life over death.
Shakespeare captured this night of supernatural wonder in his play A Midsummer Night's Dream when humans and other-world fairies mingled on a night when love and mischief was definitely in the air.
In time, those areas where Christianity came to dominate, the Church replaced summer solstice celebrations with the Feast of St. John, held on June 24th. Today, people in East Europe still mark Midsummer's Eve with festivals or dances and bonfires that light up the night sky.
The Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptizer (24 June), aka St. John's Day, is one of the quarter days, four Catholic holidays at the beginning of each season of the year, which were communally celebrated. The other quarter days are Christmas, Lady Day (Annunciation) and Michaelmas (Sept 29). Celebration of St. John's Day traditionally began the night before. St. John's Eve, (June 23), (today) was sometimes known as Bonfire Night in Ireland. Up to the mid-20th century, Irish Catholics lit large communal bonfires at sunset on this day, or small family fires outside their houses.
The communal bonfires were traditionally piled very high with wood, sticks, dry brambles, etc. Each household would contribute fuel for the fire. At dusk the whole town would gather around the pile, and an elderly man in the community would light the bonfire while saying a prayer. After the prayers, the merriment would begin: dancing, singing shouting, blowing horns, storytelling, instrumental solos, etc. The bonfire was tended until long after midnight
Saint John is known as the Patron Saint of Beekeepers. Two other saints are known as patron saints of Beekeepers. St. Ambrose Born: 339; Born: 339 Feast: December 7th and St. John Bernard of Clairvaux, Born: 1090; Died: 1153 Feast: August 20th.
The full moon closest to the summer solstice is known as the mead moon. This happened yesterday (June 22). I have also seen the full moon of July called the "Mead Moon".
All of this "History Lesson" is to let you all to know that, tonight, you should raise a glass of mead to the full moon and say a prayer to St. John (for you Christians) or howl at it (for you pagans). And, for those that believe the "Mead Moon" is in July, wait a month. As for me, I think I will drink a mead to the moon, and St. John, tonight AND next month.
You can read the rest here.
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