Druidry has a great respect and reverence for places that are ‘in between’ worlds. The seashore is one such place, where the three realms of Earth, Sea and Sky meet. There is great power in places such as these. It is the time of greatest light when the Solar God is crowned by the Goddess as the King of Summer. It also brings some sadness because from now until Alban Arthan, the Sun’s strength is declining and we have entered the waning year. For some this is the time of the Dark Twin, or Holly King, who is born and will take his crown at Alban Arthan. Of all the festivals Druidry is mostly associated with Alban Hefin. The wonderful white-robed figures filmed at the dawn rituals at Stonehenge are testament to this. However, to many Druids it is the turning seasons and the cycle of life, death and rebirth – reflected in the Wheel of the Year in its completeness – which are significant.
Summer Solstice – Alban Hefin
The Summer Solstice is on the 21/22 June in the Northern Hemisphere and the 21/22 December in the Southern Hemisphere. The time of maximum light and the Festival of Joy.
By Mara Freeman
Deeper into Alban Hefin
The Summer Solstice is the time of maximum light – when the countryside around us revels in colourful and fragrant splendour. This time is known in the Druid tradition as that of Alban Hefin – ‘The Light of Summer’ or ‘The Light of the Shore’.
At Alban Hefin the spiral of the year has expanded to its widest point and now the hours of light are as long as they will ever be. After 21st or 22nd June, the sun’s power will begin to wane and the days grow shorter. The sun has touched the northernmost point along the horizon and is about to embark upon the long journey back south, ending at Alban Arthan, the Winter Solstice, in mid-December in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice falls on 21st or 22nd December, with the sun touching the southernmost point along the horizon.
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In Cornwall and Wales, boys and girls, bedecked in garlands of flowers, went dancing and spinning around the great fires. Young men whirled flaming brands around their heads to form sun-wheels, balanced blazing barrels on top of poles or performed feats of daring such as jumping through the tall flames – perhaps to encourage the corn to leap up too. When the flames died down to glowing coals, dancers held hands and skipped through them, being careful not to break the chain, which would bring bad luck. The ashes from the fires were believed to have magical powers, and farmers carefully collected them to scatter around their fields or the animals’ barns. The old bonfire customs lasted well into modern times, and still continue today in Cornwall, thanks to the efforts of the Old Cornwall Society in keeping the old ways alive. On St. John’s Eve, every hill in Cornwall blazes like a beacon that can be seen for miles around, as they did in days of old, while in some towns chains of dancers spiral through the streets in the ancient serpentine dance.
On this night in County Limerick, Ireland, people processed up the hill of the faery queen Áine, whose name means ‘Brightness,’ and who was probably once a goddess of the sun. They set light to bunches of straw and hay called cliars that they waved among the fields and grazing cattle to ensure good crops and healthy beasts. When the great fire was lit at the top of the hill, Áine and her faery tribe came out to join in the revelry.
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More Articles About The Summer Solstice
Fellow Druid and OBOD member, Maria, shares her musings, experiences and stories about the Summer Solstice:
Maria recounts a visit to Adgestone Vineyard on the Isle of Wight during the Summer Solstice.
A close encounter with a bull has Maria learning a great Summer Solstice lesson about facing her fears.
Em shares a poetic daydream about love as the inspiration in the journey of her life as she transitions into Summer.