On Midsummer Magic
Long days. Blissful evenings. Hazy summer nights. Nature’s rich promise delivered in bouquets of bright blooms all around us. This is the season of abundance, when the sunlight lingers. The land glows and with it we glow. Carefree reveries, open arms and hearts.
Midsummer sings of togetherness – this year, even more so, after enduring long periods indoors, being urged not to see and embrace one another. As our freedoms are slowly restored, we are welcoming in a Midsummer of Love, a pure celebration of everything we hold dear about the summer months and the pure pleasure of gathering, feasting and loving. Feeling free.
On the subject of freedom, the song ‘San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)’ is burned into our brains and instantly takes us back to the halcyon summers of our youth. It was on a 1960s compilation album called Feeling Groovy that was played on repeat in a beach cafe during school summer holidays. Their napkins were yellow and pink, and buckets and spades hung from the ceiling.
The song was written by John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas in 1967, and used to promote the Monterey International Pop Festival. This was the inaugural gathering of what became known as the Summer of Love. In the months that followed, as many as 100,000 young people – many of whom did have flowers in their hair – gathered in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood, fuelled by an idealistic Utopian vision for world peace, love and anti-consumerism. By the end of the summer, that movement had soured – doesn’t it always? – but as an iconic moment in youth counterculture, its memory lives on.
The pinnacle of the Midsummer season is, of course, the Summer Solstice. In Sweden, this is celebrated with homemade flower wreaths and large gatherings around tables laden with flowers, herring and schnapps; meanwhile, in parts of China, it is considered auspicious to eat noodles on the longest day of the year. This celestial event falls on 21 June in the northern hemisphere, when the sun is at its furthest from the equator.
It was traditionally marked by Celtic, Slavic and Germanic people with the lighting of bonfires, intended to boost the sun’s strength for the remainder of the crop season and to ensure a healthy harvest.
At this time of year, the sun’s energy is intoxicating and vibrant, warm and fertile, and the summer flowers we cherish reflect this energy. Marigolds, calendula and sunflowers are all part of the same family (Asteraceae, from the Greek meaning star). With their bright flowers and tall stems, they are the very embodiment of summer. In East-Asian cultures, sunflowers are said to symbolise hope, good luck and lasting happiness; the Incas worshipped them due to their resemblance to the sun.
Mysticism and magic are a common theme in summer folklore across the world, with countless myths describing the world turning upside down or the sun standing still around the solstice. Perhaps one of the most-famous tales, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is imbued with a sense of midsummer madness, in which the normal laws of nature are suspended, spirits and fairies bestowing humans with the ability to exceed the usual limitations of their world. And all of this feels possible because it takes place outside the normal confines of society, deep in the woods.
Forests are secretive and mysterious, full of unexplained sounds and shadows, and many writers have conjured up a sense of unease combined with nostalgia by using a forest setting. The natural world is often presented as a feminine space of love, desire and irrationality, a place where you can lose yourself and the imagination can run riot. And in Shakespeare’s play and many other stories, the characters come out of the woods changed for the better.
So this summer we say venture into nature and the new world we find ourselves in – and do so bravely. Dance, laugh, feast, share with friends. Explore Midsummer rituals. Revel in sunlight and feel its true power. Do things that bring you joy. Break the rules. Join us in our Midsummer of Love...