Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Midsummer Traditions

Like Christmas, Easter, Mayday and most other notable dates of celebration in the Western calendar, the Midsummer festival has its origins in pre-Christian European traditions that were given a Christian veneer to give that life-hating religion a crowd-pleasing, pagan feel to those natives who found it too dull, dour and lacking in fun to bother with. Traditionally, Midsummer is recognised as being on 24th June, the birthday of St. John the Baptist and thus marks the birth of winter in polarity to the birth of Christ, who symbolises the sun’s rebirth in the shortest days of winter. See my Christmas postGleðileg Jól for more on this particular symbolism. Nowadays, as society becomes more secular, the celebration of Midsummer, amongst those who bother, is generally centred on 21st June, the day of the Summer Solstice, rather than the birthday of St. John, the date of which is no longer an accurate reflection of the longest day of the year.

Pan-European Midsummer traditions, according to Frazer’s Golden Bough, include the casting of herbs, pebbles or effigies into a bonfire to ward off bad luck, leaping over or dancing around that fire to increase the fertility of the people and the land, and the igniting of hay bundles and wooden cartwheels, which were then rolled down a hill, as an oracular means of predicting the success of that summer’s harvest. Midsummer, as the turning point of the year, represents a liminal period. It is a time where past actions are reflected upon and the fruit of their actions are considered and anticipated. It is a mid-point; a brief resting place where hope is at its highest and the results of ones past actions can equally go in or against ones favour. It is a beginning and an end at once, and is part of the ongoing cycle of death and life as represented by the death of Baldur, the myth of Ragnarök, or the cyclic feud between Arawn and Hafgan the Holly King and the Oak King.

A current tradition amongst neo-pagans and others in the UK involves watching the sun rise over the heel stone at Stonehenge on the day of the Solstice. It was the 18th Century antiquarian William Stukeley who was the first man of the modern era to notice that the blue stones opened up to the direction of the rising sun of the summer solstice, with the sun rising directly above the Heel Stone, thus encouraging the common contemporary opinion that Stonehenge was once the site of solar rituals. Gerald Hawkins, writer of ‘Stonehenge Decoded’, also claimed that the positions of the stones at Stonehenge had strong correlations with the rising and setting positions with the sun and the moon. He even went as far as saying that the stones and holes that marked the earliest incarnation of Stonehenge could be used to predict lunar eclipses.

Despite being subject to the doubt of modern academics,this is a claim that is also backed up by the theories of Alexander Thom, who claims that several other megalithic sites in the British Isles display similar lunar and solar alignments. See one of my posts from this time last year, Solar Alignments of Ancient Monuments, for more on this. In Mythology of the British Isles, Geoffrey Ashe remarks how in the 4th Century BCE, a Greek by the name of Hecataeus of Abdera spoke of an island ‘North of Gaul’ which was inhabited by Hyperboreans and ruled over by Apollo, who would appear to them every nineteen years when the heavens were in a certain position and would play his harp to them at a ‘remarkable round temple’.

In the Celtic religion at the time it would seem that Apollo’s equivalent was Maponus, who, like Apollo was a sun god and a harp-playing god of music. Interestingly, though perhaps just coincidentally, the figure of the nineteen-year cycle suggested by Hecataeus correlates roughly with the 18.61 years of the lunar cycle, suggesting that there was also a possible lunar element to their religion, as well as a possible knowledge of the nature of the lunar nodical cycle amongst the Britons and their forebears. There appears to be more to the ancient nature of Stonehenge than a solar/lunar worship centre alone, with the 260 barrows that lie within a three-mile radius of it suggesting that funerary rites also seemed to play some part in the ritual purpose of Stonehenge.

Though it cannot be proved that Neolithic man displayed such great astronomical knowledge, in consideration of the other monuments of the era, and the solar, lunar and stellar nature of the religions of those times, it does seem fairly likely that there was an observational aspect to all of these sacred sites which may have been closely associated with burial rites and the souls and fates of the dead. The fact that there are about 900 megaliths and 40,000 Long Barrows in Great Britain suggests that these things were of vital importance to the practitioners of the ancient religions that once thrived here.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


Shattered is a 1991 Hitchcockian neo-noir/psychological thriller starring Tom Berenger, Greta Scacchi, Bob Hoskins, Joanne Whalley and Corbin Bernsen. It was directed and written for the screen by Wolfgang Petersen, based on the novel by Richard Neely. While driving at night along the San Francisco coast, an architect-developer Dan Merrick and his wife Judith are involved in a violent car wreck. Dan sustains major injuries, resulting in total amnesia, and he returns home in the care of his wife Judith.

 Dan relies on those close to him to help him restore his past, including his business partner Jeb Scott and Jeb's wife Jenny. While recovering, Dan has frequent flashbacks. As the days go by, Dan finds discrepancies in the stories he hears about his "former self". At one point, he stumbles upon photographs showing Judith sleeping with another man. At his office, Dan finds an expensive bill he paid to a pet store and follows up by visiting its proprietor, Gus Klein. 

Gus informs him that the payment was actually for services he provided as a private investigator. Gus tells Dan he hired him to follow his wife Judith and that his investigation had revealed she was indeed cheating on him with a man named Jack Stanton. Dan overhears Judith arranging a meeting with Jack Stanton, and he promptly follows her. Judith stops at the site of an old shipwreck. Assuming the wreck is a key in remembering his past, Dan has its removal postponed. One night, Jeb's wife Jenny tells Dan there is significantly more to his accident than he's aware of. Jenny accuses Judith of planning the accident to eliminate Dan.

Friday, 11 May 2012


Flowers are actinomorphic and bisexual with fused sepals and petals. The stamens are attached to the inside of the petals (epipetalous) and alternate with the corolla lobes. There is a glandular disk at the base of the gynoecium, and flowers have parietal placentation. The inflorescence is cymose, with simple or complex cymes. The fruits are dehiscent septicidal capsules splitting into two halves, rarely some species have a berry. Seeds are small with copiously oily endosperms and a straight embryo. The habit varies from small trees, pachycaul shrubs to (usually) herbs, with ascending, erect or twining stems. Plants are usually rhizomatous. Leaves opposite, less often alternate or in some species whorled, simple in shape, with entire edges and bases connately attached to the stem. Stipules are absent. Plants usually accumulate bitter iridoid substances; bicollateral bundles are present. Ecologically, partial myco-heterotrophy is common among species in this family with a few genera such as Voyria and Voyriella lacking chlorophyll and being fully myco-heterotrophic.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Finding Resonance

Considering my recent thoughts of the concepts of Exchange, Resonance, Synchronicity, Fylgja and the Abyss I took to re-reading my friend Ensio Kataja's, article 'The Runes of the Holy', in issue 19 of Rûna magazine. As I am about to move into an exploration of the Elhaz rune, I found Ensio's words most worthy of deep contemplation, especially in the light of my recent personal experiences with Wyrd and Synchronicity.

"The seventh rune of the first ættir of the Elder Futhark, gebo, is the rune of sacrifice, or 'making sacred', a mystery of the interdependence of gods and men. It is also a sign of 'alchemical marriage,' where the attainment of communication with the 'higher' or 'holy' Self of the runester is gained through the two-fold process of *wihaz and *hailagaz.

In a similar manner, elhaz, the seventh rune of the second ættir, represents the link between a man and his fylgja. Thorsson has written how 'the loading with magical, numinous or spiritual force effected through this rune implies a person or place with so much force that it becomes sacred, set apart and protected by divine power'.

Dagaz, the seventh rune of the third ættir, represents the mystery of the Óðinnic hyper consciousness. The secrets of 'the Day' should be sought at the extreme borders. This search, says Thorsson, 'ends when the contents of the extreme borderlands fall into a vortex of single pointed wholeness in the centre.'"