Midsummers Eve, the night before Summer Solstice was one of three days on the Celtic seasonal wheel where the veil between worlds was considered to be thin and otherworldly encounters could occur that much more easily. The other days, were Samhain in winter and Beltaine in Spring. This year Midsummers Eve falls on December 20th in New Zealand.
In the Celtic worldview the Otherworld is never far from the physical world, it intersects with our world and can be perceived or even visited at any time but particularly on the three days mentioned above, at the liminal thresholds of dawn and dusk as well as at various nature gateways or portals. These natural thresholds to the secret country of faery include under barrow mounds where our ancestors lie, in caves, mountains, in the hollow of a tree or at night by a holy well or spring. This land of the Otherworld has many magical names - Tir na nOg (cheer nun nawg) Land of Youth, Mag Mell (moy myall) Plain of honey in Irish or Annwn (Anoon) meaning 'very deep' in Welsh. This land is a place of perpetual summertime, youth, beauty and abundance where the faery beings live in timeless bliss.
In Ireland, the idea of fairies living under the ground is much more than just a nice fantastical idea, it is literally written into the history of Ireland and the following story was believed to be true right into the 1700’s and is written into the 'Book of Invasions' which covers the waves of Irelands ruling peoples:
Thousands of years ago the Tuatha DéDanann (Thoo-a day Du-non), the People of the Goddess Danu, landed on the West Coast of Ireland. So great were their skills and talents that they were considered to be half man and half god. It remains ambiguous how the Tuatha de Danann arrived in Ireland. Some sources claim that they arrived through flying in the air in the form of mist or fog. Other sources claim they arrived on dark clouds. Some say that they arrived on ships that they burned so they could never return from whence they came.
They defeated the Formorian race and ruled Ireland it is said for the next 4000 years. Alternatively, 'The Annals of the Four Masters', records that they ruled Ireland from 1897 B.C. to 1700 B.C.
Tuatha DéDanann (Thoo-a day Du-non) were a civilised and cultured people. The new skills and traditions that they introduced into Ireland were held in high regard by the peoples they conquered. They had four great treasures or talismans that demonstrated their skills. The first was the 'Stone of Fal' which would scream when a true King of Ireland stood on it. It was later placed on the Hill of Tara, the seat of the High-Kings of Ireland. The second was the 'Magic Sword of Nuadha', which was capable of inflicting only mortal blows when used. The third was the 'sling-shot of the Sun God Lugh', famed for its accuracy when used. The final treasure was the 'Cauldron of Daghda' from which an endless supply of food flowed abundantly.
Then came the Milesian race, a war like people from modern day Spain and Portugal. The Tuatha were concerned about these new people and decided to hatch a magic plan to defeat them. They asked if they could stay out at sea for three days and three nights to give them time to reach an agreement. Then the Tuatha summoned a powerful storm, hoping to destroy their enemies ships. The Milesians realised this must be a magic storm and so their ruler Amergin recited his best verse and it was so good that the storm stopped.
At that point the Tuatha knew that they would not win in battle and so told the Milesians that they would agree to rule just half the land and the Milesians the other half and they said that the Milesians could choose which half they wanted. So the clever Milesians said we will take above the ground and you will live out your days below the ground. And so it was.
The Tuatha’s reign was over and they vanished underground, beneath the hills and into the otherworld. Here they live on forever as the Side (Shee) or Fairy folk. Here they have stayed ever since, living a secret life except at those ‘thin’ times of the day or year, particularly the Three Spirit Nights of Beltaine, Midsummer and Samhain, when they venture into the human world and can be seen by those who have the gift of vision.
The Celtic Pantheon is comprised of the many beings of the Tuatha De Danaan. Not all fairies are from the race of the Tuatha however, there are many kinds of fairies and nature beings to get to know. Other Celtic lands also have many faery folk such as your common garden Gnome, Brownies who might live in your house or Piskies in Cornwall who have red hair and pointed noses. In Aotearoa we have the Patupaiarehe in the Maori tradition, who interestingly are said to look remarkably similar to the pale skinned, red headed Cornish Piskies. You can read more about the Patupaiarehe and their controversial Celtic origins here.
The word faery come from the latin word for the fates ‘Fata’. In Ireland, they were originally called the aes sídhe (ess shee), literally, ‘the people who live in a mound,’ and later, simply the sídhe (shee). In Scottish Gaelic it was Daoine Sith (duh-nyuh shee), people of the mound and in Cornish Pobel Vyghan (pobble vee-an), little people.To most country folk they are addressed as simply ‘The good people, The Gentry, The people of Peace, the most important thing to keep in mind is to always address the Faery race with much respect!
So how might you connect with the Faery being this Midsummer?
People often ask me if I can see these beings physically and if thats important. In our physical world, seeing is often considered believing but not everything thats real can be seen with our physical eyes. Some people do see faery beings physically and there have been hundreds of sightings all over the world. For the majority of us however, we get a sense of something thats hard to put into words but we know is there. Nature, more often that not connects to us through our imaginal sense, a sense that comes in pictures, thought forms and dream like experiences. When we connect to the Otherworld it makes sense that it would be expressed in a way that is different to our usual physical ways of communication and perceptions of reality. Sometimes its a just a knowing or a sudden clarity or ability to see a situation in a new and refreshing way. Letting go of how your Otherworldly communications need to be and allowing whatever comes to you is the most productive way to open up to nature communication.
Choosing a place that you feel might be a potent ground for Otherworldly beings is a great way to start. Choose a tree, cave, lake or spring that calls to you and make some time at Dawn or Dusk on Midsummers Eve to sit in nature and become aware of the more than human world around you. You may like to find a plant or tree you feel drawn to and speak to it from your heart and listen to what murmurings are returned to you.
One of my favourite ways to connect with faeries is to make an offering to them. Place a small plate with some tasty treats and a small glass of milk or tea and leave it somewhere in nature.
Mugwort is an ancient herb associated with the Summer Solstice and known for its ability to create vivid, lucid dreams and trance states. There has been Mugwort found in caves, which suggests its use in ritual and ceremony throughout the ages. Before you head out into nature you might like to brew yourself a cup to aid your experience. Not to be used in pregnancy.
If you live in Auckland I have created a special Midsummer event at a sacred tree in Albany, Auckland to celebrate midsummer and Tree spirits in particular. We will be enjoying a cup of Mugwort tea! Click here for more details.
Midsummer Blessings to you all!