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Image: Jan ShepherdThe Summer Solstice (cont)

Like so much in the Wheel, this must be viewed as a tidal effect. It's not the case that the Oak King is switched off at the Summer Solstice, but rather that this is the peak of his effect, and from here onwards, he fades away. This gradual changeover is expressed in other myths which, for example, place the battle between Holly and Oak at Beltane. Sometimes the battle is seen as inconclusive and resulting in a wasting wound. This emphasises the slow, transitional effect of the changing energies.

The link between Summer Solstice and Cancer, a water sign, is interesting. There were many divination and fertility rituals across Europe from prehistory until very recently. The main feature of these rituals is that a cart wheel would be wrapped in hay, set alight and rolled down a hill. Usually there would be a river or the sea at the end of the hill. A wheel that burnt brightly all the way to the river would be a sign of a good harvest to come. This is key, because this time of the year is when the Sun is at maximum strength and the most ripening takes place.

Although Asterix and Obelix is a children's cartoon, it does contain a seed of truth. In it the Druids collect mistletoe from the sacred Oaks at Summer Solstice in order to do magic. Mistletoe is a magical plant as it doesn't grow directly out of the earth, but hangs from a plant. In a sense, it lives between the earth and air. Also, this festival links together fire and water. So, together we have all four elements – fire, water, earth and air. This combination is what leads to maximum growth.

By their very nature, the solstices are turning points in the year. They were probably the first points noticed by ancient man and there are more monuments marking solstices than any other day on the Wheel of the Year. In early farming communities, they were key moments. The Summer solstice is the day when the spring is over and nature enters a ripening phase. It would have been a critical time, for fattening animals, swelling berries, ripening corn and drying hay meadows. 

In terms of the Goddess, she is seen as being in the radiant, blooming phase of pregnancy. She is in the most bountiful phase of being a Mother, an aspect of the Triple Goddess who moves between the stages of Virgin, Mother and Crone.  [More...]

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