The Summer Solstice marks the longest day of the year, and the shortest night. Celebrated in the Northern hemisphere on June 21st, the word solstice comes from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop at this time. Originally a significant Pagan celebration with ancient shrines like Newgrange and Stonehenge built to align with the solstice, June 21st was later adopted by Christianity to celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. Traditions differ and vary between countries of the Northern hemisphere celebrating the longest day. In Pagan Ireland, people believed that certain plants had miraculous healing powers and they, therefore, picked them on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. In pockets of rural Ireland solstice is still marked by the lighting of bonfires on beaches, promontories and hilltops.
Mugwort (Mongach Meisce): Mugwort was traditionally believed to have strong powers of protection over evil. It was known in Europe as the Mother of Herbs, and has strong associations with Solstice and St. Johns Eve. Its powers were strengthened by smoking it over the bonfires which were lit to mark the festival. Wreaths and garlands of the smoked mugwort were hung over doors and windows to keep away all evil powers. If you are interested in finding out more about the folklore, myths and legends of Irish wild plants, Niall Mac Coitir's book on the subject is a must read! It is available through our online shop and in our Drury street shop.