A Gaelic Summer Solstice

I’m helping to organize a summer solstice chat for ADF’s Gael Kin later this week, and in preparation for our discussion, I’ve been doing some research on what summer solstice celebrations might look like for a Gaelic hearth. As I was typing up my lists of deities, practices, and ideas for workings, it occurred to me that this information might be useful to others.

Up front, I’m going to say that I won’t be citing all my sources for this initial draft of this post, mostly because I’m just rounding up my notes. Eventually I’d like to turn this into a more scholarly essay, but for the moment, please accept a few statements of general knowledge without citation.

We know that the solstice wasn’t a big part of Celtic celebration: quarter days, as we call them now, belong to a more modern tradition of pagan worship that collects all eight High Days. Because of this, and a distinct lack of clear solar deities in the Gaelic pantheons, it can be difficult to decide how we should celebrate the summer solstice.

There are, however, a few traditions that merit exploration, and some deities whose connections to the sun and summer make them appropriate guests of honor at a solstice rite. Let’s look at deities first.

  1. Manannán mac Lir: My personal patron, and my favorite deity to honor at the summer solstice. There’s a Manx tradition of throwing fresh grasses into the sea at the summer solstice as a way of paying rent for the year (Ellison 179). Myth also says that Manannán outfitted Lugh with his boat, horse, and sword (Green 139), which does seem to lend some weight to the notion of Manannán as a deity presiding over the precursor holiday to Lughnasadh.
  2. Aine: Her name always comes up, and she is one for whom I don’t have a primary source. According to Mara Freeman, Aine “may have been a goddess of the sun, for her funeral was said to be at midsummer, the date that marks the decline of the sun’s power” (171-172). She also has faerie associations that may work well with midsummer traditions.
  3. Oengus: Born on a “day” the sun stood still (for nine months!), Oengus is a god of love and passion. If the story of the deception around his conception by the Daghda and Boann isn’t romantic enough, he’s also mythologically associated with his own passion and that of others (Green 165). While his sun association is primarily to do with the day of his conception and his parents’ trickery, long summer nights seem as good a time as any to celebrate love and passion.
  4. Ériu: An earth mother goddess associated with the land of Ireland,Ériu also has sun associations: “the sun was perceived as a golden cup filled with red wine which Ériu, as goddess of the land, hands to successive mortal kings of Ireland, to signify their marriage and the fertility of the country” (Green 92).

So that’s four deities, two male and two female, we can potentially honor at the summer solstice. Their associations with this high day may take some logical yoga to reach, but when you don’t have a recorded tradition to emulate, you take what works for you!

How about traditions, though? We have our deities we want to honor, but how can we celebrate this high day at our altar and on our hearth?

  1. Manannán-Related Workings: I mentioned the tradition of paying Manannán his rent. In the past, I’ve made straw bundles and floated them down the stream near my house. This year, I’m toying with the idea of asking Manannán to bless my “boat, horse, and sword,” in some symbolic fashion: perhaps my car, pets, and pens? There may be nothing there, but it’s something I’d like to explore.
  2. Bonfires: There may or may not be a strong bonfire tradition associated with the summer solstice. Skip Ellison writes, “Records going back to the sixteenth century refer to the number of bonfires seen on hills throughout the British Isles,” continuing to say that people jumped through the fires for luck and took home the ashes for ensuring a bountiful harvest (178). However, most neopagans I know celebrate with bonfires at Beltane, not the summer solstice. But when in doubt, I suppose, light a big fire.
  3. Faerie and/or Nature Magic: Aine seems to be associated with the fairies. Since I don’t have a source for this, though, I don’t want to plunge into that mire without other reasoning. That said, midsummer is a time when we see nature and its spirits at their peak. Animals are everywhere, plants are growing, the nature spirits are flourishing. If you don’t have a strong connection to a faerie tradition or mythos, consider dedicating this high day to a celebration of the nature spirits.
  4. Sovereignty Celebrations: Irish mythology loves its sovereignty celebrations. Maybe you celebrate the sovereignty of the land at Samhain or the harvest, but consider recreating Ériu’s blessing of the king’s union with the land. A cup of water could receive the sun’s blessing, symbolizing the process of crop fertilization and growth. Or you could dedicate yourself to YOUR land, whether that’s your property or your country or even the earth.

And there you have it: choose a combination of these deities and working ideas, and see what you can come up with. For high days like this one, it’s important both to be informed by our ancestors’ practices and also to be creative enough to come up with our own. Traditions have to start somewhere, you know.


Ellison, Robert Lee (Skip). The Solitary Druid. New York: Citadel Press, 2005. Print.

Freeman, Mara. Kindling the Celtic Spirit. New York: HarperOne, 2001. Print.

Green, Miranda J. Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend. London: Thames & Hudson, 1992. Print.


The Value of Plans

Well, I planned to make May a month of druid boot camp, with nightly devotionals and near-nightly attention to my studies. I did well for the first ten days or so—and then I got sick, and not just with the sniffles. I was well and truly sick, with a high fever and wracking cough and a complete inability to get out of bed for more than a few minutes at a time.

I’m proud to say that in two weeks of illness, I only missed four nights of devotional, and I updated my journal at least three times a week. I, and my practice, survived together.

I realized, though, that while periods of intensive study are excellent, and often invigorating, they’re not what I really need. What I need is a druidry, a nightly practice, that wears well in washing, that sustains me when I’m sick, and upholds me when I’m at my worst. I need room for success, certainly, but I also need room for failure and fevers and fumbled offerings. I need a lifestyle, not a practice—though practice enriches that lifestyle, without a doubt.

I’ll be trying my boot camp plan again in June. Even my truncated period of intensive work started to build some good habits, so I know that element of the plan will be successful. Ad while I know I’ll have some screw-ups, that I’ll fall asleep before completing devotionals, that I’ll occasionally forget offerings or have a candle that just won’t stay lit, I also know that my efforts, successful or faltering, will deepen my connection to the Kindred.

Stay tuned.

A Druid’s Challenge

Well, well, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

This has been a difficult year. I’ve had some career set-backs and changes that led to starting a new job with more strenuous hours. My husband and I moved. My extended family has faced sudden loss. Things have changed, and not all for the better. It’s been Life, I suppose, with that all-important capital L that stands for all the little things we deal with day by day and never mention.


I made a deliberate choice to blog less here. Part of that change happened when I took over SDF, but more of it happened before then. I realized that the constant self-analysis was making my practice too meta—when I was doing a thing, I was thinking about writing about doing the thing, and that was taking away from my experience of actually doing the thing itself. I cut back on blogging because I wanted to focus more on the moment of my practice.

Now, two years later, I’ve found that without that constant consideration and reflection, I’ve fallen into a druidic rut. My rituals feel the same. My devotionals, day by day, never change. The seasons shift around me, but I plug along, saying the same words and thinking the same things. I’ve lost the freshness and sense of adventure I had when I started, and my ability to experiment and question myself has stagnated.

It’s not a good feeling.

This blog and the ADFers I met through it were my first community. This digital space witnessed my early, breathless successes and my cheerful, clumsy failures. Here I explored what it meant to me to be a druid, and I questioned the world around me through the posts I wrote here.

I want to recapture that particular magic.

Ironically, given that I started as such a prolific blogger, journaling has proven to be my biggest obstacle to my clergy training work. I cannot make myself journal my practice every week. I’ve tried Google calendar reminders, I’ve tried Habit RPG, I’ve even tried siccing my husband’s nagging powers on me. None of it has worked.

I’m thinking of issuing myself a challenge. I would like to apply for ordination around this time next year. (Talk about optimism…!) It’ll be a commitment, but it’s absolutely doable. Here’s the tricky part, though: if I want to stick to the schedule I’ve made for myself, I need to commit to journaling every single week. Without fail. No, “Well, I’m tired, I’ll make it up next week.” Absolutely no, “But… I don’t want to tonight!”

Nope. No. No way.

So the first part of the challenge will be, for one month (or possibly the span between two High Days), I will blog here every week and write in my private journal every day. The second part of the challenge will be a self-directed druidic bootcamp, in which I practice trance twice a week and work on CTP essays twice a week.

It would (will?) be a challenge. I haven’t decided for sure if I’m going to do it. But Beltane is approaching, and I know I want to make a change. It seems as good a date to start as any other. I know I can do this, but I have to hold myself accountable to documenting my work.

What do you think, readers? Want to help me? Can you think of a better way to rope myself into keeping up with my liturgy and trance journals?

Help for the Lost

Readers, I know very few of you who visit this blog live in or anywhere near southern Indiana.

However, the internet has made a global community out of us: Druid, Pagan, Christian, or simple passer-by, we’re all drawn together by virtue of the written word. You are hearing my voice through the back-lit black text before you. I am a real person, and I am asking for real help.

A 20-year-old Indiana University student named Lauren Spierer has been missing for a week now, and local police seem to have no tangible leads.  You may have no tips for the authorities, but you do have a voice. Tweet #FindLauren, repost this blog post, or visit our university news site or another localless local, or national news site to learn how else you can help.

We’ve all been a friend, a parent, or a sibling, and we all know what it means to feel fear. Please help. Say a prayer, light a candle, do whatever feels right and best to you, but please help.

Meditation Week 9

I actually have been meditating again (yay!), though I’m skipping the two powers this week and trying something new.

Instead of active, visualization meditation, I’m trying passive, receptive meditation. Every night, before I go to sleep, I sit completely quietly in my bed, and I invite the Kindreds to come to me, if they will, and speak to me on their own terms.

I haven’t heard a concrete message yet, but I know they’re there. I can feel their presence. I will keep listening.