20 June 2009

Midsummer Dreams

A Midsummer Night's Dream is an early romantic comedy by William Shakespeare that may have been written for the wedding of a noble couple. It was suggested by "The Knight's Tale" from Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales and written around 1594 to 1596.

You can read a full summary of all the goings on and mixed up contretemps involving four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors overseen by the Duke of Athens, Theseus, the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta, and with the fairies who inhabit a moonlit forest. Central to all the magic is the King of the fairies, Oberon, and his mischief maker agent, Puck.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call:
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

The Celts figured a day from sundown to sundown. Not having access to an astronomical calendar, a set date for Midsummer began on sundown of June 23 and lasted until sundown on June 24. This was the date of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Our modern calendars are quite misguided in suggesting that ‘summer begins’ on the solstice. According to the old folk calendar, summer begins on May Day and ends on Lammas (August 1), with the summer solstice, midway between the two, marking midsummer. This makes more logical sense than suggesting that summer begins on the day when the sun’s power begins to wane and the days grow shorter.

For a modern reference this year, the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere begins on June 21, 2009 at 1:45 A.M. EDT

Summer Solstice Fun Facts

* Pagans called the Midsummer moon the "Honey Moon" for the mead made from fermented honey that was part of wedding ceremonies performed at the Summer Solstice.

* Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires, when couples would leap through the flames, believing their crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump.

* Midsummer was thought to be a time of magic, when evil spirits were said to appear. To thwart them, Pagans often wore protective garlands of herbs and flowers. One of the most powerful of them was a plant called 'chase-devil', which is known today as St. John's Wort and still used by modern herbalists as a mood stabilizer.

And just to get you in the mood for more romance: The Corrs with "Haste To The Wedding"


maryt/theteach said...

Ah, Jamie, begorra, thanks for the Corrs and all the info on the Summer Solstice! Today was my mother's birthday...She passed several years ago.

This Eclectic Life said...

I love all the information, Jamie. I had no idea! This is midsummer & evil spirits are out? Maybe that's what's wrong with my internet connection. Should I rub the cables with St. John's Wort?

Mo said...

Some neo-pagans burn branches of St. John's Wort for the summer solstice.
Thanks for a cool solstice post!

Travis said...

When you put it in those terms, it doesn't actually make sense that we mark the official first day of summer on the longest day of the year.

Maybe that's why we mark it in practice between the last weekend in May and the first weekend in September.