June in the Wheel of the Year Part 3: Flowers of Midsummer - Lucya Starza
In June where I live, in England, flowers are abundant. Wheel of the Year celebrations usually reflect what’s happening in nature, with seasonal flora on the altar, and crafting and spellwork using what’s growing, blooming, ripening or going to seed. Folklore says herbs gathered at Midsummer for magical or medicinal purposes are especially potent. Midsummer’s Eve, historically thought of as being June 23, was traditionally when wisewomen – or men – collected plants. A few include fennel for protection, rue to put in healing poppets or sachets, rosemary to dry and burn for smoke cleansings, and lemon verbena for love spells. Another bit of Midsummer Eve magic is that according to English folklore, if you watch the ferns and collect the seeds that fall at exactly midnight, you can use them to become invisible. Actually, ferns produces spores, not seeds, but maybe they have the same effect. Here’s a little more June flower magic.
The elder tree in my garden is usually covered in delicate white flowers (pictured) in early June. Elder is very much associated with witches in England. A tale from the Rollright Stones says a witch cursed a group of upstart knights and turned them into megaliths, transforming herself into an elder tree to watch them. Also, folklore relates that if an elder in the garden of a witch is cut, its owner will bleed. I know that isn't entirely true, as I’ve pruned mine without suffering ill effects. However, before cutting any elder, ask permission of both the tree and the land’s owner. Folklore warns that doing so without permission can invite bad luck. Elder trees are sometimes grown near houses as protection from curses too. Elder has many healing properties, but I’m focussing on magic in this post. If you’re interested in herbalism I recommend The Healing Power of Celtic Plants by Angela Paine, who points out: “Elder was one of the sacred trees of the ancient Celts. Both the blossoms and the fruits are medicinal.” There are many recipes for using elderflowers in cooking and wine-making, but you can simply make elderflower tea by steeping washed petals in boiling water.
St John's Wort
Historically, St John’s Day, on June 24th, was when it was customary to gather St John's wort. This herb with yellow flowers has long been used to keep evil away magically and as well as in medicine. It’s still sometimes used to treat depression today, although this post isn’t offering medical advice. From at least medieval times the herb has been hung over doors and windows to keep away malefic spirits and spellcasters. In some areas, the flowers were traditionally dipped in a bowl of water and left outside exposed overnight to create a beauty potion in which to wash one’s face. Rachel Patterson, in A Kitchen Witch’s World of Magical Herbs and Plants writes that St John's wort is also useful in love divination magic, and in truth spells.
Although many types of honeysuckle flower all year, the one in my garden blooms prolifically in June. Honeysuckle growing near your home is said to attract money, love, and luck. Its sweet scent is also supposed to help clear the mind and promote psychic powers. You can put dried honeysuckle flowers in incense blends, pouches, and poppets. The vines can be used for binding too. Don’t eat the berries, by the way, as some varieties are poisonous to humans.
Wild roses are another June bloom. While cultivated roses flower all summer, wild roses only flower once. The ones in my garden have pale pink blooms with five petals as well as sharp thorns along the stems. Although all roses symbolise love, the wild rose also symbolises the wildness of nature, which can be both beautiful and cruel.
They often need cutting back if you don’t want a home like Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Pruned rose stems can be transformed into wands. Dry them, cut them to length, and sand or cut off thorns at the handle end. Rose wands can be used in love magic, but also for cutting unwanted romantic ties and dispelling enchantment. The rose is sacred to Aphrodite, but also Isis. The rose of Isis appears in the allegorical novel The Golden Ass as "the sweet Rose of reason and virtue" that saves the hero from a bewitched life as a donkey. A rose wand can also be used for magic you don’t want discovered. In Ancient Rome the wild rose was the symbol for a real chamber of secrets and was associated with Harpocrates, god of silence and confidentiality. A wild rose would be placed on the door of a room where confidential matters were being discussed or painted on borders around ceilings of rooms as a sign that topics discussed there were not to be repeated outside. The phrase sub rosa, or "under the rose", means to keep a secret – derived from this practice.
Leave the Sunflowers Alone
Before the Summer Solstice, I often notice pagan groups using sunflowers as symbols for June’s seasonal rites, suggesting them as altar adornments, or spells involving sunflower seeds. However, in the UK, sunflowers don't normally bloom until August. For Wheel of the Year rites, I’d leave sunflowers until Lammas, the next festival in the cycle of the seasons. The wise old witch who trained me used to say: "The first thing you do when you are writing a ritual for the Wheel of the Year is look out of the window. What can you see growing there? What's happening in nature? Use that for inspiration." That’s still good advice.
This is the third in a series of posts I’m writing for the Moon Books Blog on the theme of the Wheel of the Year. My posts will be compiled and edited into a book: Pagan Portals – Wheel of the Year. Other books by Lucya Starza in the Pagan Portals series include Candle Magic, Guided Visualisations, Poppets and Magical Dolls, and Scrying. Lucya edited the community book Every Day Magic – A Pagan Book of Days.
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