Monday, June 20, 2011

The Midsummer Tree

You might think that the erection of the maypole is a tradition associated exclusively with May Day (Beltane), but you would be wrong. The raising of the Midsummer tree is an authentic Midsummer custom found in many areas, including Wales, England, and Sweden.

The custom was called "raising the birch" in south Wales, and "the summer branch" in the north, and the dancing around it "the dance of the birch". It was decorated with ribbons, flowers and even pictures. A weathercock with gilded feathers surmounted it. The cry of the cock at sunrise indicates the end of the darkness and the start of the day. Celtic festivals were held from dusk till cock crow of the next morning.

Sometimes one village would try to steal another village's pole, and it was considered very ill fated and a disgrace to one in this fashion. The bereft village was not allowed to raise another until they had succeeded in stealing one from elsewhere, and the poles were guarded all night by groups of youths and men.

(From the book "Midsummer: Magical Celebrations Of The Summer Solstic" by Anna Franklin).

10 comments:

The Coexist Cafe said...

Yes! :D This is excellent! I know that dancing around the maypole is specific to Beltane, but I didn't know that "raising the birch" and other customs were specific to Midsummer/Litha.

Awesome post and cool bit of knowledge, thank you!

Toriz said...

Stephanie:
You're very welcome! :)

AliceKay said...

Interesting bit of info.

Toriz said...

AK:
Glad you thought so. :)

Rita said...

Pole stealing! Not nice!
Interesting post, Tori. :)

Toriz said...

Rita:
Nope, not nice. But I'm sure it was done just as much by one group as by another. :)

Intense Guy said...

*looks around to see if there is a pole to steal and doesn't see one*

I learned something in this post. We need to not only hug trees... but dance around them... :)

ChicagoLady said...

Makes me want to watch A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Queenie Jeannie said...

I'm with ChicagoLady and had the same thought, lol!

Very interesting post!!

Toriz said...

Iggy:
Yes; we need to hug trees, dance around them, then maybe hug them again for good measure? :)

Chicago:
LOL! Fair enough; I can see why! :)

Jeannie:
LOL!

Glad you found it interesting. :)