26 June 2012

Celebrating the Solstice

The 21st of June has long been celebrated as the brightest day of the year. To celebrate the beginning of summer Brigit's Garden held a community bonfire. We had never been before so we took the opportunity to look around. It has four different gardens celebrating each of the four Celtic seasons among other things, such as plantings of the Ogham trees. 

Ogham is an early medieval alphabet composed of various horizontal lines crossing a vertical one. The name Ogham is allegedly derived from that of the Celtic god of literature and eloquence, Ogma. It is sometimes called "The Celtic Tree Alphabet," based on a tradition associating the names of trees to individual letters. The letters are primarily named after Irish native trees. 

Along with the bonfire, there was a drumming workshop in a marquee (big tent) which could be heard all over the garden. Afterwards there was a torch-lit procession, whereby the employees of the gardens (and some uh, lovely children) held torches while the rest of us followed with tea lights in Styrofoam cups. 

In a Celtic revival sort of ceremony, we filed under a living arch of branches while incense burned and women sang a Celtic song with the drums. I would have preferred this one instead.

We walked through the stone circle and around to the pile of wood.

Our tea lights were put in a large circle around the fire and the torches placed in the ground before the pyre was set alight from the hay piled beneath it. 

There was a fire dancer with all kinds of flaming fire tools. Some looked like arcs.

Some looked like wings.

After the singing procession, the drumming heart beat, and the shape of the pyre, a lot of us were thinking Wicker Man. At first there was smoke, drifting over all of us where we stood shivering and waiting in the twilight (because, of course, although it was almost ten, the light was still lingering).

Then it burst into flame!

And gradually...

died away.