Tuesday 26 January
Olga Bloemen and Susannah Phillipson
Last week we wrote an introduction to this year’s Solstice, along with Susannah’s first experience of celebrating the shortest night of the year. Read last week’s blog post here.
This week we offer you an invitation to mark this turning point. Celebrate the sun and all that has come since midwinter. Call in your wishes for the lengthening nights ahead.
Gratitudes and dreams
As the pendulum of the year sways back again, the Summer Solstice is a moment to look back at the days of increasing daylight behind us. Individually or with others we can celebrate what we have realised or cultivated over the past six months since Midwinter. For all of us, this year so far has been unlike any other, and the past months of physical distancing have brought grief and challenges. At Solstice we can create time to acknowledge those, but also to ask ourselves what we are grateful for in this moment, looking back. The Summer Solstice invites us to reflect on the new skills and insights we have gained in this time and possible new understandings or directions that will now bring us forward into the ‘harvest time’ – as we’ll slowly be emerging out of our lockdown chrysalis in the darkening half of the year ahead.
Outside around a fire or inside around candles, you can choose to share your gratitudes with others and be witnessed and celebrated in what you’ve learned and achieved! You can also create a solitary Solstice ritual, for example by doing some ‘free writing’ using a prompt such as ‘At this Summer Solstice, I give thanks to…’. Try setting a timer (e.g. for 15 minutes) and writing without thinking about it too much and lifting your pen off the paper!
With the Sun at its peak energy, this is also a good time to express the dreams and hopes we’re holding in our hearts, and ‘super-charge’ them for the time ahead! Alone or with others, we can work with prompts such as ‘I dream of…’, ‘I long for…’ or ‘My hope is…’, and see what arises.
As both the Sun and the Moon represent in many cosmologies the masculine and feminine energies respectively, this year’s solar eclipse Solstice could also offer space to work with or restore the balance of these energies within us, whatever they mean to each of us.
Come out Dancing
Like a wild one
Like a wild one
Dance like a wild one
Write your name in the sky
Peasants dancing with wreaths
Midsummer is a time for dancing and drums. A time for release, and letting it all out. Isn’t that just the medicine, for this time, where we have had to suppress the social, festival instincts of summer in order to isolate ourselves for the protection of public health? Find a way, this solstice, to dance with that fire in you, let the chaos move through your body, your hands, your voice.
There is a long standing tradition of ecstatic dancing at Solstice celebrations in Europe, which seems to have been particularly embraced during times of stress and struggle. You can read more about it HERE:
The medieval movement of ecstatic dancers arose at a harrowing time in European history. Mystic ecstasy was a medicine for desperation, a last public outpouring of shamanic culture in the midst of political upheaval and economic distress. – Max Dashú
Solstice Plants and Recipes
Some plants to work with at this time of year are Elderflower, Lavender, and Mugwort.
The base of Arthur’s Seat, and the canal towpath are drunk with the hazy smell of Elderflowers at this time of year. Pick them on a dry, warm day, when they are just open (some buds still closed). Here is a delicious and easy recipe for Elderflower Cordial.
Mugwort’s Latin name is Artemisia Vulgaris, so you can tell it is magical. It is a powerful dream herb, which can intensify and support lucid dreaming especially if you drink a tea before bed over successive nights. There’s quite a lot of Mugwort growing around Arthur’s Seat, and I imagine it will be along the Canal as well. Another way to use Artemisia is as a smudge stick – to burn for its purifying smoke. Find out how to make a mugwort smudge stick here.
Lavender is less available wild, but you may ask your neighbours to pick a few sprigs from their gardens if you don’t have any of your own! I always make this delicious Apricot, Walnut and Lavender cake from Ottolenghi at this time of year. It’s like a warm French summer in a cake! You could make this recipe vegan by using ‘vegan block’ or spread instead of butter, and egg replacement instead of egg.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s apricot, walnut and lavender cake recipe: ‘It’s like Provence in a cake.’
185g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
2 tbsp walnut oil
220g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
4 medium eggs, beaten
120g ground walnuts
90g plain flour
½ tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1½ tsp picked lavender flowers, fresh or dry
600g (gross) apricots, halved and stones removed
For the icing
50g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. Put the butter, oil, sugar and almonds in the bowl of a mixer and beat on a medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs bit by bit, making sure each addition is well incorporated before beginning the next, then fold in the walnuts, flour, vanilla, lemon zest, a teaspoon of lavender flowers and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt.
Line the base and sides of a 23cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. Pour in the cake mix and use a palette knife to level it out. Arrange the apricot halves skin side down and slightly overlapping all over the top of the cake, taking them right to the edge.
Bake for 70-80 minutes – cover with foil if the top starts to brown too much; also, note that when you insert a skewer to test for doneness, it will come out a little sticky because of all the moisture in the apricots.
While the cake is baking, whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice until you have a light, pourable icing (adjust the amount of sugar or juice slightly, to suit your tastes). As soon as the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and brush the icing all over the top. Sprinkle over the remaining lavender flowers and set aside to cool.
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