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Brian Kannard

Midsummer's eve

June 24, 2007 | Comment icon 11 comments


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For as long as man has memory, we have ascribed importance to certain days of the year. Be these daysí feasts, astronomical events, birthdays, or anniversaries; a certain day turns into a special event. One has to look no further than their day timer to find multiple examples of how we honor the passage of time in this way. Of all the days in a year, I can think of few that have as much esoteric importance, June 24th. Primarily, June 24th is the traditional day of Midsummerís Eve. The ancients identified this day with the summer solstice and ascribed a mystical importance. The summer solstice is the longest of day and the shortest night of the year. Ostensibly due to unusual solar nature of the day, magical powers are at their peak. The walls between this world and the next became thinner on Midsummerís Eve. Evil spirits roamed the earth that day and the populace used magic to protect them against the hellish onslaught.

The rituals and traditions that developed around the warding off Midsummerís Eveís spirits are primarily European and vary from region to region. These origins of these traditions predate Christianity and are lost to the modern day world. However, many of differing traditions live on, in some form, even today. With the diversity of celebrations, there are two common denominators that flow through all these cultures; fire and plant life.

Certain plants and herbs took on magical powers of healing, divination, and protection. Many of the rituals that revolve around flora ascribe a certain effect for a particular plant. Mistletoe was used to protect against misfortune, wormwood placed under a pillow would foster a dream of your true love, Saint Johnís Wort protected you from evil and helped you predict the future. The list of plants and effects goes on and on.

Fire was also used to drive the spooks back into the netherworld. Men would strip to the waist and jump through fires to show their courage, thus discouraging spirits from meddling with them. Bones were burned in bon fires and their ashes scattered to the four corners of a field to insure a good harvest. Lovers would leap through the same fires to increase fertility. Torches were carried around flocks to dispel illness.

Some of these traditions are still practiced throughout Europe, but with a slightly different bent. With the introduction of Christianity into Europe, Midsummerís Eve turned into John the Baptistís Fest Day. To insure the full overshadowing of any older traditions, John the Baptistís Fest was elevated to the status of Solemnity. This meant that this was a Grade ďAĒ fest that took place even when it fell on a Sunday.

Also of note, Saint John the Baptistís Day is one of two Masonic feast days. The other feast day is John the Evangelistís day on 27 December. Both are viewed as the patron Saints of Masonry. At least in Tennessee, all Masonic Lodges are required to have some service honoring both Johns on their appropriate day.

June 24th is also the anniversary of the Scottish forces defeating the English Army at Bannockburn in 1317. If youíre unfamiliar with the socio-political situation of the English/Scottish conflict, thereís a good article on Wiki to get you up to speed.

The tale goes that Robert the Bruceís brother, Edward Bruce, had given the forces at Sterling Castle an alternative to a long drawn out siege. The Bruceís brother made a pact that if the English did not send reinforcements by midsummer night eve that the English commander would hand over the castle. Upon hearing the terms of the pact, English King Edward I, thinking this would be an easy end to the Scottish problem, issued orders for a massive army to march north towards Sterling.
Instead of backing down from the challenge his brother had made, the Bruce decided to turn it into his advantage. His peers would have described the Bruce as an unconventional tactician. The Bruce employed primarily guerilla tactics that made use of very advantage the land had to offer. Bannockburn was no different. The Bruceís plan was conduct the battle in the marshy Bannockburn. This would slow the advance of both English cavalry and infantry; thus giving the Scots the chance to attack when and where they wished.

The plan worked throughout the first day of battle on 23 June. The English forces were fought to a draw. As midday pressed on the second day, the battle was beginning to favor the English. Then, suddenly on a hill behind the Scottish forces came a group of fresh reinforcements. What ever this force was, it spooked the English army so badly they routed from the field. The route was so severe that Edward II was almost captured as his army fled.

The historical debate still goes on as to who or what these reinforcements were. Historical accounts suffer due the lack of any surviving first hand account of the battle. Conventional history teaches that the mysterious reinforcements were women and children waiving Scottish banners and beating pots and pans while cresting the hill.

Having visited the battlefield, this seems unlikely to me. Given the heat and press of battle was on and the mysterious force could have been in disguise to further ruse. It would still be difficult not to have discerned who was cresting the hill. At present, there is a clear line of sight from the battlefield to the hill. I myself was able to identify a number of people standing at the top of the hill from where the English front lines would have been.

Masonic lore tells a slightly different tale of the reinforcements that won the day at Bannockburn. It is suggested that Robert the Bruce made a deal with renegade Knights Templar. The Bruce gave any fleeing Templar sanctuary in an excommunicated Scotland, in return for their services against the English aggressors. The sight of even 50 fully armored and mounted Templars would have been enough to turn the tide of battle.

The Bruce was so pleased with the ex-Templarís service, that immediately after the battle he created the Royal Order of Scotland. The Order is said to live on through a Masonic organization of the same name. It is in this way that many try to link Freemasonry with the Templars. The Templars wishing to keep their rituals alive changed them into what we know as Masonic Degrees today.

Wow, thatís a lot going on for one 24 hour span of time. I cannot say that I have been spared by the magic that is Midsummerís Eve. Every year, I throw a Bannockburn party on the 24th. This year will make the 5th year Iíve held the event. Itís become something of a tradition that my family and friends have come to look forward to. And this year Iíve added a little twist, Iíll be getting married at that party. Itís not necessarily due to the magic that Midsummerís Eve has, or to any particular belief I hold. I simply wanted to be able to always remember my anniversary, and I guess there is a certain magic to keeping myself out of the dog house for the years to come.

Brian Kannard is a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason that lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and fellow Grail Seeker Laura. His keen interest in topics on the Holy Grail, the Knights Templar, and Freemasonry are also chronicled his blog Grail Seekers. Brian can be contacted here at Unexplained Mysteries under the user name of Grail Seekers.

Comments (11)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by Darkwind 16 years ago
That is really nice geronimo. Thanks for sharing.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Shadow_Wolf 16 years ago
Nice poem, but the Summer Solstice and Midsummer's day are different events... The Summer Solstice marks the coming of the dark (days), so in some ways is the first day of winter
Comment icon #4 Posted by disintegration 16 years ago
Thanks geronimo47. Though the date varies with everyone. June 21st for me. Summer Solstice, Midsummer, Midsummer Night's Eve aka Litha, are the same. While it is understood that from this longest day the days will grow shorter it is not considered to be the first day of winter.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Grail Seekers 16 years ago
While it is true that the Summer Solstice this year was on 21 June 07, 24 June 07 is the traditionalday for the event. The difference comes in, from a quote from the Wiki article on Midsummer's Eve, : "Solstitial celebrations still centre upon 24 June, which is no longer the longest day of the year. The difference between the Julian calendar year (365.2500 days) and the tropical year (365.2422 days) moved the day associated with the actual astronomical solstice forward approximately three days every four centuries until Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar bringing the solstice to around 21 ... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by disintegration 16 years ago
While it is true that the Summer Solstice this year was on 21 June 07, 24 June 07 is the traditionalday for the event. The difference comes in, from a quote from the Wiki article on Midsummer's Eve, : "Solstitial celebrations still centre upon 24 June, which is no longer the longest day of the year. The difference between the Julian calendar year (365.2500 days) and the tropical year (365.2422 days) moved the day associated with the actual astronomical solstice forward approximately three days every four centuries until Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar bringing the solstice to around 21 ... [More]
Comment icon #7 Posted by Grail Seekers 16 years ago
no offense but just because it is on wikipedia does not make it a fact. in fact most people will not accept wikipedia even for reference material. the information on wikipedia can be edited by just about anyone so many mistakes are made and left for others to pass along. This is true about Wiki; however it is a good place to get starting points for research. This quote from Wiki happens to be generally accurate, although it does not answer the question with astronomical precision. Precise articles on Julian Calendars, Gregorian Calendars, and the Tropical Year can be found at the above links a... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by disintegration 16 years ago
links and references are always helpful that is why I stated that it was the 21st for me. for others it will be different. there is no one way or right way to go about it and as much as we might like to think we are doing something properly there is always the chance of some "fact" being uncovered that will tell us otherwise. hope that helps. enjoy
Comment icon #9 Posted by louie 16 years ago
So if the summer solicaste is june 21st, what is the date for the winter solicaste, and the equinoxs, is is the same date on all quarters.?
Comment icon #10 Posted by disintegration 16 years ago
So if the summer solicaste is june 21st, what is the date for the winter solicaste, and the equinoxs, is is the same date on all quarters.? a google search for sabbats should answer that for ya
Comment icon #11 Posted by Grail Seekers 16 years ago
A slight correction due to a typo in the article. The Battle of Bannockburn was in 1314, not 1317. Sorry for not catching this in the final edit. BK


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