“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where woodbine and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk roses and with eglantine,
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances of delight.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act ll Scene l, William Shakespeare
In our modern world, so often governed by science or dogma, there seems to be little room for doubt or wondering. Harking back to an altogether gentler Medieval era of fairies and folklore can feel like a soft breath of warm summer air. It was a time when the population lived comfortably without answers, where fairy tales and fables offered meaning to some of life’s quandaries and a belief in the supernatural shaped the common worldview.
Midsummer’s Day was a highlight of the year, depicted so delightfully in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. The quote above overflows in the imagery of high summer; copious and colourful wildflowers bedecking a grassy bank where the fairy Queen will sometimes sleep under the night sky, lulled to drowsiness by summer scents and warmth. Midsummer night was perceived to be a high night of the year for all sorts of confusion and mayhem, and both abound in Shakespeare’s play as the fairies interfere with the course of more than one true love.
Midsummer day is on June 24 and is distinct from the summer solstice which usually falls between 20-23 June, depending on when the sun reaches the highest point in the sky, thus giving us the longest stretch of daylight in the year.
In pre-Christian times, Midsummer was seen as a magical time of healing and good fortune, the casting away of evil spirits and was also associated with romance and fertility. There were many rituals associated with all of these. For example, it was thought that if an unmarried girl placed flowers under her pillow on a Midsummer night, she would dream of her future husband. The lighting of bonfires was also widespread with the belief that they would drive away evil spirits. Thus, these pagan festivals had a mix of both celebration and fun, as well as an underlying fear of dark spiritual forces.
With the spread of Christianity, June 24 was allotted as the festival of St John the Baptist. He was the cousin of Jesus, and according to the gospel of St Luke was born six months before him. Thus, his Saint’s Day was positioned six months before Christmas Day when the birth of Jesus is celebrated. While the focus of festivities shifted away from rituals underpinned by fear and superstition towards the celebration of a saint’s life, some of the customs merged, forming a new set of traditions. These included bathing/ washing in water and holy wells (John was called the Baptiser as he baptised Jesus) and lighting bonfires. As time went by, firework displays became popular, along with Maypole dancing.
Midsummer Day is celebrated in many nations in the Northern Hemisphere, especially Scandinavian ones, as they really do experience days when the sun hardly sets. In Sweden, Midsummer Day is a national holiday and is celebrated with feasting, dancing and the making of flower garlands. In Austria, a grand procession of ships makes its way up the Danube River. In Croatia, bonfires are lit, with villages competing against each other as to who can build the largest one. The people of Denmark, too, celebrate with bonfires along with picnics (on the beach where the locality allows) and singing.
In the astrological year, Midsummer, with its proximity to the summer solstice, falls halfway between the spring and summer equinoxes. In the agricultural calendar, it always marked the midpoint of the growing season.
Midsummer Day celebrations have largely waned in the U.K. but maybe the day offers us an excuse both to hold our own celebrations with family and friends and also to create and sell some Midsummer Day-themed crafts. The fusion of abundance in daylight, farming and wayside flowers along with the sense of new beginnings, are surely some good reasons to enjoy a celebration.
Flowers, light and water are themes which have run through Midsummer celebrations for centuries, so why not incorporate these in some products? Maybe some ceramics decorated with brightly coloured flower wreaths, or some flower garlands for small girls to wear, or perhaps some stunning wreaths with which to decorate our homes. It is also an ideal marketing opportunity for summer candles.
There are numerous opportunities to sell your beautiful products during the summer; many of them at outdoor venues, such as fairs, festivals and markets. You will need craft insurance for these, as well as for your online sales. Whether you are stepping out for the first time into the craft fair arena, or have years of expertise, we can help you find the best craft insurance for your unique business and needs. This will probably include public and product liability insurance as well as any insurance specific to your craft; for example, there are specific regulations around consumable goods and children’s toys. We are a family-run business with years of experience in craft insurance, and we place a high value on learning from each other, looking back to the solid foundations of previous generations while also looking forward to continuously growing and improving the craft insurance packages we offer our customers.
So, this Midsummer Day, let’s harken back to some of the fun and frivolity of our Medieval ancestors. In a world with so many cares, maybe we could allow ourselves a day when we can simply soak in the beauty of the natural world all around us, where we could light a fire not to ward off evil spirits but to gather around to share food and toast marshmallows, and maybe even immerse ourselves in a wild swim and consider opportunities for new beginnings. Or even capture some of the pure joy and sparkle of little girls in fairy dresses as they delight in twirling and whirling!