A ritual for Midsummer

Midsummer is a major turning point on the Wheel of the Year. The days are now as long as they're going to get, and from here on in we start the slow and inevitable approach to winter. Ironically, here in Minnesota, summer's barely begun, much less passed the halfway point. Oh, well. Nothing we can do about the calendar, I suppose. The middle of summer seems a good point both for marking the passage of time, and for reevaluating its meaning in our lives. This is a good rite for sharing with people who might not be so familiar with what you do, since it lays out the major points in a yearly myth cycle, and gives you plenty of things to discuss.


Eight candles for marking the wheel of the year, one each for Goddess and God, and one each for the quarters. If you don't use candles to mark the quarters, then just ten. One Tarot deck. Use whatever suits you, but the text I've written will work better if the cards at least have the traditional names. I've conceived this with the Universal Waite pack in mind, for two reasons. First, the symbolism and names are widely recognized, and second, the pictures are a lot prettier than the traditional Rider pack. Incense, something in which to hold salted water, and salted water for it to hold. Whatever food and drink you'd like for the Simple Feast.

A few notes about practice before we begin. These rituals are written, of necessity, based on my own practice and experience. Please adapt as necessary. If you find this useful, I'd love to hear about it, as well as what, if any, changes you made and how they worked. Also, you'll notice that there are no names for Deities included here. That is because I rarely use them. If you do, by all means change whatever you need to to make this your own. Lastly, our group gathers as a sort of semi-structured anarchy. There are no particular priestesses or priests. That is why I make a habit of passing text around. Again, if this is not your style, a priestess could easily read the whole thing. Whatever works.

Ritual Cleansing

Begin by passing the incense over each participant in turn, while repeating...

Repeat with the salt and water, sprinkling a few drops on each, saying...

Casting the Circle

Candles should be placed to mark the four directions. Begin by standing and facing the east. Assign the texts however you'd like. After lighting each candle, turn deosil (clockwise) to the next quarter and repeat with the appropriate text.

Covener: Spirits of the East, in air arrayed
Of wind and feather, breath and blade
Make still our minds, and join us here
To greet the turning of the year (light candle)
Covener: Spirits of the South, by summer storm
And fire may we be transformed
Lend us your insight, join us here
To greet the turning of the year (light candle)
Covener: Spirits of the West, with us abide
In healing love and ocean tide
Renew our hearts, and join us here
To greet the turning of the year (light candle)
Covener: Spirits of the North, of Earth and tree
Of time and deepest memory
Lead us in wisdom, join us here
To greet the turning of the year (light candle)

Invocation of the Goddess and God

Goddess of the world in bloom
In wonder, we feel you beneath our feet
In the light of the moon we shiver at your caress
In the green and the growing we know your love
Now, at the height of the summer, we thank you
For the bounty of the earth
Come into our circle, and join us
As we gather here to honor you
Covener: God of the summer sun
In awe, we turn our faces to you
In the light of the day we warm to your touch
In the wild places of the Earth we sense your passion
Now, at the height of the summer, we thank you
For the renewal of the land
Come into our circle, and join us
As we gather here to honor you
Covener: We stand between worlds
Where earth and sky, night and day, life and death are one
The circle is cast, the ritual begun

For the next portion of this event, each participant should have one of the following blocks of text, along with the corresponding Major Arcana card from the Tarot deck. The text is in two parts. First is a short summary of the mythological significance of each holiday. The second is a short text on a particular card from the Major Arcana which can be seen to correspond to that holiday.

A series of eight candles should be arrayed around the altar. It may be easier to make a small circle in the middle of the altar, since this would help with problems likely to be caused by reaching over candles. If there are fewer than eight people, double up any way you'd like. If you have more than eight, you might see who's more or less comfortable with public speaking. Everyone might not choose to participate in this portion. Beginning with number one, the covener lights the first candle and reads the first bit of text. Then the Tarot card is presented and laid in front of the candle, and the second bit is read. Lastly, each covener should offer something personal, that helps to illustrate each card in the context of her or his life and experience. The sky's the limit on this. Be creative. If you want to talk of the harvest, you might bake bread. Write, sing, dance, paint, tell stories. The more variety, the more personal the evening will be. Explain as you go, or leave the group to interpret on their own.

The presentations should then proceed around the ring of candles, in the order of their occurrence within the year. I've begun with Yule, and imagine things running counterclockwise with Yule at the bottom, but whatever seems best to you is fine. The names of the Tarot cards are in bold, just in case they're unfamiliar.

I We welcome at Yule the newborn God. Even as the Great Mother descends to winter's rest, the light begins to strengthen, and we look to the East for the coming of warmth and spring.

The Moon reminds us that so it has always been. Death gives way to new life, and the Earth is renewed.

II At Imbolc, the young God begins to feel his power, and the Goddess wakes to the gentle pull of the growing light.

In The Sun, we see the exuberance of youth, and feel the restlessness of strength untested.

III The Earth begins to bloom at Ostara. The young God reaches toward adulthood, and the Goddess, as Mother, watches over his progress and growth.

The Empress brings us the joy of motherhood, the nurturing of talents, the satisfaction of instruction, and the fulfillment of guiding another's uncertain steps.

IV At Beltane, Goddess and God unite as lovers, and their passion is energy and life for all the Earth. Child becomes man. Mother becomes maiden.

In The Lovers, we are reminded of the sacred in the passionate, the spiritual union in the physical bond.

V Tonight, at Midsummer, we mark the ascendancy of the God, and salute the sun at the height of his glory. But even now, as we celebrate, we turn again toward thoughts of harvest and shorter days.

Physical power is only one aspect of Strength. To be truly healthy and whole, mind and spirit must be strong as well. It is in the balance of abilities that we find our courage.

VI The harvest begins at Lughnasadh. The aging God has poured his energy into the fruits of the Earth, and now looks both back on his efforts, and forward, to the season of his death.

The Hermit teaches us the wisdom of age and experience. If we can back away from our worldly worries, we may gain perspective on the course and purpose of our lives.

VII At Mabon, we celebrate the end of the harvest, and honor the coming sacrifice of the God. The Goddess, as Crone, mourns the inevitable loss of her consort.

The Hanged Man reminds us of the necessity of sacrifice. It is the work of the harvest that will see us through the dark winter. Adversity is met not with avoidance and fear, but with preparation.

VIII Samhain marks the loss of the God, as his light is extinguished, and he returns to the land of the dead.

Without darkness, we would have no understanding of light. So in Death we receive the promise of rebirth. Sometimes we cannot reach that which may truly feed us, until we leave comfort and security behind.

To conclude, one person should place the World card in the center of the ring you've created. Text can be solo, or shared.

Covener: This is the world
Our life and our home
From birth to death and birth again
The seasons turn, and we with them
Covener: Let us mark their passing and so remember
That even in the midst of strife
The struggles of the everyday, the practical
When we become too occupied
To send our minds and hearts beyond ourselves
That still, the wheel turns
Covener: Outer and inner worlds are one
And as much as we try, unknowingly
To exist apart, alone
We have a place to fill, together
In the great and unending spiral
Of life and time
All: Blessed be!

The Simple Feast

The details of this bit are pretty much up to you. Eat, drink, enjoy your time together. This is the part of the evening that reminds us that time within sacred space doesn't have to be so serious all the time. Here are the blessings we traditionally use over the food and drink. I normally begin with the cup. Read, then pass...

Covener: Goddess of abundance
Bless these gifts as you bless us all
Help us to see, and to remember
The divine in all that we share

Continuing with the food...

God of the harvest
Bless these gifts as you bless us all
Help us to see, and to remember
The divine in all that we share

Opening the Circle (read each, then extinguish appropriate candle)

Covener: Mother Goddess
We thank you for the season
And for the time that we share
And ask you to be near us
Until we gather again
Covener: Father God
We thank you for the season
And for the time that we share
And ask you to be near us
Until we gather again

Then, beginning in the East, address each quarter (and extinguish each candle) in turn. (These are Starhawk's, but they're simple and beautiful and nothing I could improve on.)

Covener: Spirits of the East (South, West, North...)
We thank you for your presence here
And ask for your blessing as you depart
May there be peace between us
Now and forever
All: The circle is open
But yet unbroken
May the love of the Goddess
Be ever in your heart
Merry meet, and merry part
And merry meet again
All: Blessed be!

The End. (6/10/03)