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I'm melting! Well, not exactly. But it's a hot one today, and I'm feeling the heat of the summer solstice, which is just around the corner.
In this month's newsletter, we take a trip to Lithuania (well, virtually anyway) to celebrate Midsummer in Vilinus. I'll give you a hint as to what happens:
Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jumps over the candlestick.
...or the bonfire... scroll down to learn more!
Then we take a stroll to a summer wedding where the charmed June Bride gets hitched. Why is she so lucky, anyway?
And finally we partake in the celebrations by drinking a little (or a lot of) delicious honey mead. A perfect end to any summer solstice celebration.
Enjoy the summer and Blessed Be!
|Welcome New Officiants!
We are very pleased to introduce our latest officiants, newly listed on Handfastings.org.
Bishop Edward Mitchell Dodson of Kentucky
Reverend Steve Whitters, D.D. of California (pictured below)
And don't forget to visit Handfastings.org to see who's on our officiants page!
Rev. Steve Whitters, D.D.
("Happy Midsummer" in Lithuanian)
Midsummer's Day in Lithuania
Paganism is experiencing a revival in Lithuania. In the city of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, a great summer solstice celebration is held every year.
Lithuania was one of the last areas of Europe to adopt Christianity. But while the country became Christianized in the 14th century due to a political union with Poland, the people of Lithuania kept their Pagan customs, handing down their heritage from generation to generation. And hundreds of years later, the Russian Empire still sought to erase all forms of Paganism. But the Lithuanians held tight to their traditions. And now just recently, in the early 1990s, Lithuania restored its independence, and Paganism has once again emerged.
Celebrating the Summer Solstice in Lithuania
In Lithuania, Midsummer is commonly called John's Day (Joninės), is also known as Saint Jonas' Festival, Rasos (Dew Holiday), Kupolė, Midsummer Day and St. John's Day. It is celebrated in the night from the 23rd of June to the 24th of June. The traditions include singing songs and dancing until the sun sets, telling tales, searching to find the magic fern blossom at midnight, jumping over bonfires, greeting the rising midsummer sun and washing the face with the morning dew. Young girls float flower wreaths on the water of river or lake. These are customs brought from pagan culture and beliefs. The latter Christian tradition is based on the reverence of Saint John. Lithuanians with the names Jonas, Jonė, Janina receive many greetings from their family, relatives and friends.
Men and women wear wreaths made of oak leaves and flowers. People dress in national costume. Fire rituals, which represent the sun, begin with the burning of a twig bundle. Large bonfires are lit. Traditional Lithuanian music is played throughout the evening. People dance traditional dances on the grass. Once the bonfire burns down, you are invited to jump over the fire. At midnight, the crowd floats their wreaths down the river.
|Midsummer Bonfire in Lithuania|
Things you'll need for your "Joninės":
1. Outdoor party place
2. Fresh flowers and herbs
3. Floral garlands for unmarried females
4. Fire pit or candles
5. Lithuanian music
6. Book of Lithuanian folktales
7. Lithuanian foods and beverages
8. Silk handkerchief
9. Access to flowing water (if possible)
Now all you need is a plane ticket.
(Special thanks to Amanda from Seattle)
|Summer Solstice and the
Photo by Camelot Photography Minnesota
For thousands of years and across many cultures, June has been known as a most auspicious month for weddings. A June bride is a charmed one. The summer solstice, which falls in June (and this year on June 21st in the Northern Hemisphere), is the peak of the year when all life is at its fullest, which makes it a very favorable time to get married. Many Wiccans refer to this solstice as Litha or Midsummer. The June bride, a representation of the Goddess in the beginning of her "Mother" phase (a reference to the Triple Goddess stages of Maiden, Mother and Crone), is a symbol of hearth and home, and therefore Litha is a wonderful time to not only get married, but to also do house blessings.
June is a month pregnant with possibilities, and is a wonderful time to nurture a venture or project that is in the works. Midsummer is a fortunate time to be pregnant. Speaking of which, I have a little surprise in the works... stay tuned to our July newsletter for more info!
|Sweet Symphony of the Sun
The Magic of Mead
June's full moon is called the "Honey Moon" because this is the time to collect the honey from the beehives. The honeymoon, as we now know it, is the sweet time following the unions made on Beltaine, the holiday before Litha. Mead is an excellent brew made from honey, and is the traditional drink of Summer Solstice.
Also called honey wine, mead is the oldest alcoholic drink to mankind. It is fermented in much like the process in which wine is made. Its simple base of water and honey (with a yeast to aid in fermentation) makes it a sweet and simple drink, wonderful for summertime celebrations.
I called on friends of mine who make delicious mead and asked them for some input. Here's what was said:
"Here are some thoughts on the Meade: it was potent. All one needed was a shot glass full to feel its warmth. The first time we made Meade the only ingredients were water and approximately 10-15 lbs. of organic honey from Nate's family's farm. That's it!
"Boil about five gallons of water with honey. Transfer to a fermenting bucket. Ferment for a couple of weeks in a cool dark place. Transfer to a glass carboy [a jug-like container which is used for in-home fermentation of beverages]. At this point you could add fruit or spices. For the first batch we added nothing. After two weeks in the carboy it was ready to bottle and two weeks later or more, ready to drink. Tasted like a super sweet wine."
And here's a good blog article I found called Making Mead While the Sun Shines. It showcases mead-making at its finest (and made my mouth water while reading it). Enjoy!
A very special thanks to John Macchia and Nate Smith for their input.
|The Sacred Honeybee
The honeybee, collecting pollen.
This information was taken directly from the experts at The Honeybee Conservancy. I urge you to visit their wonderful website, chock full of sweet (pun intended) information on bees and the environment, and support their bee conservation endeavors.
All this talk about mead has made me thirsty. Unfortunately, I don't have any in front of me right now. But where would we truly be without honey? And without bees for that matter?
Since the beginning of society, the origin and nature of the honeybee has awakened the curiosity of humankind. For five million years, this humble, fuzzy insect has been an animal of special sanctity, symbolizing many things such as: the human soul, industry, creativity, cooperation and the sweet gifts of nature. Bee gods and goddesses were worshiped by Mayans, Hindus, Sumerians and the ancient Greeks who called their priestesses "Melissa" ("bees"). The Emperor Napoleon even adopted the bee as his personal badge.
Although prehistoric petroglyphs depict people on honey hunts, the ancient Egyptians are believed to truly be the first to originate beekeeping. Egyptian tombs from 2400BC depict beekeepers collecting honey as well as traveling with hives for the purpose of pollinating crops. The bee was so important to the Egyptians that they used bees as a symbol of regal power.
Traditionally, beekeeping was undertaken to benefit from the bee's honey, which was used as a sweeter as well as a medicine since raw honey is an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal substance. Today, commercial beekeepers also work with bees to pollinate millions of crops across America.
Beekeepers collecting honey
Why does this matter to you?
Then, as now, bees have played a crucial role in our ecosystem. Did you know that a third of the fruits and vegetables we eat depend on bees for pollination? Bees play a vital role as pollinators, which is why their sudden-die off (Colony Collapse Disorder) in recent years is such a critical environmental issue.
No Bees = No Fruits, Nuts or Vegetables
Fruits and nuts dependent on bees: Almonds, watermelons, cantaloupes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, apples, cherries, oranges, peaches and kiwifruit.
Vegetables dependent on bees for yield: Cucumbers, squash, select peas and select beans.
Poor quality without bees: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and okra.
What can you do to help the bees?
While we don't yet know what is causing Colony Collapse Disorder, we do know that forces like habitat destruction, invasive species, overuse of pesticides, global warming and other environmental stresses create risks to bees. Visit The Honeybee Conservancy to learn more about what you can do to help!
The mission of Handfastings.org is to link people in the Pagan and Wiccan communities with ordained officiants who perform Handfastings, Wedding Ceremonies, Commitment Ceremonies, Sacred Unions and other Rites of Passage and celebrations.
I hope you enjoyed this month's newsletter. Handfastings.org is a labor of love, and I couldn't have made it this far without people like you. Please consider supporting us and tell your friends about us!
Love and Light,
Artemisia Shira Tarantino
Joining Hearts in Perfect Love™
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