By Mike Gleason
Midsummer: Magical Celebrations of the Summer Solstice, by Anna Franklin
Llewellyn Publications, 0738700525, 173 pp (+ appendices, glossary, bibliography and index), 2003
One of the books dealing with the Sabbat cycle, this book shares all the basics of that series.
First there is the mythic and historic background of the festival, drawn from a number of cultures and historical periods. We also get some basic divination forms which are traditionally used on this date. Ms. Franklin also includes instructions for making a set of runes and for interpreting Tarot and the runes as well as the use of playing cards and oghams.
She includes some basic lore on fairies, as well as gemstones, wand making and herbalism.
Spells are given, and their folklore and background explained. The roots of the folk magic which underlie many of our customs are explored and explained.
Chapter Five deals with traditional herbcraft and production of gargles, oils and teas. While by no means extensive, there is a good sampling of herbs and their uses. There is also a fairly extensive listing of incenses for various deities, Sabbats, etc., and a short list of oils. While not as thorough as Cunningham’s works, it is a good basic section which will give you a working foundation on which to build.
Chapter Six is devoted to recipes. The information given is fine, but there are some minor glitches. On page 136 Ms. Franklin says “Christians believe that the bread and wine is the transubstantiated flesh and blood of God.” While that is true of Catholics, it is not necessarily true for all branches of Christianity. It is, as such, an overly broad statement.
Chapter Seven is about rituals, both indoor and outdoor. The rituals are drawn from a variety of traditions, and the reader is sure to find inspiration in them. It also includes a suggested hand-fasting ritual. My only quibble with the basic instructions for setting up an altar is the same one I have with the majority of books which include such instructions: On page 144 she says “The Goddess image is placed on the left, and the God image on the right.” Is that as the officiator faces the altar or as the altar faces the circle (since the altar is placed in the north in this situation)?
All of the rituals included are designed for group involvement, but could be easily adapted for solitary use.
The appendices include animal totems appropriate for this time of year, ranging from bees to snakes to reindeer; a midsummer calendar; correspondences; deities of midsummer; and symbols of the sun.
The glossary is a bit thin (actually it is VERY thin), but the index and bibliography help to make up for this shortcoming.
This books gives a lot of good, basic information. If you have never done a Midsummer ritual, you will find inspiration here. If you have even wondered about some of the traditions associated with this time of the year, this book is an excellent starting point. It is easy to read and quite enjoyable. While it will not my “Required Reading” list for students, it would certainly be a nice addition to a coven library.