Last Saturday evening saw the peak of the summer solstice in Ireland, which led to this description of its cultural significance through a regular guest post on the RTÉ website.
The ancient Celtic festival is a timely reminder of who, where and what we really are.
Our ancestors viewed this crucial turning point in the Celtic calendar as significant – a time of bloom, bloom and wild abandonment. Although it heralds the light that is gradually fading, we can imagine that in midsummer they reveled in the fresh earthy freedom seeking new joys before the harvest.
The eternal ancestral voice from spiritual traditions is recalled in ceremonies and rituals in nature that can remind us of who, where and what we really are. It is a traditional time for weddings, fires, garlands of colorful flowers, and dance rituals.
Our ancestors had many clues to idolize the sun. Excellent is Lugh, the sun god, known as Lugh Samhildánach or Lugh of the Many Arts. His entry into the court of King Nuada of Tuatha Dé Danann (in Gaelic the “tribe of mother earth”) in Tara, the hub of supreme power, was only possible through his reaction to the trials that the gatekeeper had piled on him.
Just as our ancestors gathered to celebrate and celebrate together for three days, there are many modern equivalents …
Needless to say, these “shamanic energy therapist” claims are no less nonsense. There is little evidence that the Celtic-speaking peoples of north-western Europe kept a celestial calendar or paid attention to recurring celestial events during their celebrations (regardless of heated debates about the continental Coligny calendar) *. The indigenous Irish year was almost entirely agrarian, marked by more prosaic concerns about the life cycles of crops and livestock. Yes, the waxing and waning of the moon and the movement of the sun played a role in calculating the seasons, but only to the extent that it informed a society whose survival and wealth depended largely on grain and cattle.
Although the Celtic pantheon – if we can speak of such a thing – had many different deities, none of them were specifically identified as “sun gods” or “sky gods” or “earth gods” (the early Christian Irish concept of “gods”) underground ” is a completely different thing than the nebulous idea of a “mother earth”. Various supernatural beings may have had properties related to nature or natural phenomena, and Lú was certainly associated with sun-like symbolism, but that did not result in divine personifications of nature itself. Such clear ideas and categorizations are largely modern concepts that reflect the need to impose a bureaucracy of divinity on old pantheons.
While the earlier non-Protoceltic peoples of Western Europe, the megalithic builders, may have ruled their year and all associated festivities with the solstice, given the physical orientation of most Neolithic monuments in the landscape, it is a logical assumption that it does not mean that their culturally Celtic descendants did the same. In Ireland at least, there is evidence that our Gaelic-speaking ancestors did not think of the movement of the sun or the phases of the moon and that the rudimentary midsummer and winter holidays or folk traditions we have on this island are adaptations of much later Scandinavian and Irish English introductions. Some of them are very late indeed.
* While some populist sources may claim that the culturally Celtic peoples practiced astrology and that this was an integral part of a broader “Celtic calendar”, the evidence from the island literary tradition is extremely weak and largely classical (with a few exceptions). Instead, it is more common to find textual references to some form of aeromancy, fortune telling based on atmospheric events, particularly nephomancy or cloud reading. However, this stands alongside fortune-telling based on bird flights and so on. And neither are related to any particular form of sun or moon observation.