The summer solstice in Wales was celebrated by the Druids, an ancient pagan people. Today, although the Christian church has altered the day to coincide with the celebration of Saint John the Baptist, the summer solstice is primarily celebrated by pagans.
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Travel to the Bryn Celli Ddu chamber on Anglesey, Wales on the summer solstice to witness ancient astronomy at work. The open burial chamber is so perfectly aligned that for only 20 minutes each year, a beam of sunlight aligns exactly with the opening to the chamber. Visitors find it to be a very spiritual way to celebrate the longest day of the year.
Gather branches from birch trees to decorate the maypole. Bring the branches to the town square, where other families from Wales gather to adorn the maypole prior to midsummer's day.
Pluck a sprig of mistletoe on the summer solstice and place it under your pillow. Welsh tradition holds that this will bring you prophetic dreams.
Visit Pentre Ifan in Pembrokeshire. This bronze-age site dates from around 4000 B.C., and was purportedly built by the Druids. The Druids are often seen as the founders of summer solstice celebrations.
Gather wood for the summer solstice bonfire that is held in many larger towns. Bring your wood to the town center, where the festival organizers build a pyre.
Search for the herb Saint John's Wort. Welsh tradition says that gathering this herb on the night before the summer solstice would imbue it with extra healing powers. The ancient Welsh also believed that if the herb was placed in a home, it would bring good luck. The plant has golden, star-shaped flowers.
Practice Ancient Rituals
Arrive in Cardiff, Wales well before the midsummer festival of Gwyl Ifan to get a hotel. The festival typically begins on June 22, or whichever Friday is closest to the summer solstice.
Sign up for a Welsh folk dancing workshop on Friday night. Once you have the basics down, you can celebrate the solstice by joining in with the folk dancers on the remaining 2 days of the festival.
Rise early on Saturday morning and head down to the main street through Cardiff. You can help the town celebrate by cheering on the annual summer solstice parade that makes its way through town.
Attend the Gwyl Ifan Festival
Tips and warnings
- Keep children and pets away from mistletoe. The mistletoe fruit and blossoms can be poisonous.