It is just before the summer solstice. Everything is lush and green, the air is perfumed with the blossoms of roses, lavender, linden and honeysuckle, and sunny landscapes are filled with yarrow, dandelion, red clover, and ox-eye daisy. Neighbourhood streets are lined with lacy yellow wild fennel, bright orange calendula and bluish-purple blooms of chicory. And in the garden, motherwort has put out her fuzzy pink blossoming spikes and the tall purple sage flowers are buzzing with bees. This is the time of the year when the sun’s powers are at their absolute height, and on the day before solstice plants are brimming with solar energy.
Which means it’s time to get ready for my annual summer solstice ritual – making Midsummer Floral extracts. Which is why, from dawn to dusk, I’ll be out gathering as many herbs and blossoms as I can! According to summer solstice folklore, this was the night trees are able to walk, grasses and flowers whisper the illness that they are meant to heal, and herbs have double the curative and magical powers.
Once home I’ll bundle and dry these herbs for culinary and medicinal use in the coming year – but the first thing I do is make my magical Midsummer Floral Extracts. It’s a pretty simple process, similar to making a tincture. I just place an assortment of fragrant blossoms and aromatic herbs in small mason jars (or one big one) and pour over vodka or brandy. I like to go heavy on the rose, honeysuckle and linden and more lightly on the lavender (it can overpower). Then I mix in a few aromatics and bitters, some rosemary, thyme, yarrow, bay and motherwort – as suits. Then I place my little jars outdoors, light a candle at sunset (you can’t celebrate solstice without a little fire) and let them sit out under the stars for the night.
The thing to remember about Midsummer Extracts is that they are is less about method and more about magic. Herbs and flowers associated with fire and the sun are best suited. St. John’s Wort, rosemary, chamomile, lavender, vervain, hyssop, mullein, lavender, wormwood) bring invigoration, healing, purification and protection. Rose, daisy, marigold, cornflower, calendula bring you beauty and love, and linden blossom strengthens your powers of attraction. Ooh la la!
You can use these extracts in everything from baking to cocktails, but my favourite way to enjoy them is just in water – add 1/2 teaspoon to your glass. You can also combine the extracts with honey (infused with more summer herbs and blossoms) and make a potent elixir – honey is sacred to summer solstice too. Drinking this extract really helps keep my spirits up during the gloomy days of winter. One sip and I’m transported back to golden evenings of midsummer. Of course, they’re all fabulously good for you too!
Most folk customs agree dawn is the best time to gather. Midsummer dew is most magical (granting beauty & eternal youth) so you want to wash your face with it! Others say noon is the best time to gather, some say at midnight. Also, you should be careful that once you harvest the plants, don’t let them touch the ground – apparently this drains their magical energy into the earth!
But whatever you choose to do, creating magical extracts is really about setting an intention, then allowing intuition to guide you. The summer solstice marks the turning point from the waxing to the waning cycle in the great wheel of the year. Afterwards, the days get shorter, the nights get longer, and this marks an energetic cycle of completion, an appropriate time to call your plant allies to help you manifest your wishes for the coming growing season and harvest.
So if you’re game, head outdoors on the day before the summer solstice with a basket in hand. Selecting your plants is as simple as discovering what’s blooming and growing outside your front door. Harvest whatever fragrant herb or medicinal blossom that catches your eye (it will be right for you!). At home, fill a large canning jar (or several small ones to make individual extracts) with your blossoms. Pour your spirits over the blossoms, submerging them.
Take a moment to reflect, say a prayer or make an intention. Place your jar(s) outside at sunset. Collect in the morning and put away in cool, dark place for a minimum of six weeks. Then, in the fall decant, strain off the blossoms, and place in a beautiful bottle. Now you will have Midsummer Magic all year long!
Happy Summer Solstice!
For more summer solstice magic you’ll find a recipe for Sunny Golden Herby Honey cookies here. Plus you’ll find more midsummer recipes, cakes, desserts, salads, cheeses, dips at Gather Victoria Patreon!