Midsummer magic and the twilight pursuit of dreams

Today is Midsummer’s Eve, which – as an expat – always fills me with a sort of homesick melancholy. In Sweden, the Summer Solstice is a national holiday, whereas here it is a regular work day like any other. This is where Swedes celebrate the longest day of the year, after which darkness slowly starts to encroach on our existence again. The occasion is surrounded in lore and traditions which I would love to delve into more deeply some time. This year, I don’t have time to do more than tell you about one of the most common traditions.

Like other solstice and equinox nights, Midsummer Night’s Eve was thought to be where the lining separating the secular and the mystical worlds was at its thinnest, which meant it was prime time to foresee the future. In Sweden, this is the night that does not reach full darkness. As shadows gradually grow longer and finally give way to the blue light of dusk, girls and young women everywhere gather wildflowers to put under their pillows that night. By doing so, their dreams will show them the man they will marry. Not that I fully believe in this quaintly old-fashioned notion, but it really is a magical feeling to wade through the dewy grass in the blue-gray light of near darkness, and look for suitable flowers and herbs. The tradition dictates that you pick either 7 or 9 flowers for your bouquet.

Here is what a typical midsummer bouquet might look like. One of each flower, joined together into a small posie. Photo courtesy of www.bloggeldone.blogspot.com.

Here is what a typical midsummer bouquet might look like. One of each flower, joined together into a small posie. Photo courtesy of http://www.bloggeldone.blogspot.com.

Uneven numbers have far more supernatural powers than even, and to truly make sure that you made it over to that twilight side, you were also supposed to jump over the same number of  "gärdesgårdar" as you had flowers in your bouquet. I imagine this used to be exceptionally doable, but with the decline of farming society, but today, you'd be happy if you found a single one.. A gärdesgård is a type of fence built from young spruce trunks. These types of fences used to line fields and meadows everywhere in the old days. Photo courtesy of www.haddebo.se

Uneven numbers have far more supernatural powers than even, and to truly make sure that you made it over to that twilight side, you were also supposed to jump over the same number of “gärdesgårdar” as you had flowers in your bouquet. I imagine this used to be exceptionally doable, but with the decline of farming society – today, you’d be happy if you found a single one.. A gärdesgård is a type of fence built from young spruce trunks. These types of fences used to line fields and meadows everywhere in the old days. Photo courtesy of http://www.haddebo.se

So, to spite my urban American existence, I took a walk in a park that borders the reasonably unkempt railroad tracks here in our fair city, to get my wildflower fix. To my delight, I found quite a few. More even than the prescribed 7 or 9 – especially if you count the grasses and the thistles.

In the end, I decided to not include the thistles or the Himalayan blackberries. I figured it would be too uncomfortable to sleep on. Not that I plan to anyway, but there was something gritty about them that made me exclude them, even though they are pretty. You don't want too many thorns in your dreams...

In the end, I decided to not include the thistles or the Himalayan blackberries. I figured it would be too uncomfortable to sleep on. Not that I plan to anyway, but there was something gritty about them that made me exclude them, even though they are pretty. You don’t want too many thorns in your dreams…

Manneman, my furry companion helping me with the selection. We decided to go for broke ... Instead of just one of each flower, we included them all. After all, I have already found my best beloved.

Manneman, my furry companion helping me with the selection. We decided to go for broke … Instead of just one of each flower, we included them all. After all, I have already found my best beloved.

So, with this collection of weeds and wildflowers, I wish you all a Happy Midsummer. It didn't quite lift my melancholy, but it made me feel a little bit better. Perhaps a little playing in the garden will help? At least that is what I'm planning to do. Enjoy the light - it will only get darker from here, on.

So, with this collection of weeds and wildflowers, I wish you all a Happy Midsummer. It didn’t quite lift my melancholy, but it made me feel a little bit better. Perhaps a little playing in the garden will help? At least that is what I’m planning to do. Enjoy the light – it will only get darker from here, on.

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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9 Responses to Midsummer magic and the twilight pursuit of dreams

  1. annamadeit says:

    Reblogged this on The Creative Flux and commented:

    Happy Midsummer to you all!

  2. ricki grady says:

    It’s so much fun to see how quaint traditions morph into their more modern counterparts. A similar custom was taking home your slice of wedding cake, tucking it under your pillow and dreaming of your future husband. Odd how the guys never followed similar pursuits.

    • annamadeit says:

      Wow – never heard of that one… Probably a lot messier! And yes Ricki, I wondered about that too; Is superstition regarding love a singularly female pursuit, or…? There HAS to have been something they did!

  3. Elvis says:

    I love Midsummer’s Eve! Here in the PNW, although the days get shorter afterward, the heat increases, so it’s the best of both worlds, I believe. Happy Midsummer to you, Anna!

  4. I love the notion of it being a holiday, wouldn’t that be grand? Oh well, it is to me not matter what the government says.

  5. I always thought the summer solstice should be recognized as a holiday (the more holidays the better is my view). Picking wildflowers on the solstice seems like just the right thing to do.

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