Today I was hoisted by my own petard. It’s the summer solstice, the longest day of the year with a whopping 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight going on. The solstice happens at 10.43pm tonight as the summer solstice is not an actual day. The solstice is the moment when the northern hemisphere is most tilted towards the sun. And needless to say, the whole shebang has a lot of folklore attached to it. And it’s not like I didn’t have six months to plan, and to be fair, I did have a rough idea of what I was going to do, but then Other Life intervened and scuppered that. And then more Other Life got in the way of Plan B. But Plan C was going to be a winner.
Opposite my house, against my neighbour’s wall I’ve been watching a pinky purple flower grow. Vervain. And vervain, aka verbena, aka Juno’s tears, aka enchanter’s plant, aka holy herb, aka herb of grace, is said to be rather special around the solstice. It has a reputation for protection against illness, particularly if worn around the neck by a white ribbon, great for averting evil, can be used for blessings, amplifies Tarot cards if kept together, and makes a tasty tea. Job done, I thought. I’ll cut it down with my left hand using a sickle (aka green kitchen scissors), blob some honey down as a thank you to the earth, then show it to the Dog Star, and hey presto, I have some souped-up super-duper vervain.
Only I didn’t check for sure before today, and it turned out to be Jupiter’s beard instead. So, undaunted I walked round to my favourite wild flower embankment. More Jupiter’s beard. And some catmint. Some purple toadflax and a bit of buddleia. So, undaunted I walked round to my favourite wild hedge. Nothing. Except some nasturtiums. So, undaunted I walked round the block and found some purple hebes and some more toadflax. Now daunted, I went to Plan E, dandelions fritters, dandelion being all sun-like and everything. Nothing. So on to Plan F and I ducked into my local organic supermarket (this is Brighton after all). No vervain. In anything. Then I remembered verbena and found a tea with lemon verbena in it. But then I saw some elderflower pressé. Elderflower is said to make fairies more pleasantly disposed towards us, and as tonight is one of those nights when the fairies are out and about, I went and grabbed me some of that.
So there you have it, a tale of hubris, complacency and bad planning, topped off with a refreshing tot of fairy charming elderflower fizz. Now let’s just hope it can keep me awake for Solstice pt 2: The Long Slide Back Into Winter.
Forest, D. (2016) The Magical Year, Seasonal Celebrations To Honour Nature’s Ever-Turning Wheel, London, Watkins
Leendertz, L. (2019) The Almanac, A Seasonal Guide to 2020, London, Mitchell Beazley
Vickery, R. (2019) Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson