Midsummer is, of course, a celebration of the longest day of summer and Sussex has its fair share of Midsummer folklore. Examples include tales of a white “ghost” dog that appears every seven years on Midsummer’s Eve on the road between Alfriston and Seaford, bringing with it bad luck. And Midsummer’s Eve used to be known as the opportune time to see fairies, see into the future or to make “Midsummer Men” to discern the path of your future love. Midsummer’s Eve has also long been celebrated in England with bonfires, all-night vigils, dancing, and feasting. And Pagan traditions associated with Midsummer go back thousands of years to beliefs in the power of the sun.
Midsummer and the Summer Solstice in Sussex
Many of the older traditions associated with Midsummer in Sussex have long since died out but there are still ways to celebrate the summer solstice in Sussex. The Sompting Village Morris celebrate by walking up Highdown Hill near Worthing and then “dancing down the sun” with flaming torches and a beacon before walking back down the hill by candlelight.
Over near Arundel, the Goddess Foundation organise an annual Greenman Walk on the 19th June through Houghton Forest – you’re invited to bring drums and masks! And down in Hove, RubyMoon host a sauna, swim, yoga and dance event on the beach on the 21st as part of their ongoing series of moon bathing events.
Meanwhile over in Lancing, The Wellderness will be holding a community celebration of the summer solstice which includes a ceremonial fire, storytelling and an Andean shamanic ceremony of returning to innocence. Or, of course, you could just sit yourself at a safe spot on the South Downs and celebrate in your own personal way.
A Tudor Midsummer wedding
For a slightly different take on things, this year The Weald & Downland Living Museum is staging a Tudor wedding ceremony as part of its forthcoming “Celebrations of Midsummer – Solstice and Superstitions” Historic Life Weekend on the 18th and 19th June. It’s a chance to discover how people living in Tudor times would have prepared for a wedding, from decorating their homes with lush greenery and the food prepared to the different elements of a ceremony itself and an outdoor procession that visitors can join in with. And you can learn about some of the superstitions and fears people had around this time.
They’ve got traditional folk music and songs, and on Sunday the Rabble Folk Theatre will perform the Midsummer version of the Oak King and the Holly King play as well as telling the Story of the Sun. In the House from Walderton, medicinal herbalist and author Christina Stapley will share fascinating facts about herbs ruled by the sun. From angelica to viper’s bugloss, marigolds to mistletoe, visitors will discover what they have in common and their place in herbal medicine.
The Museum’s historic gardens look particularly spectacular at this time of year, and the gardens team will be discussing plants and how they were used for medicine, cosmetics and colognes. Botanical illustration, embroidery, baking, beekeeping and woodcut printing techniques will also be showcased at what promises to be a fascinating celebration of Midsummer.
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