Midsummer Light's Dream
As bonfires are lit in Ireland on 21 June this year, it heralds the summer solstice, also known as midsummer. This celebration marks the longest day of the year and is a ritual common in many countries throughout the world.
With pre-Christian origins, in Ireland the summer solstice is associated with pagan Celtic beliefs, the flames of the bonfire meant to protect against evil spirits while people would traditionally feast and dance in the hope of a bountiful harvest. The summer solstice is marked alongside other Gaelic festivals such as Samhain (Halloween), Imbolc (the beginning of spring), Bealtaine (May Day) and Lughnasadh (the beginning of harvest in August), used to divide the year based on seasons and the harvest.
The summer solstice is especially celebrated in the significant historic location of the Hill of Tara in County Meath. A potent element of Ireland's rich tapestry of myths and legends, this hill was the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. As early as the 11th century, it was referenced as a place of great political and religious importance.
The line of High Kings, considered among the most powerful figures in Ireland, dates back many centuries. Though historians now believe this sequence was retrospectively created, so it can be read as a mixture of fact and legend with perhaps a smidgen of early political PR.
A place imbued with a deep-rooted sense of history, today on the Hill of Tara there remains a number of monuments, along with a panoramic view of many surrounding counties. Among these remnants of the past is a standing stone known as Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny), which was the coronation place of the High King (Ard Rí) and thought to have magical powers.
In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, lived an ancient race of people. Lia Fáil is one of the four legendary treasures of Ireland brought here by Tuatha Dé Danann, a supernatural race in Irish pre-Christian mythology.
People will gather on the Hill of Tara and around the country for the summer solstice on 21 June and remember our Celtic ancestors and their view of the world, itself a part of the makeup of Irish heritage.
After celebrating the ancient, pay a visit to its contemporary namesake. The Solstice Arts Centre in nearby Navan is County Meath's hub for arts and cultural activity encompassing cinema, theatre, opera, music, dance, comedy and visual art. County Meath recently announced its Culture and Creativity Plan 2017 with many more arts events planned.