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June Holidays Asterisks appear next to saints' names - see Celebrating Saints

June 17 Hersephoria
On the fourteenth day of the Greek lunar month of Skirophorion, the full moon closest to the summer solstice, Greek women worshipped Aphrodite along with the dew-goddess Aglauros and Erse and a goddess called Kourotrophos, "Nurturer of the young."

June 18 Tears of Isis
The Copts celebrate this day (the 11th of Ba'una) when the Nile overflows. It was once believed that the inundation was caused by the tears of Isis.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

June 19 Saints Gervase and Protase
Another weather oracle day associated with the saint's day of two martyrs of Milan. It is said that if it rains on this day, it will rain for forty days afterwards.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

June 20 Summanus
This was the dedication day of the Roman temple honoring Summanus, who was responsible for lightning by night (Jupiter delivered lightning by day). It is unclear whether or not he was an ancient deity or an aspect of Jupiter. His temple was struck by lightning in 197 BC, which was the occasion for irreligious jokes.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

June 20 Laylat al-saratjan/The Night of the Crab
The Copts celebrate the night when the Sun enters Cancer (15 Ba'una) by hanging charms on walls to drive away insects.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

Stonehenge, Summer Solstice

June 20 Summer Solstice

June 21 Midsummer Day
The third Saturday of June is celebrated as Midsummer Day by the Swedes who eat herring, drink schnapps and dance. Girls put seven flowers under their pillows to dream of their future husbands.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

June 22 St Paulinus of Nola/Dance of the Lily
St Paulinus, along with other inhabitants of Nola, was supposedly kidnapped by the Vandals and taken to Africa in slavery, where a miraculous dream brought him to the attention of the King who ordered him freed and sent him and his countrymen home in boats. Upon their return they were met by the people of Nola carrying lilies in his honor. Ever since then his feast day is celebrated in Nola, a town about twenty miles from Naples, with the Dance of the Lily (Giglio). The lilies have become eight huge structures, covered with papier mache figures and big enough to carry brass bands. A galleon is also constructed to represent the boat that returned the Saint to Nola. They are carried about (or danced) by teams of men who put on a display of strength and acrobatic maneuvers, moving in perfect unison under their heavy burdens. A similar festival is held in Brooklyn on the first Sunday of July.

Scholars suggest that the festival derives from a pre-Christian summer festival celebrating the Greek god Dionysus. The story of St Paulinus resembles the myth of Dionysus's release and return from pirate captivity. Nola was once an ancient center of Dionysian worship. The phallic figure of the god, now replaced by the tower of the saint, was probably once the centerpiece of pagan fertility rituals. Dancing the giglio is a display of virility and power, as the half-naked men sweat and struggle to bear the enormous weight of the lilies and to out-dance each other.

Posen, I Sheldon and Joseph Sciorra, "Brooklyn's Dancing Tower," Natural History, June 1983

Tin Hau

June 23 Midsummer's Night's Eve
This is the eve of St. John's Day, which replaced the more ancient celebrations on Summer Solstice with a Saint's Day. [see the related article on summer solstice]

In a Victorian book of spells and incantations, I found this divination which is supposed to be performed on Midsummer's Eve, around sunset. An odd number of women (three, five or seven) go into a garden and each picks a sprig of red sage. They put these into a basin of rosewater setting on a stool in the middle of a room they have set aside for this purpose. Then they tie a line from the stool to the wall and each woman takes off her shift and hangs it, inside out, on the line. I assume this leaves them naked. Then they sit, silently (no matter what happens), in a row on the other side of the stool. Around midnight, each one's future mate will take her sprig out of the water and sprinkle her shift with it.

Cagliostro, attributed to, Spells and Incantations of Yesteryear, from an earlier edition by J Fletcher & Company, 1876, reprinted by Metheglin Press

Rose

June 24 Lady Luck/Fortuna
The Romans celebrated the goddess of good fortune on this day. Monaghan comments that she was not merely "luck," but the principle that drives men and women to mate, an irresistible "Fors." She was the goddess of fertilization of humans, animals and plants, and thus was especially worshipped by women wanting to become pregnant and by gardeners. As Fortuna Virilis, she made women irresistible to men. It was perhaps on this day that Roman women invaded men's public baths.

It makes sense to celebrate Fortuna at this time of the year when the sun at its height represents the top of her wheel of Fortune. The wheel becomes a symbol again at the other side of the year (winter solstice) when the sun is at its lowest point.

Monaghan, Patricia, The Book of Goddesses and Heroines, Llewellyn 1981

Fortuna, Lady Luck
Fortuna

June 24 St John the Baptist/Midsummer's Day
The date for celebrating the summer solstice, which fluctuates (from June 20th to June 22nd) since it is based on astrological calculations became fixed on the Saint's Day of St John the Baptist, thus enabling the Catholic church to associate many of the ancient summer solstice customs (for instance, bathing in water) with the worship of this saint.

His emblem is a lamb; he is the patron of shepherds. Because he lived on locusts and wild honey, he is also the patron of beekeepers. He is often shown in the skin of a lion, recalling the earlier hero myths of Hercules and Samson.

He is also the patron saint of Jordan, Florence, Genoa and Turin and, probably because of his association with water, the patron saint of spas. Some wish to nominate him as patron saint of motorways, because of his words: "Make straight the ways of the Lord."

John was born six months before Christ and thus his birth is celebrated (at summer solstice) six months before the birth of Christ (at winter solstice). He is honored with customs derived from older summer solstice celebrations, like lighting bonfires and immersion in water.

Many plants are associated with him, the foremost being St John's wort (hypericum perforatum). This wild plant has small yellow flowers which "bleed" (produce a red oil) when you press them. If the plant doesn't bleed, you are dealing with the ornamental St John's wort, a different species, which does not share the magical properties of its namesake. St John's wort is a herb of protection and a symbol of the sun.

The carob is sometimes called St John's bread since he supposedly ate it while he wandered in the wilderness.

In Lazio, Italy, St John was considered a protector of witches, who flew into Rome on broomsticks to cavort throughout the night, returning at first light to the walnut tree in Benevento at which they gathered. In contemporary Rome, Italians gather near the church of San Giovanni in Laterano to feast on snails on this day.

Italians also harvest green walnuts on the feast of San Giovanni to make a special liqueur called nocino. The green walnuts are placed in alcohol along with sugar, cloves, lemon zest and cinnamon. At some point, the alcohol is strained off and the liqueur is bottled. It is usually first opened and drunk on All Saints Day (Nov 1).

In Mexico, this is El Dia de San Juan, a day when people run around splashing each other with water.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000
Johnston, Brian,
Sicilian Summer, Allen & Unwin 2005

June 27 Lares/Jupiter Stator
The Romans sacrificed to Lares on this day. It was also the dedication feast of Jupiter Stator, "Stopper of the Rout."

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

St John the Baptist
St John the Baptist by Leonardo

June 29 Sts Peter and Paul/Elegba
Midsummer and St Petertide are the favorite seasons for "rush-bearing"in England: rushes or new-mown hay are brought in to be laid on the floors of churches. In northwestern England, rushcarts with towering flower-bedecked loads of plaited rushes are the focus of processions.

Good Day to you, you merry men all
Come listen to our rhyme
For we would have you not forget
This is Midsummer time
So bring your rushes, bring your garlands
Roses, John's Wort, Vervain too
Now is the time for our rejoicing
Come along Christians, come along do.
Bishop's Castle Rushbearing Song, Shropshire

Photographer Jeffrey Bezom describes the way the festival is celebrated in Poroa de Varzim in Portugal where St Peter is honored as a fisherman. The houses are decorated with garlands of lights, nautical banners, tinfoil boats and colorful ribbons. Stages are trimmed with nets, oars and rigging for life-sized paper-mache Peters in fishing boats. At sunset, the townsfolk, dressed in black, march to the beat of drums, following an empty coffin draped with flowers and lace. Some carry candles and others poles topped with large realistic wax heads representing the beloved dead of the town. Onlookers strew their path with rushes and mint and thyme. Later, they drink green wine, run about with torches, dance around huge bonfires and jump through the flames, feast on fresh grilled sardines and set off fireworks.

Obviously this celebration has acquired some of the aspects of midsummer as well as acknowledging St Peter's role as the gatekeeper of Heaven. He is often shown holding two crossed keys. The primula veris is also known as St Peter's wort because it is said to resemble a bunch of keys. He is also associated with the yellow rattle and wall-barley which is called St Peter's corn in Germany.

In the Vodou tradition, Elegba is honored on the same day since he is also a messenger between the two worlds.

This is another day for weather oracles. A French proverb says that if it rains on this day, it will rain for thirty more dangerous days. Folklorist Alexander Carmichael who collected folk customs from the Scottish Highlands and compiled them in a book called Carmina Gadelica records a saying used by fishermen to predict the weather from the winds on this day:

Wind from the west, fish and bread;
Wind from the north, cold and flaying;
Wind from the east, snow on the hills;
Wind from the south, fruit on the trees.

Pennsylvania Dutch farmers had a little rhyme about this day: Peter und Paul mach die Wurzel faul or "Peter and Paul makes the root crops rot," indicating that it usually rains on their day. [Yoder]

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000
Kightly, Charles,
The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987
Teish, Luisah,
Jambalaya, Harper & Row 1985
Yoder, Don,
Groundhog's Day, Stackpole Press

June 29 Transfiguration
Despite being raised Catholic, I don't remember ever celebrating this rather obscure holiday, which takes place on the 98th day after Easter, and commemorates the vision of Christ in glory, shining like the sun and talking to Elijah and Moses, witnessed by Peter, James and John. Since I am not aware of any liturgical reason for the placing of this feast on this particular date, I assume it's another example of the Catholic Church replacing a pagan custom--processions to the tops of mountains to honor the sun (see Lughnasad, August 1), Perhaps it also refers to the mysteries of the grain and grapes which are transformed into bread and wine at this time of the year.

According to Spicer, this holiday is celebrated in Russia on August 19th (formerly August 6th) when people bring honey, pears, apples, plums and other fruits to the church to be blessed.

Spicer, Dorothy Gladys, The Book of Festivals, The Women's Press 1937

June 30 Vardavar
Armenians celebrate the Monday and Tuesday seven weeks after Pentecost as Rose Day. Once this was a midsummer festival of the goddess, Anahid, who was offered roses and doves. These are still part of the ritual, along with sprinkling water on each other and spending the day outdoors.

According to Injejkian, in Armenia, women and children often carried a broom dressed in rags called the boub 'lad 'gin through the village, singing special songs. Onlookers threw water on the ragged broom or bride, as it was sometimes called, and gave those who carried it lard, cracked wheat, and eggs. After the procession, the boub'lad'gin carriers gathered at a sacred spring and dined on pilav.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Injejkian, Hasmig, "In Search of Nine Keghi Songs," Canadian Journal for Traditional Music (1990), http://cjtm.icaap.org/content/18/v18art7.html


Sts Peter and Paul

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