Midsummer Tributes

On St. Johns Night, Midsummer’s Eve[1] it was the old tradition to pay tribute to Manannan Mac Lir[2] at South Barrule.  The People gathered two bundles of St. Johnswort, Midsummer Men[3], Meadow Rushes, Rue and Mugwort to pay tribute to the Just King of Mann for allowing them to live and prosper on His Holy Isle.  The first bundle was placed at the foot of the mountain and the second was taken up the slope to the top of the mountain where a small hill fort remains[4].  In effect this act pledged fealty to Manannan in all the heavens above and all the earth beneath.

According to an old Manx ballad, the only yearly tribute that was levied on Manxmen by the wizard-chief Mannanan was a bundle of rushes delivered to him every St. John’s Eve, i.e., the eve of the Midsummer festival. A survival of this is still seen in the custom of strewing the path from the Church to the Tynwald Hill with rushes, representing a former sacrifice or offering to the Spirit of Vegetation. “  (Manx Quarterly, #25, 1921)

For Witches, this was the eve to renew pledges to the Ancient Gods and the Ancestors. Sometimes, this was called Renewing the Pact, and was often done on Mann by either circling seven times deosil on the top of South Barrule, or seven times round a Midsummer Fire muttering old incantations.  One such incantation to Renew the Pact was said to be chanted by Witches in Cornwall on Midsummer Eve and it was:

Green is Gold – (Nature is clothed  in the Sun’s light)

Fire is Wet – (Candleboats are set afloat)

Fortunes told – (Divination that eve)

Dragon’s Met – (Green lines or serpent tracks)

Huge bonfires were often lit on every hill-top and sometimes fires were set out on small coracles to follow the currents of the Irish Sea.  Ellan Vannin was ablaze with fire, light, music and dance.

Manannan and his Faery Queen, Fand, began their royal ride with the 12 Fey Lords & Ladies of the Keys, from South Barrule, 15 miles to rule the High Court of Tynwald[5] at Baldwin in Braddan, Algare[6].  The King and Queen lead the Seelie Court, surrounded in song and dance, accompanied by faery music, fire brands, revelry and starlight.  Upon arrival at Algare (the Place of Justice) Old Tynwald court would be held and lasted a full week.  Disputes were settled, children, flocks and crops were blessed, the old laws were read and new laws proclaimed, wisdom and sage advice was sought from the Wise Sage of Mann, and titles and honours were bestowed upon the finest beasts and the most gifted men and women.  The People celebrated the summer harvest fair with the first seasonal fruits, herbs, honey and berries, drank mead wines and old ale libations were given.  The nights were warm weathered and many spent an enchanted night with their loved ones on the soft mossy floors of forest beds.

[1] Also called St. John’s Night.  One must remember that John is an old pagan survival, often called the Oak King and connected to Jack in the Green.  If this wasn’t enough, he was often called ‘Pan the Baptist’ much to the chagrin of the Christian priests.  This is because he was often depicted as a shaggy man, sometimes even cloven hoofed such as a satyr.

[2] Manannan often appeared in the form of a great Crane, his totem animal and a bird of esteemed magical powers.

[3] Sedum telephium

[4] This was also reported to be a place where one of eight cyclical castles of Manannan once resided.

[5] Tynwald is the oldest surviving parliament in the world, making a claim on the Isle of Mann to be at least 1000 years old.  It is now celebrated on July 5th in St. John’s and attendees still wear sprigs of St. John’s Wort as a protection against evil and to bring good fortune.

[6] Old Tynwald is north of St. Luke’s Church in Braddan.  Of an interesting note, the name of the homestead where Old Tynwald stood is still called “Algare” which is a word meaning “justice” or “A Place of Justice”.

One Response to “Midsummer Tributes”

  1. […] Midsummer Tributes – Manx witch […]

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