A Writer's Journey

June 24, 2012

Happy Midsummer!

Filed under: journey,The Wedding Game,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve:
Lovers, to bed; ’tis almost fairy time.
(William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5 Scene 1)

As I said in Monday’s post, today is my main female character’s birthday! To celebrate, I’m posting a blurb from the chapter detailing the Midsummer.

But first, a little background information.

While we celebrate the Summer Solstice on June 21, the Celts celebrated it on June 24. The Catholic Church continued her tradition of taking pagan holidays and transforming them into Christian ones. In this case, June 24th is the Feast of St. John the Baptist. The day was also when most women gathered St. John’s Wort. It’s an herb native to Europe that has a few medical purposes. Nowadays, it’s used as an herbal treatment for both depression and alcoholism. It’s also used for wounds and burns.

The people had traditions, starting on June 23rd when they would try to stay up throughout the short night. They lit bonfires and some brave souls tried to jump it. Superstition said that the height of the biggest jump would be how tall the crops would grow. I imagine there were some burnt bums by sun up. (Good thing they picked St. John’s Wort!)

How many of you have either read or seen “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”? It’s one of Shakespeare’s comedies and it’s my favorite of his plays. The Bard grew up in the English countryside after the Medieval period, but the lore still persisted. They did believe that the Midsummer was one of the days where the barrier between our world and the fairy world was almost non-existent. People believed they could see fairies or be spirited away by them on this night.

To see the fairies, the powder of crushed fennel seeds was placed on the eyelids. To avoid capture by the fairies, it was advised to go by water or to have St. John’s Wort.

*Further myths with St. John’s Wort: If a young woman set up a table and decorated it with the herb and a man came in to dine at it, they were to be wed. Likewise, if she slept with St. John’s Wort under her pillow, she’d have a dreams of her future husband. Hmm, maybe I should give it a try!

Blurb:

From the village, the church bell tolled twelve times—midnight. “Put the seed dust on now,” Susanna ordered.

Tightening her fist, Christian crushed the seeds she held. She rubbed the dust on her eyelids, excitement growing. “Remember that if you think the fairies are trying to take you, head for water,” she heard Susanna warn. “Try to stay together though. There is strength in numbers.”

Laughter erupted and began to fade. Christian opened her eyes to see the girls running down the hill. She joined in their joy as she sat down on the hill, watching as they chased after fairies.

For Christian, nothing changed. The field looked exactly the same. No little creatures flying about, no secret world. Just the green grass and the night sky, the same as they’ve always been. She could see the orange glow of the bonfire. A dark cloud of smoke circled its way to the heavens. Christian followed its journey, craning her neck until she had to lean back. Spreading her arms wide, the lady gave in to the forces of nature and fell back, landing on the cool grass.

The stars sparkled over head, entrancing her. The stars were all she needed now, taking her back to her girlhood. To a night when she lay in a field near Castle Trent alongside the Baron as he named the constellations. Gerard memorized all the ones his father pointed out. Christian and Felicity were more interested in the stories the constellations represented, both going to the castle’s library the next day to read more.

Tears began to build at the memory of the Baron. In a few days time, she would be journeying to his death bed. Christian sat up, regretting the fact she didn’t bring a handkerchief with her this night. She wiped her eyes with her veil, not caring that some of the seed came off as well.

She stared at the sheer fabric fluttering in a light summer breeze. Lights flew by her, in small red balls. They hovered before her, enticing her. She squinted, making out a tiny figure. A wee hand waved at her, beckoning her to follow. Enthralled, Christian obliged. She stood, holding her arms out on either side. Her long sleeves fluttered much like her veil had. The yellow fabric blew behind her, giving her the appearance of having wings.

Perhaps I’ll fly away. Would it possibly be so bad to live in the fairy world?

On a whim, she quickly unpinned her veil. She next freed her long hair from the confines of her braid. With an unladylike whoop, she began running down the hill. She held her veil aloft, letting it float on the wind she created. It trailed behind her like a cloud had come from the sky to follow her like a loyal dog. She believed if she ran fast enough, she would leave the ground and take to the sky.

Her feet entangled with her skirt, she crashed to the ground. The pain barely registered. She was rolling across the grass, surrounded by white. It was oddly beautiful.

She came to a stop, once again resting on her back. The veil still rested on her face. She breathed heavily, the cloth entering her mouth every time she breathed in. It popped out with every exhale. It was comforting in its simplicity. Time held no meaning out in the field. She just stared through the veil, mind empty. It was her and the grass. Her and the night air. Her and the feeling of floating.

Is this the fairy world? Did Susanna’s story come true?

(Excerpt from “The Wedding Game,” Chapter 9: The Midsummer)

Copyright 2012 Alexandria Brim/Grace Mackenzie Ness. All Rights Reserved.

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