image Lorenzo Ridolfi
Known as, among other names, Midsummer, All-Couples Day, The Feast of St. John the Baptist, Feill-Sheathain or “Swithin’s Eve” (Swithin being an old form of John) ~ today is the summer solstice, the first day of summer. William Shakespeare described the magic of this day in his masterful comedy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Astronomically, this occurs 21 June, but many of the above-mentioned celebrations occur a day or two earlier or later than the actual summer solstice. The date for these celebrations was set long ago as a part of various religious activities.
June is the most common month for marriages, hence the designation as All-Couples Day. This is also the day that a young, unmarried woman may find her true life-mate. Rituals designed to find the perfect man varied from the bizarre to the comical. If a young, unmarried woman fasted on Midsummer’s Eve and then set a table at midnight with a clean cloth, bread, cheese and ale and simply waited with her door wide open, the man she was to marry, or his spirit, would enter and feast with her.
If a woman gathered nine wildflowers in silence — it works best if gathered from a churchyard — and placed them under her pillow on the Midsummer’s Eve, she would dream of her future husband. Or a young woman could write all the letters of the alphabet on separate pieces of paper and float them facedown in a bowl of water. By the next morning, the initials of her true love would be found floating right-side up.
When the early Christians leaders were attempting to convert pagans to the new religion, they had to move the pagans away from their rituals and celebrations of nature into worship of God. One tactic they used successfully was to assign special Christian holy days to the dates of those pagan celebrations, thus weaning them from the old religions to the new one.
The Feast of St. John the Baptist is an example. Normally, a saint’s special day is commemorated on the day he or she was canonized. But John the Baptist’s day occurs on his birthday, which happens to be Midsummer’s Day. John the Baptist remains as one of the most important people in the Christian faith, and the need for a major celebration at the time of the pagan Midsummer’s Day led the church to celebrate the Feast of St. John the Baptist. In times past, it was only surpassed in importance to the Catholic Church by days such as Easter and Christmas.
It may seem odd that Midsummer’s Day occurs at the astronomical beginning of the summer season. Logically, the summer solstice ought to be the middle of summer as it is the middle of the growing season. The four seasonal days ~ spring equinox, summer solstice, fall equinox and winter solstice ~ mark the times of specific locations of the sun in the sky. The summer solstice marks the most northern position of the sun. For us in the Western Hemisphere, it represents the highest point in the sky the sun ever reaches. Winter solstice is the opposite point, when the sun is farthest south and, for us in the north, lowest in the sky. The spring equinox marks the point in time when the center of the sun sits directly over the equator moving from south to north, and the fall equinox marks the same point in time when the sun is moving southward. In ancient times, these solar locations were easy to measure, whereas the midpoints between are more difficult to determine without modern technology.
The summer solstice was commonly celebrated 24 June until the calendar reform by Pope Gregory in 1582 moved the date of the summer solstice back three days to 21 June. Even though the summer solstice falls within a day of 21 June, Midsummer’s Day has been celebrated 24 June.
This time is/was also recognized by other names and observations ~ Alban Heflin, Alben Heruin, Feast of Epona, Gathering Day, Johannistag, Litha, Sonnwend, Thing-Tide & Vestalia. Whatever the the name or tradition, the day commonly celebrates the highest point of the sun in the sky and the fertile blessings of summer season…
1000 - Bronze age Urnfield culture exists across Europe.
800 - Iron age Celtic culture appears across Europe, and begins to expand. Following a major archaeological find in Austria in 1876, this culture is labelled HALLSTATT.
600 - The Massiliote Periplus is written in the Greek port of Massilia (Marseille), describing two distant islands, IERNE (Ireland) and ALBION (England).
550 - The Hochdorf Prince and the Princess of Vix are buried in Southern Germany. Meanwhile in Southern Britain, hundreds of hillforts are being built, including DANEBURY RING in Hampshire.
500 - Celtic culture is endemic throughout Britain, France, Western Spain, South Germany, North Italy and a broad belt stretching East to the Black Sea, including a beachead in Central Turkey (the Galatians).There is trade between the Celts and the Etruscans. The Greek Hecateus describes the KELTOI. A new culture evolves. Following a major archaeological find in Switzerland in 1858 this culture is labelled LA TENE.
450 - Herodotus describes the Celts in Western Spain, and around the source of the Danube.
400 - Celts cross the Alps and invade Italy
390 - Celts sack Rome. Their leader Brennus exacts a huge bounty of gold with the words “Vae Victis” (woe to the defeated). This is the peak of the Celtic empire.
368 - Gaulish mercenaries fight in the army of Syracuse.
335 - Celts from the Adriatic meet Alexander the Great, who is impressed.
325 - The voyage of the Massilian Pytheas, who describes the PRETANIC islands (Britain).
279 - A Celtic tribe from Turkey, the Galatae or GALATIANS, sack the temple of Apollo at Delphi.
230 - The GALATIANS are defeated by Greeks at the battle of Pergamon in Turkey. The Greeks celebrate by casting THE DYING GAUL in bronze and carving the Pergamon reliefs.
225 - Celts (including GAESATAE) are defeated by Romans at the battle of Telamon in Italy (8,000 captured, 25,000 killed). Romans celebrate by copying The Dying Gaul in marble, and Polybius writes about it. From now on its mostly all down hill.
218 - Celts ally with Carthage in the second Punic war.
150 - Posidonius the Greek visits Gaul and describes druids. All his writings are later lost.
125 - Rome conquers Southern Gaul.
105 - Cimbri and Teutones defeat Romans at Arausio (Orange) in Gaul.
101- Romans destroy Cimbri and Teutones at Campi Raurii (60,000 captured, 120,000 killed). Romans celebrate by carving the triumphal arch at Orange.
100 - Danebury is abandoned, reason unknown.
60 - Diodorus the Sicilian writes about the Celts.
58 - Julius Caesar invades Gaul. He attacks 368,000 emigrating Helvetii (the entire Swiss Celtic tribe including women and children) at Toulon-sur-Arroux, killing 238,000 of them (his own estimates).
54 - The quisling Celtic chief Dumnorix is murdered by Genocide Julius.
53 - Numerous failed uprisings. ACCO leads a revolt amongst the Senones and Carnutes tribes and is caught, flogged and executed before Roman troops, but Ambiorix escapes never to be seen again.
52 - VERCINGETORIX, son of Celtillus of the royal house of the Averni, rallies Gaullish forces and attacks Julius Caesar. Caesar lays seige to him in Avaricum, killing 40,000 Gauls, but Vercingetorix and 800 men escape to GERGOVIA. Caesar attacks, but is routed. Now there was a battle. Finally Caesar traps Vercingetorix at THE SEIGE OF ALESIA. Vercingetorix surrenders and is taken prisoner. This is the end of resistance in Gaul, which becomes a Roman province (but Britain is still free). Caesar cashes in by writing the best seller DE BELLO GALLICO (The Gallic Wars).
45 - Vercingetorix is paraded through Rome, then executed.
44 - Julius Caesar is stabbed to death by his friends in the toilets behind a theatre. HAH !
30 - Strabo (quoting the lost chronicles of Posidonius) and Livy write about the Celts. Meanwhile in Ireland (according to the Annals of Tigernach) Conor Mac Nessa is King of Ulster. Legends told centuries later by bards and written down centuries later still by monks will describe his champion CUCHULAINN - the Hound of Ulster.
9 - Three entire Roman legions (15,000 soldiers) led by Varus are wiped out to a man in the TEUTOBERG FOREST by natives led by Herman the German. Although a Roman expeditionary force later retrieves the lost legions’ standard (this is the scene at the beginning of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator) Varus’ crushing defeat ends Roman expansion in this area.
10 - Cunobelin (or Cunobelinus, Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline”) is chief of the Catuvellaunii and King of the Britons in Colchester.
43 - Under CARADOC (also known as Caratacus, son of Cunobelin) the Catuvellaunii tribe begin to conquer their neighbours. The quisling Verica of the Atrebates invites Rome to cross the channel and do something about it. The Roman emperor Claudius (the one with the stutter) invades Britain by elephant and four legions led by Aulus Plautius, and after three days of combat defeats Caradoc at THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER MEDWAY in Kent. Caradoc escapes and starts a guerilla war.
50 - Caradoc is driven North and seeks sanctuary with Queen CARTIMANDUA of the Brigantes tribe. She arrests him and hands him over to Rome. He and his family are dragged in chains before Claudius and the senate where he makes such an impressive speech that his life is spared and he is given a farm. Also around this time the Roman poet Lucan visits Gaul and writes his poem “Pharsalia” in which he slanders the druids. Shortly after this Claudius declares all druids outlawed and to be executed on sight.
59 - Suetonius Paulinus leads 2 legions into North-West Wales, attacking the druid stronghold on Mona (Anglesey).
60 - Presutagus, King of the Iceni tribe around Suffolk, dies. His widow BOUDICCA is refused Roman recognition as queen, is flogged, and her daughters raped. She leads a rebellion, sacking the Claudian temple at Camulodonum (Romanised Colchester), then slaughtering the entire Roman populations of Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St Albans), and a few legions here and there. Paullinus is forced to abandon the slaughter of the druids on Anglesey and leading the 14th and 20th legions faces her near Lichfield. With an army of 10,000 Paullinus defeats Boudicca’s army of 100,000 killing 80,000 of them (according to Tacitus, his son-in-law), but Boudicca escapes never to be seen again. Paullinus conducts a punitive reign of terror across Britain. All resistance is crushed, and Britain becomes a Roman province (but Ireland and Scotland are still free). Meanwhile in Turkey, St Paul the Apostle is writing his epistle to the Galatians.
82 - The military governor of Britain, Julius Agricola, reaches the Mull of Kintyre and decides not to invade Ireland.
84 - Agricola presses North to face the last free British Celtic Army. He defeats Calgacus and 30,000 Caledonian warriors at Mons Graupius (according to Tacitus). However, this is as far North as Rome gets, and the rest of Scotland remains free.
122 - Hadrian’s Wall is built to keep out the Picts.
410 - The last Roman legions leave Britain for good as their sordid empire collapses.
427 - Loegaire crowned first king of Tara in Ireland.
432 - St Patrick arrives in Pagan Celtic Ireland. Elsewhere on the island, the last free Celtic warriors are performing feats that will inspire hero-myths that will last millenia, inspired themselves by hero-myths older still.
650 - The first scraps of ancient Irish legends, passed on verbally by bards for centuries, are finally written down on a calf skin belonging to the early Christian monk St Ciaran.
1105 - Maelmuiri transcribes St Ciaran’s work in the monastery of Clonmacnoise as THE BOOK OF THE DUN COW, the oldest surviving copy of THE TAIN BO CUAILNGE (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), the hero-myths of CUCHULAINN and the warriors of the Red Branch of Ulster. Elsewhere the Book of Leinster is also being written, covering events prior to the cattle raid.
1375 - The Yellow Book of Lecan is written down, adding more detail.
1450 - The Books of Lecan (not yellow, presumably) and Lismore are made.
1857 - A shallow part of Lake Neuchatel (La Tene) in Switzerland is found to be full of ancient Celtic artefacts dating from the 6th century BC.
1876 - An ancient salt mine dating from the 9th century BC is excavated in Hallstatt, Austria.
1890 - William Butler Yeats writes “The Rose”, a collection of poems based on ancient Irish legend, including “Fergus and the Druid”.
1898 - In an atmosphere of Celtic revivalism, Lady Eleanor Hull writes “The Cuchulainn Saga”.
1916 - The Easter Rising in Dublin.
1958 -T.G.E. Powell writes “The Celts”.
COURTESY: Brigantia Society
Rob Roy Action-Drama Series In Development ~~~
STV Productions and FremantleMedia have announced plans to jointly develop a new action-adventure drama series centred on the iconic Scottish figure, Rob Roy.
The new show will be “stylised and humorous” and will “rewrite Scottish history with the energy and feel of a comic book brought to life.”
Set in a Scotland populated with mythical creatures and under the tyrannical rule of a cruel English King George, the story takes the historical truth of Robert Roy MacGregor’s story and gives it a contemporary twist. The adventure series takes Rob Roy and his companions on a complex and dangerous quest to find the true king of Scotland and bring peace back to his native land.
STV Productions Head of Drama, Margaret Enefer, and FremantleMedia’s Director of Global Drama, Sarah Doole, have jointly commissioned a script from writer Caleb Ranson (Young James Herriot, Child of Mine).
Alan Clements, director of content at STV Productions, said: “Rob Roy is one of the most iconic characters in Scottish history and this fantasy adventure series will bring a mythical and contemporary edge to the story. We are very excited to work with FremantleMedia to bring to life Caleb Ranson’s compelling script.”
Sarah Doole, Director of Global Drama at FremantleMedia added: “Caleb’s treatment of this iconic Scottish story gives it an exciting new twist: combining action heroes and fantastical creatures with a wonderful steampunk overlay that will capture the imagination and attention of every member of the family. I can’t wait to see the script come to life and look forward to pitching the show to international broadcasters.”
The project will be co-funded by Creative Scotland’s development fund. FremantleMedia will distribute the series internationally.