The summer Solstice is nearly upon us - Saturday 21st June is the longest day of the year and considered to be Mid Summer (already!). It is also a solar celebration and what better way to celebrate then with beautiful blossoms of one of the most sacred trees in Ireland.
The Elder tree, is in bloom late in May and early June with a profusion of white flowers which grow in clusters. It has long been used for its’ many known healing and medicinal properties (pain, inflammation, the bark is a mild laxative) as well as the delicious drinks made from a rapid fermenting process.
Elder naturally contains many wild yeasts and can be fermented with little trouble in a few days into refreshing drinks that smell and taste distinctly like summer! I never add commercial yeast to anything and always get the most amazing tasting champagnes....
Elder flowers are also powerful immune boosters (berries and leaves are very high in Vitamin C as well) for both humans and animals with many people making and drinking Elder Cordials or a little stronger fizzy drink known as Elder Champagne (it will achieve about 2 to 3% alc.) in the early summer time.
In the meantime, branches of the tree have been used as protective amulets and to make fairie wands. Altars usually have a piece of some of these sacred trees included especially at the summer solstice. The magical properties brought by this tree are thought to be prosperity, breaking spells, healing and protection.
And so it goes!
If you are planning some kind of a Summer Solstice celebration (Litha) why not bring in Elder - flowers, leaves or a gift of a fallen branch from a tree - you can make this a central theme of your altar or just place on a table large enough to welcome the sun.
And don't forget to make your Elder Cordial or buy some at the market in Skibbereen.
Happy Solstice Everyone!