Then, as I do now to a slightly lesser degree, I dwelt in a fairyland of romance and idealism inside my head. All things magical, and ancient fascinated me, I shuddered with delight at the archaic word drellingore, a name given to the mysterious bore that surges once in a blue moon from the depths of the chalk aquifer beneath our village. My family name of Arthur, had me in the firm belief that I was of noble ancient stock. I was fascinated by Tess of the D’urbervilles and scoured junk shops and antique markets for old stuff, and books of antediluvian arts, recipes and superstitions. At school my favourite Shakespeare text was ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and for me, fairies and mermaids were most definitely a thing. Being cast as a dancing wood-nymph in the Duke of York’s School summer production of Camelot was, for me, pure heaven.
I think it was the following year that I managed to recruit three fellow druidic revellers to join me on the longest day, and for years to come we would meet each summer beside the ‘sacred spring’ at a secret location to see the sun go down and embrace the sweetness of youth and friendship.
In reality the sacred spring at the far end of Bushy Ruff, was one of many quite ordinary chalk springs that feed the River Dour at its source in the Alkham Valley, the wild company of druids were my pals from school, and the magic spells we cast on those long summer nights were learnt from a book we found in Oxfam about Wiltshire Folklore. My mother was jittery, to say the least, at the prospect of losing her daughter to the dark side of the occult, and in fairness, I did try really hard to conjure myself into the likeness of a hare every year, and was secretly disappointed each time I failed. (I was careful to make sure I memorised the ‘undoing spell’ first of course, I wasn’t that reckless!)
Over the years I have managed to sneak out for the occasional return to midsummer madness, but work, life, family, and children can sometimes hamper my efforts to break free from sensible normality and abandon myself to the whole naked-dancing-at-sunset mullarkey, not to mention the many cold and wet Summer Solstices that somehow made the wearing of diaphanous white robes to frolic in the grass rather less appealing. I have no doubt that my fellow frolickers of old, who remain my dearest friends, would agree to midsummer capers with me today if it weren’t for the fact that we are all so far apart geographically, and tied to our domestic lives.
However, undeterred, I happened to casually mention to a friend yesterday, as we walked in sunshine along miles of lush and ancient Wolds landscape, that I was planning to mark the event somehow. She laughed so hard at my story of last year’s solstice when at dusk, as I put the chickens to bed at the far top of the garden, and while the children slept and my husband dozed in front of the telly, I was taken with the primeval desire to take off all my clothes and dance around the garden under the moonrise. (I live on the plot of a medieval garth, a long strip of land reaching up to The Lady Well, near Nun’s Walk in Bratt Wood, and this whole area is steeped in ancient history. We even have rigg & furrow at the top of the garden, and an old green lane, so I like to think I was just following tradition.) Perhaps out of pity she has decided to join me tonight, and we have rounded up another blithe spirit in the form of her friend PB, who, it turns out, has harboured a lifelong fascination with Wicca, and does a very good line in hedonism and wild spontaneity.
The weather forecast looks exciting to say the least, with little lightning bolts in the fluffy clouds, but we are forging ahead with plans to make garlands of wild flowers to wear on our heads. I will be wearing the little Bronze Age axe talisman made by my husband from a cast of the original find, unearthed last year at a dig in the village (and available to buy from ART& ROSE Gallery) and PB might even cast a circle…
How will you mark this special day?
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