Bewitching approach to summer solstice
WHISPER it, but yesterday was officially the height of the summer.
Record numbers of people marked the summer solstice -- once one of the highlights of the Celtic druids' calendar.
Special ceremonies were staged nationwide at stone circles and fairy forts, with the most high-profile staged at the Hill of Tara in Meath -- once the centre for Ireland's druid religion.
And one of Ireland's best-known witches, Helen Barrett, has claimed that increasing numbers are turning to ancient beliefs because of the fears and stresses of modern society.
Helen -- known as the White Witch of the Isles -- yesterday said she had never before seen such numbers of Irish people out to mark the summer solstice ceremonies.
At the Hill of Tara, dozens of people met to celebrate light and offer 'gifts' to the Earth.
"We are celebrating the light and the strength of the light today," Carmel Diviney said.
In her wooden chalice, she had lavender and frankincense.
"They are a gift to Sidhe, an offer to the fairy world, the other world," she explained.
Water 'charged' by being left under the light of the last full moon was brought in a silver chalice by Orlaith Browne.
Terri Murray said: "We are blessed to have such a sacred place in Ireland."
The solstice is not only the longest day of the year and when the sun is at its highest elevation but, to pagan societies, a time of enormous power when the harvest and communities were blessed with fertility.
Helen Barrett attended a special midnight ceremony at an ancient stone ring in Kerry to celebrate dawn and the solstice.
She was joined by people from Ireland, Britain, Germany and even Australia for the ceremony, which mirrored dozens of others staged countrywide.
"There is a huge amount of fear and negativity out there," she told the Irish Independent.
"But I think people are starting to find comfort from the peace and calm that is offered by nature and the simple things of the universe."
Helen said the fear and stress was palpable among people over the economic depression, Ireland's fiscal crisis, the state of the environment and fears -- well stoked by Hollywood -- that 2012 would bring some kind of cataclysmic event for the world.