As you wake this morning, squinting at the light forcing it’s way through your curtains, look closely at the corners of your room. Has anything changed? Have things been disturbed just a tiny little bit? Nothing much – perhaps your favourite bracelet has fallen to the floor, or your shiniest earrings are no longer with the others but glistening on their own on the shelf. Maybe your books aren’t in the order you thought you had left them. Or it could be something really, really subtle – can you feel a breath of cool air when the windows are shut? Or is your water glass ever so slightly cloudy? Look closer – there may be an almost insignificant swirl where something has passed through it, an insubstantial shimmer you can barely see. Or maybe not.
But are you sure? Wait for just a moment before you dare to raise it to your lips.
Today is the summer solstice, or midsummer’s day. It’s the day when the inhabitants of other worlds can reach through into ours, and cause mischief. Or worse – much worse. Not all are as friendly as the cast of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. There are legends of fairies and elves, and powerful dragons who roam the darkness and will poison the water.
I warned you not to take a sip.
They can be kept away with fire – huge roaring fires which frighten them into staying in their own worlds. In the old days everyone would protect themselves by building a pyre, sometimes with effigies on top. If you didn’t light a fire last night can you be sure that they didn’t waft in? If you escaped last night, be warned – the fairies, the sprites and the dragons will be there tonight too, reaching through the gossamer fabric towards us. Today is the day when they have the best chance, when the energy protecting us is thin and insubstantial. For thousands of years people have paid homage to midsummer, building elaborate monuments which measure the day so that they could be sure when it was. Legend has it that if you go to one of those sacred sites – Stonehenge perhaps – and stay up all night to greet and welcome the visitors, in the morning you could be a bard – a master storyteller. Or you could have been driven mad.
Perhaps it would be worth the risk.