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Museum News

Midsummer Celebrations and Traditions

On 18 – 19 June, we will host a special Historic Life Weekend that looks at the traditions and superstitions of Midsummer. An important part of this theme includes the herbs and plants grown at the time that were used for protection as well as festivities.

Midsummer has been a time for celebration with gatherings around fires on the eve of the longest day (21 June) and St. John’s Day (24 June) for centuries.

Many superstitions were prevalent around this time of year and there was an emphasis on the need for protection from evil. As a result, rural communities would use herbs and plants to decorate houses and to burn on fires to drive away evil spirits. Protective herbs included St. John’s wort, mugwort, corn marigold, yarrow, plantain and orpine. Picked on Midsummer Eve, the herb vervain could have been used against witchcraft, lightning, demons or thieves.

Love divination was also associated with herbs, and St. John’s wort and mugwort were used in rituals on Midsummer Eve to predict the identity of a husband to be.

With the role of the sun a dominant aspect in midsummer celebrations, medical herbalist, author and course-leader Christina Stapley will be at the Museum over the weekend to talk about herbs ruled by the sun. From angelica to viper’s bugloss, marigolds to mistletoe, such herbs are known to preserve against pestilence and poisons, cheer the melancholy, treat illness and often aid eyesight. Through displays and demonstrations, visitors can enjoy a fascinating insight into the complex world of medieval herbalism.

Midsummer at the Museum will be a weekend to enjoy festivities, the historic gardens, embroidery inspired by their plants, displays on beekeeping and botanical illustrations. A highlight of the weekend will be the showcase of a Tudor wedding at Bayleaf farmhouse and all the different stages of preparation right through to the ceremony itself. This culminates in a procession on the Sunday to North Cray which visitors can join in with, wearing floral favours made at the Museum.

To find out more and book tickets, click here