The Tree of the Summer Solstice
June 20 – Oak 11
Heather, also known as Heath or Ling, a species of plants and shrubs that grow wild on heaths, open uncultivated ground, wastelands and mountains, is the Midsummer Tree which blooms with bell-shaped flowers called Heather-bell. White Heather is considered lucky and used as protection against acts of passion. Heather-ale is a favorite Welsh drink and, according to Shakespeare, Scottish witches always met on blasted heaths. Heather is associated with mountains and bees, both also connected with the ancient White Goddess, such as the Phrygian Lion-and-Bee goddess Cybele, often pictured as the Queen Bee surrounded by drones, and worshipped on mountains. Mount Eryx in Sicily is famous for its hero-shrine to Butes the beekeeper built by the Heather-goddess Venus Erycina. The Trojan Anchises was “fatally courted” by Venus to the hum of bees on a mountain. The station of the Heather is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, and it represents the third vowel, U for Ura, given the numerical value Five by the Irish bards. During the Roman Empire both “U” and “5” were expressed with a V-sign, also the oldest symbol for woman and, as Graves explains, this is the time of “the Summer Goddess, the leafy center of the year, the Queen of the Whole Pentad.”
In Hebrew mythology and in the Old Testament, however, the tree of the Summer Solstice is the CEDAR–often called the Cedar-of-Lebanon, an evergreen genus of the Pine Family with four different species. Sacred to Mount Lebanon’s ancient Love-and-Battle goddess Anatha or Astarte, the Cedar is a conifer whose wood was used for the pillars and beams of the three temples of Solomon built in her honor and Jehovah’s, and hers was the larger. As the sun reaches its prime, so in the Greek Ecclesiasticus, sovereignty is represented by the “grandest, loftiest tree, the Cedar”: “I was exalted like a Cedar in Lebanon…”
The Summer-Solstice tree in the flatlands of Northern France and Germany seems to have been neither Heath nor Cedar, but the LIME-TREE, or Linden, which has heart-shaped leaves and numerous small and fragrant yellowish flowers that bloom from mid-May to mid-August. In Thessalian myth, the goddess-mother of Cheiron the Centaur–the original Archer of the Zodiac–was called Philyra, which means Lime-tree. Philyra is identified with the Cretan mother-goddess Rhea, whose son was Zeus; Philyra’s son was named Attis, but both had the same mythic characteristics and attributes.
In Egypt Heather was sacred to Isis–her brother and lover Osiris was imprisoned at Byblos in a Heather-tree–and to the Gallic Uroica, whose name is halfway between the Irish and the Greek words for Heather: Ura and Ereice. Ura also means not only Summer but Lion’s (or Bear’s) tail, which expresses the animal’s fury. According to Classical Greek myth, Uranus was the father of the Titans but, as Graves explains, he “is likely to have originally been their Mother–Ura-Ana, Queen Ura” similar to the Triple-goddess Ana’s Classical title Urania, “The Heavenly One,” though ur also means “earth.” The more meanings a sacred name has, the greater its power, and Urania has numerous poetic meanings.