Collecting the Summer Dew

Collecting the Summer Dew June 28, 2017

There are many sacred waters, from the Brighid’s well to Sequana’s river to the vast wine dark ocean.   There’s one sacred water that is accessible to many of us who have access to grassy yards or parks: dew. The dew is said to be sacred and healing, particularly of eye ailments and for physical beauty. I have used it for body and emotional healing and general well being.

I went to the garden

And washed my face

With dew from the rue.

(excerpt from a traditional folk song)

On Midsummer morning I pulled my unhappy children off of their computers and out into the 3-D world of our backyard. The dew crop was good this year! The grass glistened in the morning sun with innumerable tiny drops of water that had condensed from the heavy wet air. I wet my hands by running them through the grass and patted my face and neck with the cool water. There’s something about dew water that is so refreshing and different from other water. It’s on the tail end of the natural purification cycle of evaporation and condensation and I really think it feels different.

I corralled the kids into helping to get some new woven towels sogged with dew water. These were carefully folded and put into a ziplock in the fridge to be saved for my grove Midsummer ritual that Saturday. Yay modern paganism! Though I suppose those ancient druids didn’t have to deal with competing with the 40 hour work week. You win some, you lose some.

Classical Painting of nymphs frolicking in the water in the dawn light.
Paul Émile Chabas – Les nymphes de danse Used with Permission from Wikimedia

Celebrating the Rite of Healing

On the day we celebrated midsummer I pulled out my carefully refrigerated damp towels and put one in our Sacred Well (AKA pretty bowl filled with water) We had collected the dew that morning as well. Every year that we can my grove has a midsummer campout. One of the great things about doing such a thing is that once a year we are all available and in the same place to do a dawn rite at about 6:00am in the morning. I know the limits of my grove. Asking them to wake up early enough to drive someplace to do a dawn rite is unwise. So we do our dawn rite, and ask for the blessings of the dawn and the sun, then lay out white washcloths on the grass. Hopefully there is enough for each person at the main rite to get one.

At the main rite we call to all the celestial gods using reconstructed Lithuanian names for the 5 visible planets and the earth. We sang a Lithuanian chant that we’ve been singing for years now, and took the omen. When it came to the blessing of the waters of life we sang and intoned and asked the gods to bless them. We sang We are the Flow and We are the Ebb while each person got a washcloth to dampen with the dewy waters of life.   This also works functionally because Midsummer rites are almost always HOT. We’ve had problems with too much sun exposure (mitigated this day by everyone huddling under two easyups) and with overheating. The damp cloth is a great way to cool everyone down and afterward we did a fun spiral dance with many of us wearing our washcloths as neckerchiefs or hats.

The collection of dew is also a Celtic tradition, though it is usually done on Beltane rather than Midsummer. If you study European folk traditions it’s easy to see how the Celtic Islands often did things about one holiday early. Imbolc and Ostara traditions have a lot in common as do Beltane and Midsummer. It makes sense since the British Isles and Ireland are going to warm up sooner than the more inland continental areas.

So try collecting some dew! It’s great if you can pull off timing it for an astronomically significant date like the summer solstice, but it works pretty darn well just about any time. Try to get out there before dawn so you can watch her kindle the morning fire, but even if you don’t make it, that’s okay. There’s always tomorrow.

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