Midsummer’s night was one of the most solemn festivals of the ancient pagan world. It’s also known as the eve of St. John the Baptist.
In pre-Christian times the first fire was lighted on the hill of Howth, on the east coast of Ireland, near Dublin, and the moment the flame appeared through the darkness a great shout went up form the watchers on all the surrounding hill tops, where other fires were quickly kindled. These were viewed by watchers further west, who in turn kindled their own fires and so on, until the flame had ‘travelled’ across the country.
It was also customary to walk three times around the fires, reciting certain prayers to ward off sickness during the coming year.The next morning was considered the proper time to hunt for mushrooms.
Midsummer’s eve is also a favourite fairy season. On this night, they are on the watch to carry off incautious mortals, particularly women and infants who are not protected by a sprig of lusmor (fada over o) or foxglove, or some other safeguard against fairy influence.