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Body & Soul: the rituals of Ireland’s summer solstice celebration

The summer solstice has always been an important, indigenous Celtic festival, and in the 10 years since it became a standalone festival, Body & Soul has breathed new vibrancy into it

B&S

The 10th anniversary Body & Soul runs from June 21st to 23rd, at Ballinlough Castle, Co Westmeath.

 

The festival feels like a truly contemporary creative expression that is rooted in, and guided by, Celtic rituals. With this guiding ethos it’s little surprise that the theme for the 10th anniversary is Ritual. This beacon of inspiration echoes and resonates throughout this year’s programme of music, art, culture and wellbeing, but is especially evident in the many fun, quirky and enlightening rituals that have grown up with the festival. Here are just some of the rituals that keep our bodies and souls nourished all year long:

1. The Masquerade Ball

The Masquerade Ball starts in the decadently bedecked Secret Garden, where the uncorking of champagne is paired with music from legendary DJ Tonie Walsh, dancing, mystique and performance. The Ball is a ritual of outrageous elegance where resplendent festival creatures dress to impress and shimmer in the twilight.

2. Body & Soul stage solstice meditation

Thousands of Body & Soulers join together in the natural amphitheatre of the Body & Soul stage to still the mind and powerfully connect the festival community in a shared experience. This year, organisers are aiming to set a record as the largest solstice meditation in Europe. Silence reigns, unity results.

3. First tastes matchmaking

If you’re looking for love, Body & Soul’s resident 'fear cleamnhnas' (matchmaker) takes pride in the art of matchmaking – Lisdoonvarna, watch out! Register in advance, let the matchmaker follow their instincts to find you a match, and be rowed out for a picnic on Ballinlough Lake for a special blind date meal with a likeminded seeker!

4. Finding your soul animal

Heading to a festival always brings a sense of shrugging off the daily toil and shedding your skin to explore the world anew. That feeling of entering a different, ritualised space gave birth to something extraordinary created for Body & Soul 2019, the Soul Animals. 

Halfway between heaven and earth, you’ll find yours. That otherworldly, mystical, celestial self, inhabited by every single being on this planet. Are you The Alchemist, wise and foreboding? Or are you The Tower, a simultaneous totem of destruction and new beginnings? Or are you The Fool, dizzy with joy and childlike wonder? Maybe you’re something else entirely ... how will you unleash your soul animal at Body & Soul?

5. Soul protection in The Sanctuary

In a quiet corner of the Woodland area, you’ll discover The Sanctuary Stage. Dappled light sparkles on thought-provoking conversations; Michael Harding, and Desmond Gough of the Jampa Ling Budhist Center, and Ivor Browne leading a heartfulness mediation, and a fascinating look at love in the modern world with Bening Mauger. Take part in a summer solstice ritual from the Slí an Chroí School of Celtic Shamanism, or book in with one of Ireland’s leading therapists, masseuse, sound healers or yoga teachers. When, in the midst of the ecstatic hurly-burly of the festival weekend, you seek a moment of calm, The Sanctuary is always there to usher you in.

6. Reliving rituals

The K&D Sessions was the most played album for anyone who was part of the club scene in the 90s. Coming to Body & Soul for their 25th anniversary, the familiar ritual of coming home from a night of dancing in Sir Henry’s in Cork, in The Kitchen in Dublin, or GPO in Galway, and putting on the K&D Sessions with your nearest and dearest will be remembered by people far and wide as a formative musical moment. Time travel, nostalgia and craic await.      

7. The ritual of bliss

Soothe the senses, take the waters and deeply reinvigorate your post-dancing festival body and soul in wood-fired hot tubs, seaweed baths, Balinese steam treatments and transformative tonics at the Immerse Spa.

8. The breaking of bread

Body & Soul is a festival packed with decadent and delectable gastronomic treats for every taste, making Body & Soul a true feast. Long table banqueting in the Food on Board area of the Secret Garden tempts you in with gourmet seafood from Julia’s Lobster Truck, mouth-watering tacos and tlayudas from Si Mami, the chance to discover Hawaiian poke at Shaka Poke, super-tasty rice bowls featuring Katie Sanderson’s cult White Masu sauce, and fresh bakes from Diva Boutique with more street options everywhere.

9. The ritual of play

Families of all shapes and sizes come to Body & Soul, drawn in by the extraordinary ritual of play and learning by doing that opens up across the whole festival and across the generations, featuring roaming troupes of pirates, the Lords of Strut, bubbles, decorated forests, puppetry, theatre, a Victorian fairground, crafts, music-making, sword-making, Laughter Yoga, nature trails, circus skills, storytelling and much more.

10. The late night revels

Where ritual becomes play. Throw your hands into the solstice night sky and join the Bacchanalian rites with a landscape of sonic treats evolving from an extraordinary lineup of the best live bands into a night time of some of the top DJs in Europe, including Modeselektor (live), The Blaze, Mano Le Tough, Mother DJs, Cian Finn, Embrz, Maeve DJs, Monolink (live) and many more.


The 10th anniversary Body & Soul runs from June 21st to 23rd, at Ballinlough Castle, Co Westmeath. Final Weekend Tickets, Play Now, Pay Later Passes, and Limited Edition Sunday tickets are available at bodyandsoul.ie