in North America, summer solstice begins on June 20, 2012 at 7:09 P.M. EDT
Every year at this time, my friends gather around a bonfire to celebrate the Summer Solstice. I started the tradition in my backyard more than a decade ago as a way of giving to my group. I drum for them, we write notes that we burn in the fire, we eat and drink and share… and take a few moments to focus on attracting abundance and giving thanks.
I didn’t realize until I began researching for this article how in tune we have been to the traditions and rituals associated with the Summer Solstice.
Around the world, the solstice represents a “turning” of the year, a pinnacle. To some, the solstice defines a limit or a culmination. The sun is now rising and setting as far north as it ever does. In a few days from now, the sun will have begun a shift southward on the sky’s dome again.
The word solstice comes from combining the two Latin words for “sun” and “standing still”. Once at it’s pinnacle in the North or South it seems to stand still. The Summer Solstice brings the longest day and the shortest night to the Northern Hemisphere in June , and to the Southern Hemisphere in December.
For hundreds of years, civilizations have celebrated the first day of summer, giving homage to the sun on this day, otherwise known as Midsummer, St. John’s Day, or the Wiccan Litha. The Celts & Slavs celebrated the first day of summer with dancing and bonfires to help increase the sun’s energy. Some ancient tribes practiced a ritual in which couples would jump over the flames to predict how high this year’s crops would grow. The Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light. Ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks held great festivals at the Summer Solstice to celebrate fertility and abundance. The Druids celebrated the marriage of Heaven and Earth on this day – beginning the old tradition of June weddings and the belief that it is lucky to marry in June.
Many traditions throughout time have celebrated the Solstices, Ancient Egypt, and Aztecs of Mexico, Chinese, Chumash Indians of California, Indigenous Europeans. Bonfires were lit to celebrate the Sun at its height of power and to ask the Sun not to withdraw into winter darkness.
The spiral is a symbol associated with the Solstices. Ancient dances would follow the Sun’s movement like a spiral, people joined hands weaving through the streets, winding into a decreasing spiral into the middle then unwinding back out again. The Sun moving from contraction at the center of the spiral at winter solstice to expansion at Summer Solstice and back again. Midsummer’s Eve is one of the three spirit nights of the year, when the veils are thin between the worlds. The others are Beltaine (May Day) and Samhain (October, Celtic New Year).
When my friends gather around the fire at the Summer Solstice, we take a little time time to reflect on the seeds now sprouting from the Earth as well as the growth we intend personally, for our souls. The fire represents a cleansing, and so we often make lists of our fears and burn them as a way of freeing ourselves to move forward in life. And then we make a list of what we want to accomplish through the rest of the year, and add it to the fire as a way of adding our energy and light to the fire, the sun and our souls and goals…
Create your own Solstice rituals:
- Gather your friends around a sacred fire burning.
- Burn your Christmas wreath at the summer bonfire
- Exchange songs, stories, and poems with others.
- Dance, drum
- Collect healing herbs – said to be more potent at the solstice…
Celebrate this magical day, even if only with a walk in the park or the purchase of a special shirt. Take a moment to appreicate the blessings you have received – and are yet to come. Set some new goals for yourself, set a new direction – and then visualize yourself celebrating your achievements! Have a little fun, raise a toast at the wedding of the Sun King and Mother Earth!