Happy Summer Solstice
Finding New Ways of Spirituality.
The Summer Solstice is held on the 20th or 21st of June.
The word "Solstice" is derived from two Latin words:
"sol" meaning sun, and "sistere," to cause to stand still.
So as the summer solstice approaches,
the noonday sun rises higher and higher in the sky
on each consecutive day. On the solstice,
it rises an to its highest.
So it seems like it is "standing still."
Therefore the word 'solstice' means "standing still sun".
The earth spins around its axis
(an axis is an imaginary line going through the Earth
between the north and south poles).
The axis is tilted somewhat off the plane of the earth's revolution
around the sun. The tilt of the axis is 23.5 degrees;
this tilt creates out four seasons.
For several months of the year, one half of the earth
receives more direct rays of the sun than the other half.
Then it is reversed.
Solstice happens when because of the earth's tilt,
the northern hemisphere is leaning as close as
it can to the sun and therefore, the sun has its highest arc in the sky.
It marks the longest day of the year
(in the Northern Hemisphere) and is the shortest night.
It marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere
and at the same time initiates the beginning of winter
in the southern hemisphere.
Summer occurs in a particular hemisphere due
to that hemis-phere receiving more direct rays of the sun
than the opposite hemisphere where it is winter.
In winter, the sun's energy hits the earth
at oblique angles & is thus less concentrated.
The sun is at its highest and strongest,
a pivot point from which the light
will grow steadily weaker and dimmer.
Significance of the summer solstice was significant
because in pre-historic times,
summer was a joyous time of the year in the northern latitudes.
The various signs of winter disappeared like
snow, frozen ground or ground frost, chilly breezes and dampness.
This made way for the various signs of the summer,
namely buds, new leaves, insects and plants for medicine and food.
There was a feeling of security as the storage of food
had reached its bottom and the summer assured people
that prosperity would return.
The Poles are Different
On June 21, there are 24 hours of daylight
north of the Arctic Circle (66.5° north of the equator)
and 24 hours of darkness south of
the Antarctic Circle (66.5° south of the equator).
The sun's rays are directly overhead
along the Tropic of Cancer (the latitude line at 23.5° north,
passing through Mexico, Saharan Africa, and India) on June 21.
Discovering and Marking
Ancient people used four primative ways of marking
the solstices and equinoxes. The first way was
the creation of spot lighting effects on the walls of passages,
chambers or caves. Carved or painted symbols would be
struck by a beam of light at sunrise or sunset
on one of the solstices or equinoxes.
This method was used in Newgrange, an ancient chamber in Ireland.
A second method used was measuring the shadow of
an upright pillar usually at noontime.
In temperate zones, shadows are shortest
at the summer solstice, and longest in midwinter.
This was used by Perubians, Babylonians, Ionian Greeks, and the Chinese.
A third custom employed by central American tribes
centered around a specially prepared ceremonial structure.
Only at noon on the longest day of the year would the sun
directly shine through a hole or tube in the ceiling
and onto a specific spot on the ground.
The fourth way to indicate the solstices was to watch,
from a fixed position, where on the horizon
the sun set over a period of years.
The use of this last method was generally used throughout Europe, Asia,
and the Americas. Stonehenge, in England,
assimilated this one. The summer solstice sunrise is marked here.
The Karnack temple in Egypt also intergrated the solstice alignments.
This is the turning point of the year
The solstice observance comes from many cultures
and has its roots in the older more ancient traditions
long before Cristianity or any of its contemporary religions.
Among those observing the solstice were the Druid Celts,
Chinese, Swedes, Roman, Essenes, Gauls,
many native tribes of North and South America
including the Natches and Hopis to name a few,
the Slavs, Germans, Babylonians, Ionian Greeks, Peruvians and more.
Since Christianity could not prevent people
from celebrating the old believes and celebrations,
they created new ones alongside of the old ones
in the hope that the others would be discarded and forgotten.
Midsummer Day- Europe
Although the summer solstice is the longest day of the year,
when the sun is at its highest point and officially marks
the first official day of summer,
in Europe it was considered the middle of summer.
And just as Christmas was the replacement
for the winter solstice festival of Yule,
the feast of St. John the Baptist was put in place of the Summer Solstice.
And this counter-balances the winter solstice for Christ,
as St. John was considered the forerunner to Jesus Christ.
The Church told people that Midsummer fires should
represent St. John instead of the sun,
however it took a long time before the rites and
their meaning changed for the people.
"Midsummer is the time when the sun reaches
the peak of its power, the earth is lush and green,
and holds the promise of an abundant harvest.
Mother Goddess is heavily pregnant,
and the God is at the peak of manhood and
is honored in his facade as the supreme sun.
For the ancients it is a time for divination and
healing rituals. Many magical tools such as divining rods
and wands were traditionally created during this period.
The mysterious stones of Stonehenge
in England build in stages between 3000 and 1500BC,
the main axis is aligned on the midsummer sunrise.
It was probably used for ritual rather than scientific purposes.
In addition there are four "station stones"
within the monument that form a rectangle
whose shorter side also points in the direction
of the midsummer sunrise. We can only speculate
that the solstices was probably a very important celebration
for these ancient folk.
The Summer solstice was celebrated by the Germanic tribes
and their European neighbors, the Celts and Slavs with huge bon fires.
Lovers would jump over the flames that brought luck.
They believed that the crops would grow as high as they could jump.
Young maidens could find their husbands.
The fire also banished demons and bad spirits.
They also generated good magic
to increase the sun energy for the whole growing season.
The Druids celebrated it as the wedding of Heaven and Earth.
It was celebrated as the night of fire festivals, of love magic,
love oracles and divination. It had to do with lovers and predictions,
when pairs of lovers would jump
through the luck-bringing flames,
maidens would find out about their future husband,
and spirits and demons were banished.
It was about cleansing the negative and
welcoming in the new and the positive.
Traditions and customs regarding health and fertility for fields,
domestic animals and humans took place.
Celebrations with parades, pageants, plays
and festivals in the market place,
the town green or in the forests were prevalent.
Midsummer Fertility Unions
The summer solstice is intuitively linked with fertility
and sexuality by people everywhere.
Formally there were ceremonies symbolic of marriage
taking place at midsummer.
In Sardenis, solstice couples were known as sweethearts of St. John
and their ritual featured pots of sprouting grain
emphasizing the connection between sexuality
in humans and fertility in nature.
In the month of March, a young man of the village would present
himself to a girl requesting she be his sweetheart.
When accepted, a few weeks later a girl would make a pot out of cork
and plant barley and wheat seeds.
The plants had matured by midsummer and
the couple dressed up to go to the church accompanied
by adults and children.
They brought the pot of grain against the door and
sat in a circle eating eggs, herbs and wine.
Afterwards they sang and danced in circles until the evening.
This magical rite was designed
to make woods grow green, flowers bloom, etc.
Sexual unions during these ceremonies were
more an essential part of the rites.
The people believed that the marriage of trees
and plants could not be fertile
without the real uniting of human beings
joining in a sexual union.
The first full moon in June is called the Honey Moon
and it is the best time to harvest honey from the hives.
This was traditionally the month for weddings
because many ancient peoples believed
that the "grand [sexual] union" of the Goddess and God
occurred in early May at Beltaine.
Tradition says that it was unlucky to compete with the deities,
so many couples delayed their weddings until June.
This month remains a favorite month for marriage today.
In some traditions, "newly wed couples were fed dishes
and beverages that featured honey for the first month of their married life
to encourage love and fertility.
Hence the name given to the holiday
immediately after the ceremony: The Honeymoon."
The month of June may have been named for
Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage.
Other names for the Summer Solstice are Alban Heflin,
Alben Heruin, All-couples day, Feast of Epona,
Feast of St. John the Baptist, Feill-Sheathain, Gathering Day,
Johannistag, Litha, Midsummer, Sonnwend, Thing-Tide, Vestalia, etc.
During this time when it is the middle of the summer,
it is a time when the feminine earth energies
are at their height.
Traditionally, women were the healers and they used herbs for this reason.
Herbs popular at this time are geranium,
thyme, pennyroyal, chamomile and mugwort
which was the herb of St. John.
As part of the summer solstice festival,
herbs were thrown on bonfires.
This was done all over Europe in order to banish sickness
from their livestock and to get rid of bad luck.
Blessed be all !
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Updated July 27, 2011
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