I’ve worked with author, Heather Long, quite a lot, and I respect her tremendously. Today, she shares her thoughts on Summer Solstice, and
Summer Solstice, Midsummer, High Summer, Solstice Day—the longest day of the year is typically celebrated June 20-22 in the Northern Hemisphere (conversely this is also the same time as Winter Solstice in the southern, but that’s for another sabbat post here). The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year and derives its name from the Latin sol sistere, which literally means: sun stand still.
The farther north you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the longer today will be. For example, where I live in North Texas, the sun will rise around 6:20 in the morning and set around 8:38 in the evening, meaning the sun will be in the sky for 14h 18m 47s. Farther north in countries like England or in states like Alaska the day will begin around 4:30 in the morning and the sun will set around 9:20 in the evening for a whopping 16 hour+ day of daylight (London) and rise at 2:48 in the morning and set sometime around 12:48 a.m. the next day in Alaska for an amazing twenty-two hours of sunshine.
In every way, Summer Solstice is the polar opposite of Winter when night reigns and families huddled together to stay safe in the dark, Summer Solstice is about life bursting under the light, sharing, playing, celebrating and observing a day of light and laughter.
While the modern vernacular holds that Midsummer day is the beginning of summer, most pagans and more Wiccans observe it as exactly that – MID-summer. This is the high point of the year, because the days will grow shorter and shorter following this stretch of the wheel. In some ways, Summer Solstice actually marks the “end” of summer, and the turning of the wheel toward Lughnassad or Lammas Night in August. But more on that later.
Most of the holidays on the wheel of the year observe the seasons of the harvest whether it’s planting season, tending season, harvest season or the time for the crops to lay fallow. Summer Solstice actually marks the day of the very first harvests of those crops planted as far back as Imbolc and Spring Equinox. Farmers may gather their first bundles of hay and leave them to dry in the sun, or they’ll keep an eye on crops depending on how turbulent the storm season is…
…and as we all know this year it’s been very turbulent. Summer Solstice is a good time for picking herbs and fresh flowers. For example, today will be the day I cut back my rose bushes—they’ve been growing like weeds since spring, but they need to be pruned and shaped and many of those beautiful blossoms will come inside to fill the house with the fragrance of fresh blooms.
How I Would Celebrate
In many years past, I would head to one of the local lakes with a whole group—usually from different covens and traditions and we’d rent a huge campsite for the Summer Solstice weekend. We’d pitch tents and spend our days in the woods hiking, or in the lake cooling off. The real party starts at sundown, because it’s time to honor the sun with bonfires. While the Goddess is found in all of our rituals and holidays, Summer Solstice is unmistakably a day to honor the God aspect, to celebrate his service and blessings upon us. We could not have the green without the sun, we could not have life without the sun, we could not have our world without the sun.
It is also a day to celebrate the service of the Oak King, because it’s time for him to pass his torch to the duality of his aspect: the Holly King. The Horned One, most often perceived in Western culture as Herne the hunter, though of course he has many other names, also is represented by two aspects: the Oak and Holly Kings. In some traditions, a man would be crowned the Oak king and he rules from Yule to Summer Solstice, at the Solstice, the Holly King returns and he and the Oak King battle for the Goddess’ affections, and it is the Holly King who will rise and rule until Yule. (Yes I apologize for that rhyme). In some modern traditions, this is seen as more of a passing of the “torch,” an honor to all the hard work to get to the summer, a well-deserved respite for work done and the giving over of responsibility to see to the rest of the harvest and the falling of night to another.
Dancing around the bonfire, singing, canoodling (yes, I said canoodling), and the passing of the meade made at Beltane are all very typical ways to celebrate. But so are:
- Sitting outside and reading a book
- Taking a long walk in the sun
- Spending a day with your children splashing and playing
- Reviewing your goals and taking a personal inventory, what can you be doing better? What can you start now?
- Simply being
Seriously, the last is one I observe for some of the day—it is a day to celebrate that we exist at all. But if you spend your day outdoors in the sun, be sure to wear sunscreen. In Texas, it will be sweltering outside, the sidewalk will be hot, the air torpid, and the pool water warm like the bath—and we’re all alive because of this beautiful delicious heat from the sun.
In some traditions, this day is also the day when the heavens marry the earth, their long courtship and handfasting is done, now they will be blessed in a union. It’s also the month considered the most popular for weddings both because of the Solstice and the goddess for whom the month is named: Juno (Latin for Hera) – wife of Jupiter (Zeus) and goddess of marriage.
However you celebrate today, embrace the bounty in your life, dance, sing, and be merry. Because the days will grow shorter, the long nights will return and we need to carry as much of this sunshine forward in our souls as we can stand to carry.
Summer is one of those times when I don’t perform a ritual, but instead embrace the whole day. I’ll wake to the sun and spend a few hours outside that day, going for long walks and usually by afternoon, hit the swimming pool or the lake because it’s too hot for anything else. In years past, I’ve also used today as the day to weave a wreath with flowers and hang it out in the sun, then I’ll sleep with it. It’s a little way of bringing the sunshine indoors, but allergies aren’t always friendly to it.
Blessed be and may your summer solstice be filled with the creative passion of the light.
Find Heather’s Chance Monroe series, below:
Available worldwide, Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism.