What is a Solstice?
Solstice means “Standing-still Sun” and stems from the Latin words ‘sol’ for sun and ‘sistere’ which means to cause to stand still.
In the weeks approaching a solstice, the noonday sun rises to an increasingly higher place in the sky each day. At the time of the Solstice the sun rises an imperceptible amount compared to the day before and therefore seems to stand still. This stationary appearance of the sun at noontime occurs for several days just before and after the solstice.
The Seasons and the Summer Solstice
The seasons of the year are caused by the naturally occurring tilt of the earth’s axis. During each half of the year, one of the earth’s two hemispheres is more exposed to the sun. Summer occurs in the hemisphere that is receiving the direct rays of the sun while in the meantime the opposite hemisphere is experiencing winter.
In the Northern hemisphere the Summer Solstice occurs on June 20th and 21st, depending on the time zone. This is the first day of the summer season and is the longest day of the year. This Solstice is also referred to as Midsummer because it coincides with the middle of the growing season throughout much of Europe.
On the day of the Summer Solstice, the sun follows its highest arc across the sky and at noon is positioned directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer. The Solstice begins when the sun enters the sign of Cancer, which is ruled by the Moon.
Cancer is a Cardinal, Water sign that resonates with a feminine frequency. Under the powerful influence of the Moon she specializes in the art of Intuition.
Cancer governs our capacity for emotional connectedness, nurturance, compassion, and personal expressions of love. The astrological symbol of the Cancer Crab personifies the expression: “As above, so below”.
The Summer Solstice is a time of Transformation as it signals a turning point in the natural rhythm of the Earth and her seasons. From this date onward the nights begin to grow longer as the days become shorter until the time of the Winter Solstice.
The Summer Solstice is a potent illustration of the cyclical nature of life. At the pinnacle of the Sun’s power, we witness the truth that ‘whatsoever rises must also fall’. Once the Sun has attained the highest point in the solar cycle, the transition occurs: the days once again grow shorter, and the nights stretch longer.
The symbol associated with the Solstice is the Spiral, which is a pattern of Sacred Geometry. The Spiral signifies the Sun moving from a central point of contraction at the time of the Winter Solstice to an expression of full expansion at Summer Solstice and then back again in perfect balance.
The Solstices have been celebrated by cultures all over the world for as long as mankind has inhabited the Earth. Since ancient times, the Summer Solstice in particular has represented an opportunity for tribal or societal gathering and celebration. It has assumed many names over the centuries including Midsummer, Litha, and St John’s Day.
Summer Solstice is considered a time of reverence and magic. Celebrations to honor the event are flavored by a delicious combination of ancient cultural influences. The festivities often include music, singing, dancing, feasting, story-telling, bon-fires, fortune telling, and other rituals. In the United States the Solstice is celebrated as a festival dedicated to the spirit of community sharing and planetary service.
The Druids celebrated the Summer Solstice as the wedding of Heaven and Earth. According to Druid lore, the Goddess manifested as Mother Earth, while God was represented as the Sun King. As part of the Solstice ceremony, bonfires were lit to celebrate the Sun at its height of power and to ask Him not to withdraw into winter darkness.
In ancient China the Summer Solstice ceremony celebrated the Earth, the feminine, and the yin forces. The summer ceremony complemented the Winter Solstice which celebrated the Heavens, masculinity, and yang forces.
Ancient Germanic, Slav, and Celtic tribes in Europe celebrated Midsummer by the light of bonfires. The evening of the Solstice was comprised of fire festivals, love magic, love oracles, and divination. The bonfires also generated sympathetic magic, boosting the sun’s energy so that it would remain potent throughout the growing season and would thus guarantee a plentiful harvest.
After the conversion of Europe to Christianity, many countries celebrated the feast day of St. John the Baptist. The feast day occurred a few days after the Solstice, just as Christmas was observed a few days after the Winter Solstice.
Many Native American tribes worshiped the Sun and created magnificent stone structures to support equinox and solstice rituals. A number of these structures are still standing today. Some tribes believed that their ruler was descended from the Sun God, and every summer they held a ‘First Fruits Ceremony’ in his honor.
To this day, the Wiccans believe that Midsummer represents the primal creative force of God at the peak of His powers, and the Goddess manifested as the Mother. At the time of the Solstice the Goddess is fertile and blooming with abundance as the seed of the God quickens within Her. This is a powerful and dynamic Sabbat, and is commemorated with divination and healing rituals.
Traditionally, the Summer Solstice celebration begins at noon when the sun is situated directly overhead, so that the full force of solar energy can be experienced and later drawn upon in ritual. The participant stands beneath the sun to absorb light and heat, and to establish a connection with the essence of Solar Energy which can be utilized in ceremony later that night. As evening approaches, bonfires are often set on hilltops in honor of the Sun.
Celebrations are centered around the themes of Transformation, Fertility, and Reverence for the wonderment of life.
The Summer Solstice is a natural time of purification, during which we may cut through obstacles and draw upon the dynamic power of the God principle to manifest our personal power. It is a time to remove unwanted things from our lives and to embrace our Divine Happiness.
The Solstice is a time to dance, sing, spread joy, and allow our hearts to be filled with love. It is also a time of appreciation, as we give thanks for that which has manifested in our lives.
I appreciate all who have taken the time to read and support my blogs, and I wish you a happy Summer Solstice!
*Click here for more detailed information on the Summer Solstice.