Celebrating the Sun and Summer Solstice!
Tomorrow (June 20) is the Summer Solstice, also known as Midsummer, or Litha.
In the Northern Hemisphere, it is the longest day of sunlight, and shortest night in the year. It is a fire festival, which at its core is a celebration of solar energy. Here in Toronto, the precise moment of solstice is when the sun enters Gemini at 7:09 PM EDT on June 20th. The date usually falls on the 21st or 22nd, so some celebrants may choose to celebrate between the 21st-24th. June 24 corresponds to the ancient Roman celebration of solstice, so some celebrants choose to observe on that day.
Though Midsummer is primarily a pagan holiday, June 24 is also the feast day of St. John the Baptist, and is observed in Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches and throughout Europe (particularly in some Scandinavian and Baltic countries), as Quebec’s national (provincial) holiday, Fête St-Jean-Baptiste.
In the pagan Wheel of the Year, Midsummer falls between Beltane and Lammas, and is opposite side to Yule and thus can be thought of as the bright, mirrored reflection of it. The revelry and joy that is associated with Yule is equally associated with this time of year, but taking full advantage of the beautiful summer weather!
As one of the eight sabbats, Summer Solstice is a lesser holiday, but carries with it similar vibrant energy which was established at Beltane. Both celebrations are strongly associated with faerie energy and activity. The Shakespeare play A Midsummer’s Night Dream features a wide array of fae characters interacting with humans at this time of year.
The British Neolithic monument, Stonehenge, is often associated with this sabbat. The ancient monument's origins and original purpose remain shrouded in mystery, but the entrance to it is oriented towards the sunrise at Midsummer, and it has become the site of many seasonal Neo-druidic celebrations since the 1980s.
The month of June, is named after the Roman goddess Juno (Hera is her Greek counterpart). As she is the patron goddess of marriage, June in general and particularly closer to the Solstice is a traditional time in Europe to be married. The fertility that is present in nature at this point in the year is also said to bestow fertility blessings upon newlywed couples hoping to conceive on their honeymoon.
Some specific deities associated with Midsummer, or who might be appropriate to invoke at Midsummer include Apollo and Hestia (Greek); Horus (Egyptian); the Green Man (Syncretic); Lugh (Celtic); Minerva (Celtic-Roman hybrid goddess); and as previously mentioned, Juno (Roman).
Here’s some ideas as to how to celebrate Midsummer, either on your own or with others:
- Collecting of wild flowers and magical botanicals is often part of Midsummer celebration. Folklore around Midsummer’s eve says that maidens should pick seven (or sometimes nine) wild flowers, each from a different field, and place the bouquet under their pillow to dream of their true love.
- As a celebration of abundance and fertility, and because Midsummer is generally a time of agricultural plenty feasting with friends is very seasonally appropriate. Have a BBQ, picnic, or al fresco dinner party. Choose to serve foods that are locally grown, especially local fruits and vegetables.
- As this is a sun festival, take time to be in nature, and soak up some Vitamin D! If you’re so inclined, do some yoga outdoors and greet the solar energy with a series of Sun Salutations.
- Bon fires are traditionally part of Midsummer celebration, as it brings fire/solar energy into the evening hours as well, especially as it is shortest of the night!
- Any magical workings around fertility, abundance, and prosperity are appropriate for this time of year.
How are you planning on celebrating? Leave a comment below and let us know!