This year, the Summer Solstice falls on Monday, June 20th.
In the Northern Hemisphere it is the longest day of sunlight and the shortest night of the year. It is a fire festival; a celebration of solar energy. "Solstice" means "sun-stopping", and refers to the point that the suns appears to stop and reverses direction. At this time, the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest, visible in the sky for longer than usual.
Here in Toronto, the precise moment of the Solstice is when the Sun enters Gemini at 6:34 PM EDT on June 20th. The date usually falls on the 21st or 22nd, so some people may choose to celebrate between the 21st-24th. June 24 also corresponds to the ancient Roman celebration of solstice, so some celebrants choose to observe on that day.
Midsummer Lore and History
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 throughout Europe (particularly in some Scandinavian and Baltic countries). It is also Quebec’s provincial holiday, Fête St-Jean-Baptiste.
The Sun is the male divine figure, equal and opposite to the Goddess Moon. He is traditionally depicted as the Horned God, and looks after fertility, the hunt, the gift of life, and the journey into death. He contains the masculine energy of the divine, and works in tandem with the feminine Moon to balance life and bring equilibrium. The Sun is at its most powerful at this time, and the weakening of his powerful energy is soon to begin, giving way instead to the energy of the moon.
In the pagan wheel of the year, Midsummer falls between Beltane and Lammas, and is opposite to Yule, and can be thought of as the bright, mirrored reflection of the Winter Solstice. The revelry and joy that is associated with Yule is equally associated with this time of year, but includes taking full advantage of the beautiful summer weather!
As one of the eight sabbats, Summer Solstice is a lesser holiday but carries with it the vibrant energy that 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). Because she is the patron goddess of marriage, June in general and particularly the time closest 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).
The Solstice also corresponds with Fathers Day! Father's Day is Sunday June 19. Honour the masculine energy by treating the father figure in your life to a fire or picnic, and don't forget to stop by and gift Dad some incense, oils, crystals or books!
Here are some ideas for how to celebrate Midsummer, either on your own or with others:
Collect wild flowers and magical botanicals. 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, feasting with friends is appropriate. Have a BBQ, picnic, or al fresco dinner party. Serve foods that are locally grown, especially local fruits and vegetables.
Take time to be in nature and soak up some Vitamin D! If you’re so inclined, do yoga outdoors and greet the solar energy with a series of Sun Salutations.
Bon fires are traditionally part of Midsummer celebrations, to bring fire/solar energy into the evening hours, especially because this is shortest of the night.
Any magical workings around fertility, abundance, and prosperity are appropriate for this time of year.
Attract the Midsummer faeries by leaving out cakes, milk, and flowers on your altar. The fae are partuicularly attracted to roses, lavender, and seasonal summer plants. Make faery homes in your garden out of found material!