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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Summer Solstice to you!

Summer Solstice

  • in the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice begins on Jun 21 2011 at 1:16 P.M. EDT

  • in the UK June 21, 2011 at 17:16 UTC

Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning "sun" + "to stand still." As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.

As a major celestial event, the Summer Solstice results in the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The Northern Hemisphere celebrates in June, but the people on the Southern half of the earth have their longest summer day in December.

Early Celebrations

Awed by the great power of the sun, civilizations have for centuries celebrated the first day of summer otherwise known as the Summer Solstice, Midsummer (see Shakespeare), St. John's Day, or the Wiccan Litha.

The Celts & Slavs celebrated the first day of summer with dancing & bonfires to help increase the sun's energy. The Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light.


Perhaps the most enduring modern ties with Summer Solstice were the Druids' celebration of the day as the "wedding of Heaven and Earth", resulting in the present day belief of a "lucky" wedding in June.

Today, the day is still celebrated around the world - most notably in England at Stonehenge and Avebury, where thousands gather to welcome the sunrise on the Summer Solstice.

Pagan spirit gatherings or festivals are also common in June, when groups assemble to light a sacred fire, and stay up all night to welcome the dawn.


Summer Solstice Fun Facts

  • Pagans called the Midsummer moon the "Honey Moon" for the mead made from fermented honey that was part of wedding ceremonies performed at the Summer Solstice.

  • Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires, when couples would leap through the flames, believing their crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump.

  • Midsummer was thought to be a time of magic, when evil spirits were said to appear. To thwart them, Pagans often wore protective garlands of herbs and flowers. One of the most powerful of them was a plant called 'chase-devil', which is known today as St. John's Wort and still used by modern herbalists as a mood stabilizer.

More about summer solstice around the Web:

On the Web, discover more about the topic, where & how Summer Solstice is celebrated around the world along with related history, folklore and rituals that mark the much-awaited long, bright days of summer ....

Summer Solstice - Good overview of its history, customs & holidays, illustrations, date & time charts and related links, from Wikipedia.

Summer Solstice Celebrations - Ancient & Modern - Skip past the intrusive ads for a detailed discussion about how the day has been celebrated over the centuries, and in many cultures, with suggested reading and related links.

BBC Religion - Summer Solstice - A brief overview of Pagan rituals and ceremonies with related links to more facts & information.

Weird Wilstshire - Summer Solstice - Archived pictures with a report on one particularly successful UK sunrise celebration, including related links & online forum.

The Pagan Festival of Litha - The origins of Druidic Summer Solstice celebrations and their meaning in the natural cycle of seasons.

Here are some recent quotes on this day from the press, along with some words from those who celebrate the Summer Solstice as a holiday.

“Once, humans were intimate with the cycles of nature, and never more than on the summer solstice. Vestiges of such awareness survive in White Nights and Midnight Sun festivals in far northern climes, and in neo-pagan adaptations of Midsummer celebrations, but contemporary people take little notice of the sun reaching its far point on the horizon. Tomorrow is the longest day of the year, the official start of the summer season, the fullest of light — yet we are apt to miss this phenomenon of Earth’s axial tilt, as we miss so much of what the natural world does in our surrounds.” - James Carroll, The Boston Globe

“Legends describe the solstice as a time when the doors to enchanted castles and the underworld were cast open and mortals could mingle with fairies and imprisoned princesses and explore hidden caverns. Shakespeare set his silly and brilliant comedy on this night, depicting the collision of three very different worlds in a magic forest where fairies work romantic mischief on sleeping couples, while bad actors rehearse a Roman play about doomed lovers. The youth of today may not pause to think that they are reenacting ancient midsummer celebrations or mating rituals when they get debaucherous at the many music festivals that kick off around the solstice, but the primal desire to be outside dancing and carousing late into the night is irrepressible at this time of year.” - Megan Cytron, Salon.com

“Midsommar, the Swedish celebration of summer solstice, is a pretty easy holiday to love — perhaps because it’s more of a party than a holiday. This year, the solstice itself falls on June 21. Swedes, like many in Europe, have celebrated the longest day of the year since pagan times. And with good reason: In a northern land where the sun barely rises during the dark, snowy winter, summer is a time to celebrate the golden outdoors. It’s a time to sing and dance (ideally around a flower-studded maypole or frighteningly large bonfire), eat the best of the summer crops, and toss back shots of bracingly strong alcohol.” - Deena Prichep, NPR

But for some, midsummer is about more than glorious dawns, for pagans it is a very significant date. Steve Ludford of the Pagan Federation explained: “In essence it is a time to celebrate the strength of the sun, which is the masculine element in paganism, and obviously in midsummer the sun is at its strongest.” “The word solstice actually comes from the Latin meaning to stand still, because at midsummer the sun appears to stand still in its path.” Although thousands of pagans will head to Wiltshire to celebrate the occasion, Chair of the Druid Network Phil Ryder believes most will head to our own monuments to mark the occasion “Most druids would rather avoid Stonehenge like the plague. The land where we reside is most important to us, so for that reason, people are most likely to navigate towards the ancient sites near them. In many cases the ancestors built the stone circles and burial cairns oriented towards the solstice which makes them a good place to see the dawn and celebrate.” - Western Telegraph

“While it heralds the sun’s waning, Litha is not about light or dark winning victories over each other, even temporarily, or about one end of the polarity between ice and fire being the “good” one; it’s about the constant interplay in the dance that is the turning of the Wheel of the Year. That cooperation and interaction are the real story of destruction averted, and not just averted, but transformed into the ongoing process of re-creation. Now that’s something to celebrate.” - Literata, The Slacktiverse



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