“In the hazy summer’s evening, the ancient circle is filled with people. Sitting around in small groups. Playing music. Laughing. Waiting for the sunset. The start of the shortest night. Everyone is here to celebrate the sun’s power before he begins his journey towards winter. The land is sleepy and warm. A moment’s rest amidst the summer’s work. The atmosphere is that of a festival, folk coming together after travelling across the land. Across the horizon the sun sets a blaze of fire in the sky and the night dims as the drums start to beat….”
Well ofcourse that was before Covid. But every year when I still lived in the UK this is how my Summer Solstice celebrations began in Avebury stone circle. And it probably sounds like every summer solstice video you have ever seen of hippies, pagans and miscallaneious others standing in a stone circle to see the sun set and rise again.
But why do we do it?
Why do we observe the sunset and rise every summer (and for that matter winter) solstice?
What is it about this time of year that makes it so special to people?
Well of course I can’t speak for the others (and from the rubbish I used to help clear away after summer solstice I think there is a fair few that are there just for the party, albeit it alot less than you would think.)
For me this time of year is one of spiritual signifigance for me and aligns me with my personal power at the height of the summers journey.
Let me explain….
What is summer solstice?
In the Northern Hemisphere*, the summer solstice) is when the Sun travels along its northernmost path in the sky. The Summer Solstice is the day with the longest period of sunlight. The sun in essence is at the height of it’s power. In seasonal spirituality the sunrise after the longest day is considered the ‘birth’ of the winter sun, as from this point onwards the days begin to slowly get shorter.
(* The Summer Solstice marks the astronomical start of summer in the northern half of the globe. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the opposite: the June solstice marks the astronomical start of winter, when the Sun is at its lowest point in the sky.)
why do we care?
With Monuments such as stonehenge aligned to the Solstice sunrise there is evidence that since the stone ages Summer Solstice was important to mankind.
Summer Solstice has been celebrated in many different ways for many different reasons through history. Summer Solstice was and is celebrated all over the world.
In Egypt the Nile river rises at Summer Solstice. It’s observance may have helped to predict annual flooding. According to some ancient Greek calendars, the summer solstice marked the start of the New Year. In ancient China, the summer solstice was associated with “yin,” the feminine force. Festivities celebrated Earth, femininity, and the “yin” force. Where as it was a crucial time of year for the Vikings, who would meet to discuss legal matters and resolve disputes around the summer solstice.
And with it being celebrated world wide it says to me that Summer Solstice is important to human beings as a species rather than a purely religious event.
Some historians theorise that Summer Solstice was part of the guiding system for Farmers with regards to the planting and harvesting cycle. But personally I feel in my opinion there is more to it than that, in my experience of observing summer solstice for the last 20 years I feel that we have a biological connection that effects us emotionally at the Solstices and Equinoxes.
I have started to notice a pattern in how humans unconciously respond to this big solar event. And it is uncanny how before the major solar changes stress levels rise, uncertainty runs rife and people feel shaky emotionally. It is rare I meet anyone before a Solstice or an Equinox who doesn’t feel this way. I think it might because biologically we are responding to the change in the seasons and because we don’t know or realise this is happening, that is going on emotionally we feel out of alignment.
What does the summer solstice have to do with personal power?
At Summer Solstice you can harness the power of the sun to reflect your own power. At Litha it is time to turn your attention to your power and abilities. To acknowledge, appreciate, take responsibility for allowing yourselves to shine at the height of your own power. Reflecting the sun’s journey. At Summer Solstice nature is at its most powerful point, the height of its energy. The land and sun together have an energy surge giving us a boost of power. So at Summer Solstice I like to harness that energy boost by reminding myself of and owning my personal power through I am affirmations and ceremony.
There are many different ways of celebrating Summer Solstice in all cultures. A great starting point to celebrate Summer Solstice is to create your own Solstice ceremony that is meaningful to you.