By: Cris McCullough
What is the Summer Solstice? The word “solstice” comes from Latin solstitium—from sol (Sun) and stitium (still or stopped). Summer Solstice is an astronomical event occurring yearly when the Sun reaches its northernmost point in the sky and does not change for a brief period of time. After the solstice, the Sun appears to reverse course and head back in the opposite direction. For a time, the sun appears to stand still! Mother Earth is at the height of her magic during the Summer Solstice. You can celebrate this special day with simple Summer Solstice rituals.
The timing of the June solstice is not based on a specific calendar date or time; it all depends on when the Sun reaches its northernmost point from the celestial equator. Because the Earth’s axis is tilted, the solstice may shift between June 20, 21, and 22. This year it falls on June 21st.
Honoring the Summer Solstice
Our ancestors realized the significance of this momentous time of year as they needed to be sensitive to the turning of the seasons for their survival.
Summer Solstice is a time for celebrating the first harvest after a long, cold winter. Mother Earth offers nourishment in the way of game and new foods, whether foraged or planted. Clans and tribes would come from afar and gather to exchange goods, news and, oftentimes the joining of clans in “marriage”. Hence the tradition of June brides! These joinings symbolized the “joining” of the Sun God, Lugh, with the Moon Goddess/Mother, in effect, a balance of Male and Female primal energy.
In Pagan traditions, it marks a time when the Holly King (God of Winter or the Waning Year) defeats the Oak King (God of the Forest and the Waxing Year), indicating that nighttime will gradually grow.
Marking Solstice Traditions: from Stonehenge to strawberries
As far back as the Neolithic period, humans the world over noted this auspicious time. To the Ancient Britons who built Stonehenge, it was important for ancient humans to connect to this powerful time. You can still watch a livestream of the Solstice Sun rising over Stonehenge or travel to England to take part in this traditional celebration in person.
If you can’t travel to England, there are many other traditional ways to mark the Solstice.The Swedes celebrate the beginning of summer by eating the first strawberries of the season. June’s first full Moon is also known as the Strawberry Moon and typically coincides with the ripening of strawberries in what is the northeastern and midwestern United States. Take your family strawberry picking! Or if you are looking for something a little more daring, the Celtic peoples celebrated by building bonfires which burn through the night. Couples would jump the fire together to predict how high the summer’s crops would grow. The Chinese participated in Dragon Boat races and offered a flotilla of illuminated paper boats to Mother Ocean. However you choose to mark this time, Summer Solstice rituals foster a connection between ourselves and our connection with our environment.
The “eco-science” of Solstice
According to the Meta-Health Academy, mindfully connecting to the Summer Solstice can nourish us in many ways. Practicing mindful ritual evokes a condition known as Eustress; this is ‘good’ or ‘positive’ stress. This measure of good stress is necessary for activity, creativity and growth. Just as in Nature the return of the Sun provides the nourishment for plants to grow, animals to raise their young and an abundance of food for all, so does the Summer Solstice, with it’s increase in serotonin, provides humans with the nourishment to grow, create and the energy to achieve.
Gabriela Herstik is a practicing witch and the author of the guided journal “Embody Your Magick.”“Setting the intention of sharing sustenance as an act of connection, community, pleasure, and warmth, transforms the party into something akin to a ritual,” Herstik says.
“As you enjoy your day, check in with yourself and hold the intention of honoring the summer solstice,” Herstik says. “This thread of magick will weave into your experience and make it more numinous, more powerful, and more meaningful.”
6 simple Summer Solstice rituals
- Build a fire or light a candle and make it the center of your meditations, after all this is a time for honoring our primal Fire, the Sun!
- Mindfully plant sunflowers to assist the birds and pollinators.
- Wear yellow and gold (you wear green for St. Patrick’s Day, right?)
- Gather friends together. A pot luck honoring the foods of the season is a wonderful way to kick off the summer. Have guests make a wreath of oak leaves.
- Bounty is the theme for the season. Gift your family and friends or pay it forward with an act of kindness to a neighbor.
- Support a local charity or ecological organization like Friends of the Earth at https://FOE.org