Happy Summer Solstice

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 21, 2013 — 25 Comments

“The sun shines not on us but in us.”John Muir

Today is the celebration of the Summer Solstice, also known as Midsummer, or Litha. It is at this time that the Northern Hemisphere is tilted closest to the sun (the opposite being true for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere who are celebrating the Winter Solstice). It is a time of fertility and celebration: bonfires, maypoles, dancing, and outdoor festivals have been traditional during this time for most of human history. In some modern Pagan faiths it is believed that this holiday represents the highest ascendancy of masculine divinity.

The Sun Singer statue in Allerton park, Illinois. Photo by Mark Lindner, used via Creative Commons.

The Sun Singer statue, Allerton park, Illinois. Photo by Mark Lindner, Creative Commons.

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.

“One of the largest solstice celebrations in the world, though, takes place at Stonehenge, where thousands gather each year to bring in the summer season. While for many the event is an excuse to party in the lead up to the Glastonbury Festival, there is also a strong contingent of pagans and neo-druids who treat the day like the ultimate marriage ceremony. ‘All druid rituals have an element of fertility, and the solstice is no exception,’ says King Arthur Pendragon, a senior archdruid. ‘We celebrate the union of the male and female deities — the sun and the Earth — on the longest day of the year.’”CNN, “Summer solstice: It’s all about sex”

“Selina Rifkin of Trumbull is executive assistant to the director of Cherry Hill Seminary, a national non-profit that offers online training in Pagan ministry. Rifkin is in a syncretic tradition —a mixture of beliefs — called the Sanctuary of Tellus, after a Roman earth goddess. She said she was still undecided how she might mark the solstice, perhaps with kindreds — friends in one of the northern traditions — with a blot, a ritual that honors the gods in part by offering mead, consumed or poured as a libation.”The Hartford Courant, “Longest Day Of The Year Carries Special Significance For State’s Pagans”

“All things on earth require the light of the sun. Even those things that need the safe sheltering of darkness are nourished by things that rise toward heat and light. We can care for the parts that need gestation, and allow these things to rest in the shade, sleep in the night, or burrow in deep earth. We can shine a light of gentleness or challenge upon those things that have stayed in darkness for too long.”T. Thorn Coyle,  ”A Solstice Prayer: Let us Shine Light”

“The summer solstice, 21 June, is one of the most important dates in the calendar for many followers of ancient religions, and it’s a special time for people in Greece who worship the country’s pre-Christian gods. [...]  the Prometheia festival, which celebrates the ancient Greek hero Prometheus, who helped humans by stealing fire from the gods.”PRI’s The World, “The Greeks who worship the ancient gods.”

“The summer solstice—also called midsummer—has long been recognized and often celebrated by many cultures around the world. The ancient Egyptians, for example, built the Great Pyramids so that the sun, when viewed from the Sphinx, sets precisely between two of the pyramids on the summer solstice.”National Geographic, Summer Solstice 2013: Why It’s the First Day of Summer

A blessed Midsummer to you all!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Runic

    “says King Arthur Pendragon, a senior archdruid.” Excuse me? The return of the King from Avalon is it?

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      You’re not aware of him? He’s a pretty prominent figure in British Paganism, and a keen activist.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Uther_Pendragon

      • Runic

        Had no clue. I don’t really follow the different pagan leaders/activists; the quick browse through the wildhunt is my only source of ‘community’ info. From what I read of him I find favorable, though I don’t really care who you are or what the credentials are I think this business of naming yourself after some deceased God, King, or mythic person is arrogant and ego based at its core- ridiculous to think people refer to him as King Arthur. He isn’t the only one to do this I’m aware, but in all cases I think it is equally laughable.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Some take names to honour their namesake, some take the name in the hope of becoming like the namesake.

          I can get that.

        • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

          I sort of agree. If you want to honor a particular God or heroic figure there are other ways to do it than simply taking the name wholesale.

          I find a little irony in a neo-Druid leader (one that is very heavily Wiccan influenced from that statement up there I’d guess) taking the name of a mostly mythic English King. He didn’t use a Celtic version, or a Latin version. He used a medieval English version.

          • Runic

            I agree with Gearoid here, but honestly I had not thought of it quite that way before Lēoht; in that context I understand, especially given that many seek to reclaim what has been taken and rebranded in a christian context.

            I was too harsh in saying this act of naming oneself is ‘laughable’ and ‘ridiculous,’ as I’ve seen in the past people use the mythic title to grant themselves god status and sanction their own dogmas as truth.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Wæs Liþa hæl!

    Stonehenge is about 25 miles from me, but I avoid like the plague. The vast majority of attendees are not only just there for the piss-up, but actively dislike any religious element there.

    Not to mention that the owners, English Heritage, would rather it didn’t happen.

    (If nothing else, there is really no justification for any Pagan/reconstructionist group trying to hold ritual there.)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      Whether my Druid ancestors performed rituals at Stonehenge or not (I tend to think they did, but we’ll never know for sure) it’s an amazing place and I’d love to do a ritual there. But not even a personal appearance by Lugh himself could get me to deal with the crowds they have at Summer Solstice.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        There is no evidence to support Druids at the stone circles, but there are reports (how far we can trust Romans is up for debate) that they favoured ‘groves’.

        I prefer Avebury as a circle, anyway. Although that is starting to get really popular at Liþa, too.

      • Deborah Bender

        Surely some group performed rituals there. Otherwise, why go to the trouble of building it and then building it taller? Surely not just for the purpose of having an astronomical calendar.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          We honestly do not know. What we can say, for sure, is that it was built by the Neolithic peoples of Albion, rather that the later arriving Celts.

          • Nick Ritter

            All of this makes me wonder if there is such a thing as “Megalithic Reconstructionism”

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I have considered that, myself. I’ve not heard of any of it. Possibly because there is no evidence to base it off.

            I have seen neolithic re-enactors, however. I imagine it is a small step from that to adding a veneer of shamanism.

          • Franklin Evans

            I wonder if Arthur C. Clarke had that in mind when he perpetrated “2001: A Space Odyssey” on the world. :D

          • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

            Like the Paleo diet??

          • Nick Ritter

            See, there you go: I’m a megalithic reconstructionist without even knowing it. Now I know what was missing from last night’s ritual: clearly I need to build a henge in my back yard.

          • Franklin Evans

            I’m still waiting for a definitive documentary on that. I’ve seen it sort of piecemeal so far. I’m not holding my breath, with the various cable outlets preferring to make New Age tripe about aliens or think that catching “killer” fish with one’s hands constitutes history or science. Gah.
            I have an emotional attachement to Mary Stewart’s fictional speculation that Myrddin brought the center stone from Ireland under which to bury Ambrosius in the center of Stonehenge. Her “The Merlin Trilogy” version of the Arthurian cycle remains the best ever done, in my opinion.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Documentaries are made fairly frequently, here in Britain, not to mention articles, papers, etc. from archaeologists.

            Still little on what it was actually built for, but not too bad at ruling things out.

          • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

            Considering we aren’t sure when the Celts arrived, we can’t really say it for sure.

            The “Celtic from the West” theory has some pretty solid archaeology and genetics behind it, meaning that at least some parts of Stonehenge could easily have been upgraded or rebuilt by proto-Celts that were part of the seaboard culture.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            We can be fairly sure it was not as long ago as four to five thousand years ago.

            Whereas we can’t even find evidence for druids as early as 3,000 years ago.

          • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

            Look up some of the writing Barry Cunliffe has done, specifically “Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples, 8000 BC to AD 1500″. He makes a case for an archaeologically connected series of similar cultures on the seaboard from Great Britain down to Spain, and backs it up with evidence. The main criticism is that the most accepted traditional theories of Indo-European expansion don’t allow for such an early date.

            Of course, those theories have their problems, and really the only reason Hallstatt is associated with the proto-Celts is because it has been for so long. There’s actually remarkably little evidence to support the idea of Celtic evolving the East-Central Europe around what later became the Hallstatt culture.

            Also, just a point, it’s entirely possible the Druid class evolved later in response to certain circumstances or situations. I’d guess during the middle Bronze age when societal complexity increased across Northern and Western Europe.

            He’s also done a lot of work with John T. Koch (who’s primarily a linguist) on suggesting the Celtic language family evolved in that region.

  • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

    That first quote, and that entire first article, made me cringe.

    • RevEllen

      I don’t understand what you mean. Are you talking about John Muir?

      • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

        Ah, oops, I should have specified from the block quotes.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Some (vaguely) solstice related news for you:

    “The new move could see famous druids such as druid leader Arthur Pendragon
    move to Anglicanism.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10133906/Church-of-England-creating-pagan-church-to-recruit-members.html