“The sun shines not on us but in us.” – John Muir
For many people around the world, today marks 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. In honor of fertility, light and abundance, communities have long used bonfires, music, dancing, and outdoor festivals as traditional features of both religious rituals and celebrations. In some modern Pagan practices, it is also believed that this holiday represents the highest ascendancy of masculine divinity. Additionally, while many people are basking the long days of light and heat, our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are celebrating and marking Winter solstice, a time of darkness, candles and inward reflection.This year, the Summer Solstice also happens to fall on the celebration of Father’s Day in the United States. The history of this secular holiday does not have the same radical roots as its counterpart Mother’s Day. In 1908, a Washington state woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, who had been raised by a widower, wanted male parents to be honored in a similar way to mothers. In 1910, Dodd was able to convince the state to establish an official Father’s Day. The idea spread very slowly, meeting much resistance. Many felt that the holiday was silly, and others protested against the establishment of yet another commercially-focused celebration. However, after being given a boost by World War II nationalism, the unofficial Father’s Day was widely embraced by people around the country. Then, in 1972, Richard Nixon signed the proclamation that made the day an official U.S. holiday.
This date, June 21, also marks “Make Music Day,” an international secular solstice celebration of music. The movement began in 1982 in France, and has spread worldwide. According to the website, nearly 700 cities now participate. This is one of the many demonstrations of how global secular culture participates in the the solstice festivities.
And, finally, we can’t forget to mention that today has been declared International Yoga Day!
Here are some recent quotes on Summer Solstice:
Observers celebrate the solstice in myriad ways, including festivals, parades, bonfires, feasts and more. As one member of the Amesbury and Stonehenge Druids explains, “What you’re celebrating on a mystical level is that you’re looking at light at its strongest. It represents things like the triumph of the king, the power of light over darkness, and just life – life at its fullest.” – The Huffington Post
…Then we wait, and watch for the Sun to touch the horizon. We sing the Sun down on the shortest night, just as we sing it up on the shortest day, joining our hands and our voices to turn the Wheel of the Year. We are reminded when we are in the cycle, what has come before and what will come again. On the highest hill in Minneapolis, we know where we are. Looking at each other singing, we know who we are. We want to be aware of who we are, where we are, when we are. – Magenta Griffith, from “Singing Down the Sun”
In the modern world, we may feel less dependent on the agricultural cycles of the past, yet our lives still revolve around the earths fertility even if we shop and eat from a world wide larder. However, taking the time to acknowledge the sun and its effects on us all can make us more conscious of our connection the seasons and the cycles of life. Just remembering that our very existence depends on this vast ancient explosion that is our sun can be consciousness expanding all by itself…and making time to weave in these spiritual moments into our lives in a way that is relevant to us today, not only taps us in to the traditions of our ancestors, but continues and evolves those traditions in an every growing and renewing thread that enriches us all for generations to come. – Danu Forest, From “The Magic of Summer Solstice”
In spite of all the fire and light imagery of the date, the Jungian in me inevitably turns to thinking about the shadows cast by those fires. I imagine the Goddess and her consort, the Oak King, consummating their union, which becomes a conflagration which will eventually consume the Oak King. This fire casts a shadow across the land, foreshadowing the decline of the Oak King and signaling the escape of the Dark God from his imprisonment … Fire and shadows … In the light of the recent publication of the Pope’s environmental encyclical and “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment”, these fires call to my mind the warming of our climate. Climate change is the Jungian shadow of our industrial culture... – John Halstead, From “How Hobbits Celebrate the Summer Solstice: Raising the Shire.”
At Midsummer on our land in Brittany, the Celtic region of north-west France, we invoke Belisama, the Bright One, Lady of Summer. Some say she is the bright golden sunlight; others that she is more fiery, a Lady of Battles and Arrows. We find her in France and we find her in the Milan region of northern Italy, where Celtic tribes came seeking new lands … We know little of how people centuries ago understood her and worshipped her. Belisama is like the sunlight – she changes day by day. We are content to worship her as she chooses to come to us and in her we see and know and remember nature’s beauteous summer face. May your deities come to you as you honor the season’s tide. May your Midsummer be golden with prosperity and healing. May you and your path be blessed. – Vivianne Crowley, from “Midsummer Blessings of Belisama,” Greening the Spirit.
Happy Summer Solstice!