Sometimes known as Midsummer, Summer Solstice, estival solstice, Midsommar (not the movie), longest day of the year, shortest night of the year, feast of St. John the Baptist, and many other names in many different cultures! But what actually is it? And how can you translate this energy into something you can use to improve your own life? Ritual and ceremony are important but what is more important is understanding how to connect to and make use of these energies! Let's break it down!
What is a Solstice?
Scientifically, a Solstice happens when one of the earth's poles is at Maximum tilt towards the sun. This happens twice a year (one for each pole - for each hemisphere). The when one pole does it's maximum tilt towards the sun, that means that the other pole is doing it's maximum tilt away from the sun. Thus, one happens in the Summer (closest to the Sun) and one happens in the winter (away from the Sun). These events generally happen around the same time every year - Summer Solstice for the northern hemisphere takes place in June (anytime between the 19th thru the 22nd), and the winter solstice takes place in December (around the same dates - between the 19th and 22nd).
Although the summer solstice is the longest day of the year for that hemisphere, the dates of earliest sunrise and latest sunset vary by a few days. This is because the Earth orbits the Sun in an ellipse, and its orbital speed varies slightly during the year (this is why have a Solstice window).
Since prehistory, the summer solstice has been seen as a significant time of year in many cultures, and has been marked by festivals and rituals. Traditionally, in many temperate regions (especially Europe), the summer solstice is seen as the middle of summer and referred to as "midsummer". Today, however, in some countries and calendars it is seen as the beginning of summer.
In Spiritual practices, the days that mark milestones in the earth's movement around the sun tend to have special significance. The solstices in particular represent extremes. They represent the two polarities of the Sun's power - one life-giving, that brings light, power and growth, and the other that brings shadow, rest, and hibernation. When we celebrate the Summer Solstice we are celebrating the full power of the Sun. For this reason, most summer solstice celebrations involve fire of some kind.
For me personally, this festival brings raw power of elemental fire. This is a time of change and transformation. Of not only knowing what you are capable of, but reaching for it and doing it. This is the time to dive into all of those projects you were putting off all year long. The Sun has no time for procrastination, it has no excuses and no better things to do. All it can do is do what it is meant to do, which is shine. It doesn't care who is watching, who likes summer and who doesn't, none of that matters. The Sun doesn't need anyone - as a matter of fact, we need it - and it knows it!.
I think that this time of the year is the one time that it is ok to be you. To be selfish and to not care what anyone else needs or wants. This is a time for you to decide - what makes YOU shine? What makes YOU feel good? That's all that matters at this time - and it is not selfish to reach for it!
A Simple Summer Solstice Ritual
I believe that "reclaiming your power" is the theme of this celebration. What parts of you are you suppressing or forgetting because you are afraid of what others will say of think? This is a time of shedding and getting back to what is truly yours! This is a simple ceremony - all you need is paper, a fire (a cauldron fire will do), and a Bay Leaf.
The Fire represents change and transformation and it is also what connects you to the power of the Sun (the central theme of this Sabbat). The paper represents personal transformation. and shedding As it burns so do your obstacles, your self-doubts and all of the things that stand in the way of you revealing your own truth. Finally Bay is a fantastic herb, ruled by both Fire and Sun, it brings the self-confidence and ever dare I say the "authority" to be what you want to be regardless of what others say.
A Cauldron fire can be created with Epsom salts and alcohol. This is preferably done in a actual fire though. Write down the the changes you want to make in the parchment. What do you want to get rid of? boil it down to 3 words and write them down in your parchment. Now think of what you want to become? Who or what are you trying to embrace that represents your true self? Write that on the Bay Leaf. Look to the fire for inspiration. Fire is transformative - it has the power not only to burn away that which you don't want or need, but through that process to reveal the true nature of what lies beneath.
First burn that which you don't want or need. It's important to watch that parchment burn all the way down. Then toss the bay leaf into the fire change that to what you want to become! Remember - that action must follow ceremony - it's not enough to create a ceremony - but this festival is about DOING! Start doin the things to get you to where you want to go!