Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Solstice / Midsummer...2012...

("The Sun", Artist:  Stephanie Pui-Mun Law)
The Summer Solstice is officially here as of 7:09 PM/EST, on Wednesday, June 20th.  Since we are at a Solstice, that means the Sun is at it's farthest point north of the Equator.  As I am in the northern hemisphere, we are about to experience our "Northern Solstice".  We are experiencing summer while the southern hemisphere experiences winter.  The opposite will happen when the Earth repositions for the "Southern Solstice". What exactly does 'Solstice' mean?  There are two derivations from Latin:  A) 'Sol' (Sun) + 'Sistere' (to stand still);  B) 'Sol' (Sun) + 'Stitium' (to stop).  They both pretty much mean the same thing, so take your pick.

The seasons change as the Earth spins away on its axis at an angle of 23.5 degrees, following its slightly elliptical orbit around the burning Sun. (If Gaia didn't have that tilt, we wouldn't have the seasonal shifts.  I shudder to think what that would be like.)  The Sun's position during the Solstice will have it following directly along the Tropic of Cancer.   

Also, the Arctic Circle will experience 24 hours of sunlight, and on the flip-side, Antarctica will experience 24 hours of darkness.  If I had to pick between a full day of light and a full day of dark, I would pick the dark.  Hands down.  The end result of the Earth's position in relation to the position of the Sun is the year's longest day, with the shortest and brightest night of the year.

This yearly event also has world wide celebrations associated with it.  Many of them pagan in origin.  The Summer Solstice is the mid-point of summer, when the Sun reaches it's peak and then the days gradually start to shorten into the Autumn and Winter months.  Many refer to this day as Midsummer, for that reason.  The pagan 'Wheel of the Year' focuses on eight festivals or 'Sabbats', mainly comprised of the years' Solstices and Equinoxes as observed by Modern Paganism and Wicca. The yearly cycle follows a pattern that is mirrored by the changing seasons:  birth, life, decline, death.  There are four solar days on the ‘Wheel’, Midsummer/Litha being one of them.  As Midsummer is the mid-point,  Beltane is the beginning of summer, and Lammas/Lughnasadh is the end of summer. 

(Left:  Calendula; Right:  St. John's Wort)
The day means different things to different cultures, but the more universal of themes are fertility and first harvests. Yellow/golden flowering plants such as Calendula and St. John’s Wort are harvested on Midsummer night. Both are said to have healing powers and their effects are heightened when harvested on Litha night in the moonlight.  Fire Festivals are also common at Midsummer and Litha celebrations.  Evil spirits are said to roam free on this night, and the fires are burned for protection.  

(Midsummer Bonfire)
Different countries celebrate any time from June 21st, to about June 24th.  Whatever the nature of your celebration of Midsummer, whether it’s a traditional pagan celebration or just getting out to soak up some of the special Sun, Happy Midsummer Blessings!
Just a few great photos of Summer Solstice celebrations that I came across.  Thought I would share them.  I'm not sure who took the picture on top, but the other two are credited to National Geographic (the links for those had expired).

(Druids at Stonehenge)
(Summer Solstice Rave at the Zugarramurdi Witch's Cave, Spain)

(Summer Solstice Festival lantern lighting-Poznan, Poland)

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