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The seasonal cycle of the year is created by Earth’s annual orbit around the sun.
Solstices are the extreme points as Earth’s axis tilts toward or away from the sun, when days and nights are longest or shortest. On equinoxes, days and nights are equal in all parts of the world. Four cross-quarter days roughly mark the midpoints in between solstices and equinoxes. We commemorate these natural turning points in the Earth’s cycle. Seasonal celebrations of most cultures cluster around these same natural turning points.
Feel the sun within you shining with abundance, as we blink in the light of that glowing promise, resurrection from death. The triumph of light peaks, slides slowly to dissolve. This is the tipping point for everything: democracy, misogyny, racism, climate, freedom. All are on a cliff edge. We've reached the neon-bright entrance to The Great Turning. Change is the only thing that doesn't change. Are we ready? Trapped between a failed story and a future at risk, it's time to live in mythic terms, to change our language from techno-data to poetry. Gather together in circles; trade material bribes for the ecstacy of interconnection.
Every conventional symbol system of our culture is bankrupt, and that's good, because now, at last, we have the potential to open, to sway and to fall.
What will save us? Not profit-driven technology and not imperial force. Only the imagination. What can you imagine?
—Oak Chezar © Mother Tongue Ink 2019, from We'Moon 2020
This is a wide open view. The wisdom and scope of the sea. This is the terrain the moon sees. The meeting of hard lines and softness.
Solstice will expand you—into hope, connection, revelation. It will draw you out with compassion, then demand the best your love has to give. Compassion is not all softness. It is fierce. It is unyielding, uncompromising in the love that feeds it. Centering love is no joke. No easy task.
El Portal, CA © Laurie Bauers 2007
It is for those who can stand in the hugeness of summer and look into what the light reveals. It is for those who soften into connection, melt into tides, and also provide the definition of the shore.
Centering love is for those with integrity. Not a moral code, per se, but the deep integration of beliefs with behaviors, commitments with actions, visions with knowledge of self and world.
We will not know the power of our love until we let it draw us out. Will not reveal our glory until summer strips us of our hiding. Until we seek to strengthen instead of defend.
The life giving Sun is celebrated all over the world with various traditions, like fire festivals, song circles and dance ceremonies. Monuments like the great pyramids and Stonehenge were built to measure time and so the four markers of the season—summer and winter solstices, fall and spring equinoxes—could be pin-pointed.
Traditional pagan Celtic / Northern European holy days start earlier than the customary Native / North American ones—they are seen to begin in the embryonic dark phase: e.g., at sunset, the night before the holy day—and the seasons are seen to start on the Cross Quarter days before the Solstices and Equinoxes. In North America, these cardinal points on the wheel of the year are seen to initiate the beginning of each season.
Summer Solstice is marked by the Sun moving into the sign of Cancer, generally falling somewhere between the 19–22nd of June.
This is the time of year that the Hopi peoples celebrate Niman to say goodbye to the cooler winter and spring seasons, and welcome in the warmer weather. It is a 16 day festival, complete with shared meals and ceremonial dances. Family members gather from far and wide to reconnect. This is the time of corn planting, and gardens are brimming with sustenance by this time of year.
This was considered New Year in ancient Egypt! The Nile river is at peak hight during this time of year, and so flood levels for the year analyzed, depending on observations of the waterline. The Nile's yearly floods promised abundant harvests.
Ancient Egyptians believed that Sirius was responsible for the flooding of the Nile river, because its appearance in the night sky corresponded with this midsummer time of year. Isis is associated with Sirius. One of the most revered of Goddesses, Isis was celebrated as the giver of life sustaining water.
The Taino are the peoples indigenous to the Caribbean, Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Antilles, Bahamas and Puerto Rico. Celebrations and ceremonies honoring Yellow Corn Mother are still held each year in midsummer. Traditionally, these rituals and celebrations were held in the central plazas of Taino villages, and many of these plazas were designed to identify the changing seasons, much like Stonehenge and the pyramids.
Summer Solstice was "celebrated" by ancient Babylonians by observing 6 days of mourning! Ishtar, Goddess of fertility, love and war, would mourn the annual death of her partner, Tammuz. Tammuz is the Mesopotamian God of plants and of food. He is said to die every summer and to be reborn every winter, much like Inanna passes into the underworld each fall, and Louis the Sun King dies each Winter Solstice, and rises again at Summer Solstice.
This dramatic reenactment of the the six-day wake for Tammuz involved a heartfuly sung dirge. They honored their fallen god with by placing his statue on a funeral bier, and with processions of mourners weeping and wailing as they recited the dirge.
Sunna is the Norse Sun Goddess, and she is honored in that far north country, where the Sun barely sets, with bonfires that last all night long (granted, it is the shortest night of the year)
Today, we mark the changing season with a variety of rituals and traditions derived from our many diverse backgrounds. Here are some ideas:
© Hrana Janto 1991 from We’Moon 2007
You can create an altar anywhere, indoor or out. If it's time to refresh your personal altar, this is a good time to do that. Use a fresh, brightly colored altar cloth. It's traditional to decorate your Summer Solstice altar with an abundance of fresh flowers and a candle, preferably white, yellow or orange. If you have symbols of the summer season, this is a good time to bring them out into the light. Visit our blog post all about creating altars for ideas and inspiration.
This is the longest day of the year, and many revelers celebrate by having an all day party. The theme of the party is your choice: Art, game playing, snacking, love-making, hiking. Your imagination is the limit!
Honoring the Turning of the Wheel of the Year: What are some other Pagan Summer Solstice Rituals and Traditions?
This tradition is as ancient as the Sun, Herself. as long as it is safe where you are, this time of year, a campfire or bonfire is the quintessential way to hail in the Summer. Either alone or in a group, there are many variations on rituals around a bonfire. Some ideas: 1) Describe on a piece of paper something that you intend to release in the coming months, and burn it. 2) Focus on a question (shall we call it a "burning" question?) and gaze into the fire. Allow thoughts, words and images to pass through your consciousness. Does the answer surface for you? This is Fire Scrying. 3) Gather friends around the fire with drums, guitars, voices. Sing, dance and drum the Summer in!
Summer Solstice is traditionally a time of being out in the world, being social, interacting with community. This is a perfect day for a potluck. Your gathering can be as formal or as informal as you like. The important ingredient for this tradition is celebrating your companionship as we move together into another season.
In my community, no group ritual is complete without a proper circle song or two. We usually use the popcorn method (women spontaneously choose a song they feel led to sing, and the others join in) or you can use a song circle book like Rise Up Singing or Circle Round. If you've musicians in the group, they want to play along. Rattles and drums are always a fun addition to a song circle.
Some solitary witches I know like to harvest ripe fruits on Summer Solstice and preserve jellies and jams. In that way, they are able to preserve the magic and spirit of Solsticetide, all year long. These preserves can also be a part of your Winter Solstice tradition, as well, connecting the two extremes of the year, across the wheel. Opening a jar of sweet, bright jam releases the stored energy of the sun, right there at your kitchen table.
"As stewards, we take stock of self and world. Has an old teacher, perhaps the Dragon of Not-Enough, melted in the fires during the first half of the solar wheel? We bow and thank her before turning to discover the new teacher, who, as the waxing year gives way to the waning, will wrench our perspective wider.
"To claim the new and larger boundary of our personal fire, we join it in ritual to that of others, and together, dance it outward. We make sacred ceremony not only for and with our immediate community, but for all our relations. The Lakota phrase mitákuye Oyásin reminds us, "I am related to all things, and all things are related to me."
—Susa Silvermarie © Mother Tongue Ink 2018, from We'Moon 2019
Small Worlds of Hope and Healing
"As I have connected with nature mid-life, I have been amazed at the everyday magic evident in every forest, marsh and urban park.
I have seen Nurse Logs that appeared lifeless and filled with rot one week, birth an entire micro forest the next. Dandelions bloom from solid asphalt; a frozen marsh thaws and pushes forth marigolds within days.
Lifeless ponds lie dormant for months beneath a shawl of ice, then burst with bird and frog song.
The Earth has not given up. She is not beaten, but merely recovering, and we can learn and gain strength from her resilience."
—excerpt © Susan M. Warfield 2019
Nature of Me
I am no angel.
My feet are caked with dirt,
my thoughts like tainted snow,
my halo is askew
where my antlers want to grow.
That is the nature of me.
I am atoms and moondust
and laughter and tears,
sand, mud, and blood,
lightning, drought, and fears.
I am a force of nature.
With these freckles and wrinkles
and creaks, groans, and flaws
and magic and desires,
teeth, sneers, and claws;
with my history
dogmas and views—
I swing from one tree branch
into another mood.
I am a freak of nature.
I am no angel,
just as nature meant for me.
My spirit outlined clearly
in impressions that I leave
as I step and I dance
and I spin and I sprawl,
as I write and I sing
and I stretch and I fall.
I am moss and the earth,
part root and part cone,
wings and some fur
and tendons and bone.
Though I know I'm no angel
I make snow-white wings
to soar my wild mind
where nature still sings.
That is the nature of me.
— © Heather McElwain 2016
More poetry from women around the world can be found within the pages of our best selling Moon phase calendar and astrological datebook; We'Moon
Barbara Levine (Corvallis, OR) is painting on wood these days as she renovates a very old shabby house. Her paintings celebrate nature and strong, nurturing women as natural conduits for brining peace, beauty and healing into the world.
Heather McElwain (Sandpoint, ID) is a freelance writer and editor whose passions are words and wandering about, within and beyond. Find her at Facebook: bardontheroam
Laurie Bauers (Hakalau, HI) is currently loving life in gratitude in Hawaii with her family. Constantly awed by Mother Earth's beauty, she gleefully paints in a harmonious relationship with her.
Maeanna Welti (Portland, OR—unceded Chinook Land) is a writer, astrologer and witch. She is the author of the Healing Witch Samhain to Samhain workbook. Maeanna offers readings, coaching, support for ancestral and personal healing, and teaches astrology and the fundamentals of witchcraft.
Oak Chezar (Jamestown, CO) is a radical dyke, performance artist, Women's studies professor, psychotherapist, writer, & semi-retired barbarian. She lives in a straw bale, womyn-built house. She just published Trespassing, a memoir about Greenham Common Womyn's Peace Camp. Whilst working & playing towards the decimation of patriarchy & industrial civilization, she carries water.
Susa Silvermarie (Ajijic, Mexico) I turned 70 in 2017 and began a new life as an immigrant to Mexico. I blog, I write for several local publications and I run a weekly Write-to-a-prompt circle as well as a Writers Salon. I enjoy volunteering with an art program for Mexican children, and I truly love my life on the shore of Lake Chapala. Seeking local kindred spirits—come on down!
Susan M. Warfield (Roseville, MN) Late blooming artist who returned to photography and nature after a long hiatus.
Lisete Costanzo (St. Catharines, ON) is an Intuitive Artist and Reiki Master. Her artwork focuses primarily on the Metaphysical as she utilizes high realism with otherwordly themes, inspired by the use of dreams, ritual, sound, music and nature.
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Samhain, also known as the Witches New Year, is always held on October 31st. A time when the veil thins. It is believed the barriers that normally hold steadfast between our world and the other world thin, letting us walk with spirits and ancestors long passed.
The longest night gifts us with time to enter the darkness, fully. We hold our breaths with nature, where life is suspended, waiting in extremis. The stillness behind action gathers as we empty and trust in our renewal. What will you give/lose to the night?