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
El Portal, CA © Laurie Bauers 2007
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, solstices and 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Moon changes signs every two or two and a half days, and passes through all 12 signs of the zodiac every 27 and 1/3 days. That's one Sidereal Month. So we have ample opportunity to experience how the sign that the moon is in affects ourselves and those around us.
This article explores the influences of the 12 signs of the zodiac in relation to the world, the moon and you.
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Highlights of our desk top date book include information for every day:
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?
Feel the passing of summer; as light lessens, we deepen the rhythms of rebirth. This is the first harvest—a time of abundance, our opportunity to assume conscious collective responsibility for creating the future.
Perfect balance returns, light and dark in harmony again for the final harvest. As we wheel in the last-lit days of seasonal symmetry, face the coming darkness together with gratitude for what we've learned about light. Autumn's grain is spring's seed; paradox surrounds us with ripening wisdom. If we lose hope, remember that Hope has two daughters to support our balancing acts: Anger and Courage.