Summer Solstice Rituals and Traditions

Summer Solstice Rituals and Traditions

June 20 is Summer Solstice! The Sun moves into the sign of Cancer at 2:44 pm PDT

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.

Summit of full summer.

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.

Call in the sacred rescue workers: the cultural shamans, the clowns, the shapeshifters, the change agents, and let's rewrite the rules, now!

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 

Summer Art, Women's art, landscape
El Portal, CA © Laurie Bauers 2007

Summer Solstice is celebrated the world over

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.

When are the Solstice, Equinox, and Cross-Quarter holy-days Celebrated?

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.

Niman Katsina or Kachina in the Hopi Tradition

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.  

Isis is celebrated in Goddess Festivals in Egypt

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. 

The Star Sirius and the Goddess Isis

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 peoples celebrate Yellow Corn Mother

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.

Ishtar was celebrated in Ancient Mesopotamia

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. 

The Funeral for Tammuz

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. 

Summer Solstice Rituals in Norway

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) 

Modern Wiccan / Pagan Summer Solstice Rituals and Traditions

Today, we mark the changing season with a variety of rituals and traditions derived from our many diverse backgrounds. Here are some ideas:

Amatarasu Sun Goddess by Hrana Janto

© Hrana Janto 1991 from We’Moon 2007

Build a Summer Solstice Altar

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. 

Do something you love, all day long!

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?

  • Bonfires

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!

  • Potlucks

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.

  • Song circles

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.

  • Making preserves

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.

We offer a posting for each Pagan / Wiccan Holiday on our  Pagan Holiday Rituals and Traditions page.

Interested in exploring more? Visit our Journey into Astrology blog post collection to browse through our constantly updated collection of interesting and informative posts about astrology and celestial influences like:

What Sign is the Moon in, What is My Moon Sign, and What Does it all Mean?

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.

Solar and Lunar Eclipses that are Coming Up, and How They Influence Us

Use eclipse degrees in your birth chart to identify potential release points. Eclipses serve as catalysts for us to aspire to our destiny’s deeper calling. Use creative self-reflection to experience inner alignments and transmute the past into new sources of energy.

This article goes over all of the eclipses, both lunar and solar, for the year, their dates and times, and theri specific, unique affects.

Astrological Overview for 2021: The astrology for 2021 looks like another bumpy road

The year 2020 has been a rocky road for the whole year. What can we expect for 2021? Heather Roan Robbins has written the astrological prediction for our upcoming edition of We'Moon , where we have the entire article. Here is an excerpted sneak peek.....

These, and many more articles come from our best selling Moon phase planner, and astrological calendar: We'Moon: Gaia Rhythms for Womyn

Highlights of our desk top date book include information for every day:

  • Astrological data in PST
  • Moon phases depicted for every day
  • Notation on when the moon changes signs
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  • Astrological predictions for every sun and rising sign in the zodiac
  • Holiday / Holy Day writings about each of the wiccan / pagan holy days
  • Over 100 images of fabulous feminist art and over 100 righteous writings by amazing poets and storytellers. All of these works are submitted by women from all over the world.
  • Week-at-a-glance format
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  • Intro articles about astrology, both Chinese and Western, herbs, the wiccan / pagan holidays, eclipses and mercury retrogrades that are coming up for the year
  • Appendix articles on how to understand the various influences of the planets and signs, a veritable feast of Astrology 101
  • ...And So much more!

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