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The changing seasons of the year are 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.
As we gather round the sacred fire of summer's peak, hands joined, the ribbon of time may fold and suddenly we see many things at once: those from history who were burned, their stories lost, their wisdom silenced. Those who are currently persecuted, their voices crying out if only we will take time to look and listen. The steadily warming planet and how little time we have left to slow the burning. The wildfires that sweep across the land howling at us to pay attention, to act, to change our course. Let us spread our arms out under this great wide sky and let the magic of being alive fill us with fire. Let us lift our arms to the sun and be so restored and renewed by the heart of passion, the heat of longing, the warmth of pleasure. As the streaming light of purposeful joy replenishes our hearts, we may allow the wild magic of this time and space to restore our knowing that today is still fertile with possibility to do good work and to rejoice.
—Molly Remer © Mother Tongue Ink 2022
El Portal, CA © Laurie Bauers 2007
As the sun captures the top of the sky, we crest the day with exuberance, hand ourselves over to the juice, to wild swims, the silken overlap of petal on petal, open faced flowers loved by bees, their centres easy to reach.
Cowled in heat and the verdant smells of grasses at thigh height, our eyes are drawn to the hilltops and skies beyond.
A walk up to Midsummer’s summit gives us clear and far sightedness. As a cloud like the shadowy bird of midwinter passes over, we experience the dark side of the sun, remember countries on fire, lands parched, pleasure dependant on what country we belong to if any. On our way back down, we choose what actions will draw us up to our full height.
Using the magic of Midsummer night, the enchanted song-light through the woods we build a fire to charge up our potency, weave a garland of prayers with wildflowers and herbs for the next generations of Earth protectors, float it down river watched over by the Sidhe.
—Debra Hall © Mother Tongue Ink 2021
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 pinpointed.
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 height 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 heartful 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).
Do you have a special unique Summer Solstice Celebration? We'd love to hear about it! Learn more how to submit your creative musings to We'Moon
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 Solstice Tide, 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
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
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.
Debra Hall (Garroch Glen, Scotland) I am a soulmaker, artist, author and poet. I am currently writing a book called her whole nature to celebrate women's full blooded, fully embodied spiritual nature. I always like to hear from We'Moon friends.
Oak Chezar (Jamestown, CO) ACTIVIST. SCHOLAR. HERETIC. CULTURAL CHRONICLER. RETIRED BARBARIAN. Oak 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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"Here we are in seed time, dream time, looking for the cracks of light that tell us to stretch out and grow. We are invited to consider this possibility: What if there is nothing wrong? What if there is no "too slow"? What if we live a miracle every single day, and we don’t have to earn it?..." Imbolc or Candlemas, February 2nd, is a celebration of light and the first spark of spring.
Poised in the season's symmetry, ask: what does another world look like? The anxieties hover—climate change, nuclear holocaust, environmental devastation—but let us not stress only existential apocalyptic tales. How de we stop devouring the planet and instead energize stories of plenty and repair?
In simpler times, communities gathered to jump over fires in the fields and participate in the great round of fertility. Listen to the voices of the universe saying YES—the sun shines, the birds sing, the flowers bloom. The purpose of the universe is to celebrate the delight of its existence. May that inspiration hot-wire us into the living voltage of the Mother. Renew your life with others.