Solstice comes from the Latin phrase “Sun stands still”. As the days get longer, the sun rises higher in the sky. Throughout time, many civilizations have celebrated the Summer solstice, recognizing the awesome power of the Sun and rejoicing in its life giving force. Solstice marks the longest day of the year, and it is recognized as a season of growth and abundance throughout many cultures and traditions.
Summer Solstice Traditions and Customs
In ancient Greece, summer solstice marked the first day of the year. Many festivals were held, including Kronia, to honor the God of agriculture, Cronus. During this festival, slaves participated as equals, and sometimes even switched roles, with their masters. It also marked the one-month countdown to the Olympics.
Celebrations of the solstices, equinoxes and other seasonal occurrences were an important part of the ancient Druid culture. Although scholars say it is doubtful that these ancient ceremonies were held at Stonehenge, modern Druids do gather there to celebrate these events.
Several tribes engaged in Sun dances to mark the summer solstice and thank the Great Spirit for abundant blessings. The Bighorn medicine wheel in Wyoming, built hundreds of years ago, aligns with the solstice sunrise and sunset. Shared feasts, marriages, and prayers of gratitude were, and still are, common among tribes during this season. It is believed that the season itself will help to guarantee a long and lasting bond in marriage and family.
Ancient Pagan Cultures
Germanic, Celtic and Slavic Pagans traditionally welcomed both solstices with large bonfires. This tradition is still practiced today in Germany and Austria. The Summer Solstice, called Litha, is a very important Pagan celebration. In ancient times, people traditionally stayed up all night, forming candlelit processions with family and animals which wound through the countryside. This practice eventually gave rise to the modern day carnival processions.
From the dawn of time, mankind has recognized the beauty and power of the Sun and has celebrated the warmth, growth and abundance of natural light that accompanies Summer. It is during this time that many of us spend greater amounts of time outdoors. Many families enjoy summer activities like hiking, camping, fishing, swimming and reconnecting with nature. Gardens that have been carefully tended throughout Spring flourish in the long days of Summer.
Spend time reflecting on the greatness of the season. Express gratitude for the abundance of blessings Summer brings. Open windows and allow this harmonious, invigorating energy to fill your space whenever possible and every time you get a chance, enjoy some outdoor activities. Summer brings prosperity and growth, focus on welcoming this into your life as a way to honor the season.