By Vicki Howd
Midsummer Solstice – a time of magic, faeries, fertility, virility and abundance. Throughout history this has been one of the most important solar events in the evolution of humankind. Known in the Wheel of the Year as “Litha” – meaning light – this refers to not only the physical light and warmth of the sun, also the spiritual light of consciousness shining more brightly in our awareness.
The longest day and shortest night (or vice versa at midwinter solstice), the word “solstice” comes from the Latin “sol” (sun) and “sistere” (to stand), literally meaning “sun stands still” – for around three days over the solstice, the sun appears to rise and set in exactly the same location due to the tilt of the earth’s axis. Summer Solstice falls at the precise moment when the sun’s power is at its zenith, this year that will be on Wednesday June 21st at precisely 05.24 BST.
As the Wheel of the Year turns, each season brings with it a unique energy or frequency that is easier to tap into and in tune with the earth. Infused with the energy of the Divine Masculine, the Summer Solstice imparts the wisdom of this powerful energy – when realised it represents; action, direction, responsibility, strength, focus, generosity, encouragement, abundance, clarity, transformation and growth.
Rituals and ceremonies performed at this time of year are not necessarily about “sun worship”, rather their enactment was designed in ancient times to aid the process of enlightenment in line with the progress of the spiritual sun as a source of creative power. When performed in tune with the cycles of the earth, these ceremonies can act as a powerful catalyst in our consciousness, bringing us more in touch with our own creative power.
Celebrating the Summer King
The Oak King, Lord of the Light, is born on the Winter Solstice. He reaches the peak of his power at Beltane when he defeats the Lord of the Dark – The Holly King. It is important to note here that Light and Dark do not represent Good and Evil, rather expansion and contraction, growth and evolution as opposed to withdrawal and rest. Both are as necessary to the natural rhythm of the earth as they are to our own human journey.
The Summer Solstice is a celebration of the consummation of the marriage of the Summer King and the Earth Goddess at Beltane. Together they made the earth abundant and fertile, it is now we can bask in the fruits of this union. Beltane (also known as Mayday) is celebrated as the first day of summer, a festival of fertility, sexuality and sensuality. If we were to anthropomorphise the Wheel of the Year then Beltane would be the teenager with hormones raging and a playful, restless energy.
A Festival of Fire
The Sun King reigns supreme at the Summer Solstice, his tree – the mighty oak – is in full bloom, great bonfires are lit in his honour and to offer strength to the sun. Fire is also a great purifier – this is a fantastic time of year to shed old, limiting habits or beliefs that no longer serve you. Whilst some believe the Oak King dies now, in studying the Wheel of the year it appears that his power wanes until Samhain (Halloween) when the Holly King indeed defeats and kills him. The Holly King then takes over his mantle as Lord of the Winter/Darkness, reigning until Beltane where the whole cycle begins again! The Oak/Holly King are seen as dual aspects of one soul in the eternal battle of light and dark, summer and winter.
Water is also strongly associated with the Summer Solstice, being the time when the sun moves into not only the Tropic of Cancer but also the astrological sun sign. In times gone by people would bathe in water flowing towards the rising sun as it climbed the midsummer morning sky – this was believed to bring cleansing, healing and protection. The midsummer morning dew was thought to bestow health on those who drunk it and beauty to those who bathed their face in it.
Midsummer Magic in the UK
Here in England people flock to sacred sites such as Stonehenge, Avebury and Glastonbury. On Midsummers Eve, whilst Stonehenge hosts its famous festival, hundreds of people will climb Glastonbury Tor, spending the night singing, drumming and dancing in anticipation of the solstice sunrise. At Avebury, revellers are treated to a spectacular performance by “The Kings Drummers” for the first half of the night.
There are of course lots of other special places to celebrate this magical time of year. You could head down to Cornwall for hilltop fires blazing from Land’s End all the way to the Cornish/Devon border. If you fancy a stone circle with a quieter, cosier vibe then Castlerigg in Cumbria could be the place for you. However you are celebrating, have a wonderful, magical day!
About the author: Vicki writes a Wheel of the Year Blog series in which she profiles each of the eight festivals across the year.