Summer Solstice - What Does It Mean?
As the summer finally rolls around, and talk turns to the pool parties and summer solstice, you might be wondering ‘what exactly does it mean?’ and ‘how does this affect me?’.
What is the summer solstice?
The summer solstice - otherwise known as midsummer - occurs when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt towards the sun. In other words, it’s the day with the maximum hours of sunlight.
It happens twice a year: once in the Northern Hemisphere and once in the Southern Hemisphere. For the Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice is when the sun reaches its highest position in the sky and is the day with the highest amounts of sunlight. Within the Northern Hemisphere, there is continuous sunlight around the summer solstice.
Depending on the exact movement of the calendar, the summer solstice occurs between the 20th and 22nd of June. In the Southern Hemisphere, between the 20th and 23rd of December is when the winter solstice occurs, and marks the official arrival of winter (although the cold winter may be well upon us by then!). During the winter solstice, the sun will not rise all day on the Arctic circle or Antarctic circle.
You may have heard of the summer solstice because of its association with festivals and rituals, some of which will be explored in more detail later in this blog. Traditionally, in European regions, the summer solstice has been seen as a blessing for summer and is celebrated with ancient summer solstice rituals.
What does the summer solstice mean?
The word ‘solstice’ is Latin in origin. It derives from the words Sol, meaning ‘Sun’, and the word ‘sistere’, meaning to ‘stand still’. Both at the June solstice and the December solstice, the Sun reverses its apparent annual north-south motion.
After the solstice, the Northern Hemisphere starts tilting away from the sun, and the days of summer begin to grow shorter. The days will continue to shorten all the way through the spring equinox until the winter solstice when we begin the process all over again.
According to the astronomical definition of the seasons, the days leading to the summer solstice are mere anticipation for the summer, as the solstice itself marks the beginning of summer, which lasts until the autumnal equinox.
As mentioned previously, the day is considered to represent the triumph of light over darkness and has been celebrated in many cultures, starting from prehistoric people and their celebration of the coordinated universal time.
Popular pagan celebrations for the summer solstice
The summer solstice is one of four solar holidays, along with the autumnal equinox, the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. Some may refer to the summer solstice as ‘Litha’ - a term that is believed to derive from 8th-century monk Bede’s ‘The Reckoning of Time’. Bede names Litha as the Latin name for both June and July in ancient times.
Not all celebrations for the summer solstice are pagan affiliated, and they take place all around the world. You may have heard of one of the biggest pagan celebrations taking place at Stonehenge in England, but several others take place among indigenous Latin and South American communities, and in Russia and Spain.
You may not know that the 5,000-year-old stone circle and ancient monument Stonehenge in Wiltshire have been the centre of ritual celebration since ancient times. The ancient stone circle is oriented to mark the position of the rising sun at the solstices and thousands of people go to the neolithic monument in honour of the occasion.
The various stones at Stonehenge have been given different names. Interestingly, beyond the main circle is a stone called the Heel Stone, which marks the point of the rising sun on the summer solstice, as seen from the centre of the circle. The 5,000-year-old monument is the image that traditionally comes to mind when northern people speak of astronomical summer or abundant sunlight in association with the summer solstice.
Wheels of fire and water
Summer solstice celebrations take the form of many different celebrations of light. It’s believed that ancient people celebrated by setting large wheels on fire and rolling them down a hill into water. This may be because this is when the sun is at its strongest, yet also the day when it begins to weaken. A slightly less symbolic possibility is that the water mitigates the heat of the sun - and sacrificing the sun wheel to water is the perfect time to try to prevent drought.
Midsummer for modern pagans
The summer solstice has been controversial amongst modern pagan groups because there’s always been a question about whether or not Midsummer was celebrated by the ancients. Regardless, many modern pagans choose to celebrate each year and consider this time of year one of brightness, warmth, and inner power.
Midsummer for ancient pagans
The ancient pagans celebrated the day the Goddess of the Earth married the God of the Sky, which brought forth the tradition that June is a lucky month to get married. Many people also believed that the strength of the psychic and magical energy is at its highest - so it is the perfect time to practice. More than this though, herbs and flowers are burned on bonfires, and it is believed that the aromas they produce are good for healing and protection along with the angle of sunlight.
Secret Solstice Festival, Iceland
Home of the ‘midnight sun’, an Icelandic sunset on the solstice is around midnight and sunrise is at just before 3am. Iceland’s Secret Solstice Midnight Sun Music Festival is a three-day music festival that works hard to make use of all the extra daylight. With 72 hours of sunlight and an assortment of electronic, rock and hip-hop acts, this festival is a must if you’re really looking to celebrate this summer solstice.
To see what the stars have in store for you over the summer solstice, why not get a telephone psychic reading from Psychic Sofa? Book your reading today, or get in touch to find out more.
No comments have been made yet