“What fools these mortals Be!”*
Summer Solstice is fast approaching and I can’t wait to party with all this yang energy! The longest day (and shortest night) of the year falls on June 21st, with the sun rising at 04:43 and setting at 21:17. Known as ‘midsummer’, this night represents the halfway point between spring and autumn and is a good time to take stock of where you’ve been and where you want to go. The etymology of ‘solstice’ is rooted in the Latin solstitium, meaning ‘to stand still’, which makes me think of a magical moment in time! (I do love magic!) In those magical moments the veils between worlds are thin and we can enjoy one of the few times in the calendar where we are able to share our space with faeries and magical beings galore. Always looking to nature, this auspicious celebration invites us to look back on what we have been through in the last six months and to bring some of the magic across to help us manifest what we want as we move towards Autumn and Winter.
Speaking of magic (as I am wont to do) and mischief… summer solstice is an important night for faeries. If you can’t see them already, try rubbing a fern seed on your eyelids at midsummer’s midnight and you might be surprised;if you do, be sure to come equipped with rue to protect you from the pixies leading you astray! Faeries are very cheeky woodland folk and you may notice their naughtiness by way of seemingly misplacing your keys and other impish little tricks. Ever seen Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’? Although we may laugh at the tricks and schemes of the faeries, ultimately they work to ensure a loving, fertile and fun meeting of worlds. Faery folk view us as far too serious, so be sure to let go of any conditioning that may be keeping you a ‘mere mortal’, especially on this night. For once, just be your true, authentic self; you might just realise its easier than you thought.
It’s an important date in the calendar, so important that our ancient ancestors built Stonehenge! I have to mention this majestic, prehistoric site that’s believed to have been a place of worship and celebration, at the time of summer and winter solstices, for thousands of years. This gigantic, immovable calendar has endured in the same spot since approximately 2,000 BC, and are positioned to align with the sunrise on the two annual solstices. They ooze magic all year round but to feel the sun on your face, through that monument, for those few moments, it really does feel like time is standing still.
Though technically an astronomical event whereby the days start to shorten, solstice has inevitably come to have deep historical and cultural significance. The celebrations date back to ancient pre-Christian traditions; for the Greeks, the summer solstice marked the new year and the month-long countdown to the Olympic Games. It was also the festival of the god Cronus, the patron of agriculture. The day was celebrated with feasts and games enjoyed by slaves and freedmen alike, joined in equality for a single day. The Romans also made exceptions for the summer solstice: married women could enter the temples of the vestal virgins for one day only to make offerings to Vesta, the goddess of hearth and home. Many Native American tribes celebrated the longest day of the year with a Sun Dance. Mayans and Aztecs built many of their central structures so that the buildings would align perfectly with the two solstices. In many European pagan traditions it was a day to balance the elements of fire and water. For Druids, it was a day and night with properties like no other! According to their tradition, St. John’s Wort, roses, rue, verbena and other plants acquire new properties that they wouldn’t have if picked at any other time.
Midsummer’s night also represents the ending of one cycle and the beginning of another – remember to reflect on the old and new, learning, losses, gains, what to let go of and how to shape your dreams. Most importantly at this festival, don’t forget to acknowledge yourself and how far you have come.
So during this solstice, try to get together with friends and family for the celebration. Reach to the sky and be grateful for who you are and who you are becoming. Burn any negative thoughts and feelings in a fire. Thank the universe and mother earth for all the gifts, even the ones you take for granted (we all do it, don’t worry). Allow yourself to feel the magic and enjoy the moment!
Happy Winter solstice to the Southern Hemisphere, another night of revelry with magic all of its own!
*William Shakespeare, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1595/6)