Celebrating The Summer Solstice
By James Donahue
Today, June 20, 2012, marks the day the Earth reaches its farthest
point in its strange tilt, putting the Northern Hemisphere to full exposure to the Sun. The day is technically known as the
Summer Solstice. It also marks the first official day of summer and is the longest day of sunshine of the year for those living
north of the equator.
At the southern part of the world, just the opposite is happening.
The people in Australia, South Africa, Argentina and New Zeeland, for example, are experiencing the shortest “day”
of their year and are entering into their winter season.
This constant and extremely predictable “wobble”
by our planet has helped make our world a most habitable and interesting place. We experience regular seasonal changes that
impact the way we live, grow our food and conduct religious worship.
Indeed the ancient Celts and Slavs celebrated the first day of
summer with dancing and rivalry. They built large bonfires that they believed helped increase the energy of the Sun. The Druids
celebrated the day as a wedding of Heaven and Earth.” Many great rock structures like Stonehenge appear to have been
erected to mark this special day.
Shakespeare referred to this day as Midsummer in his play “Midsummer
Night’s Dream.” The Wiccans refer to the day as Litha.
Indeed, the Pagan’s have always marked the movements of
the Sun, the two solstices and the two equinoxes, or “quarter days” among the most important of their holidays.
And the joyous rituals of Litha are among the most important of them all. It has been a celebration of the Earth in high summer.
It is a time of fertility and abundance, a promise of a new growing season when all of the riches of Nature are in full bloom.
Midsummer also was thought by the Pagans to be a time when evil
spirits appeared, much as they were thought to do on Samhain, or what is now known as Halloween. To protect themselves against
these spirits the people wore protective garlands of herbs and flowers, including a plant they called “chase-devil.”
That plant is known today as St. John’s Wort, known among herbalists as a mood stabilizer.
No matter what you believe, this is a special day. Enjoy it.