Summer Solstice – High Day Essay

The Summer Solstice (also known as Midsummer and Litha) falls around the 21st of June, on the longest day of the year. Summer Solstice resides opposite Yule on the Neopagan calendar, The Wheel of the Year. The earth is well-nourished; spring rains and warm sunshine from April and May have aided fertility, while animals and people alike have enjoyed longer, more productive days. On this day, in the northern hemisphere, the sun is in the sky the longest. This also means that Sun Gods (regardless of the pantheon they belong to) are at their strongest. This is a feast to celebrate the light, the sacred fire, the bounty of summer and the coming harvest.

I’ve read various accounts (both in ADF material as well as elsewhere) claiming the Celts (my hearth culture) may not have honored the Summer Solstice with such religious significance as they did other High Days. While these vague references may hold some merit, lacking an ancient cultural connection hasn’t limited more recent generations from celebrating this High Day. In many locations around the UK, pagans and country folk alike celebrate the Solstice with bonfires, fire wheels, and outdoor festivals. In fact, Stonehenge boasts one of the largest (if not the largest) public Solstice celebrations, which has been marked since time immemorial at the site of these ancient standing stones.

Sunrise on the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. Image from: http://www.visit-stonehenge.org/.

Sunrise on the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. Image from: http://www.visit-stonehenge.org/.

Both Summer and Winter Solstices mark an in between time, a time where the veil between worlds is thin. Such times and places are sacred to Druids, allowing those to explore the other realms more deeply and feel the presence of the Gods, Kindreds, and Spirits more tangibly. The Welsh pantheon knows this time as Alban Hefin, “spirit night.” On this night, the Goddess crowns the God the King of the Summer, and the Fae dance the hills in celebration. This legend, of masquerading fairies lead by a king and queen at Midsummer, has been retold in many forms, from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to references in stories such as The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer-Bradley, and has become an iconic connection between pop culture and ancient (as well as modern) Paganism.

Fairies on Parade by Emily Balivet.

Fairies on Parade by Emily Balivet.

It is also believed, by some Neopagans, that the God being crowned is the Holly King, who has just defeated the Oak King in battle. The days now getting shorter, the Holly King will reign over the dark days until Yule (Winter Solstice), when the Kings of the forest battle once again, at which time the Oak King prevails. Regardless of the myth or story used to add poetry to the day, the Summer Solstice is a time to mark the end of the light half of the year, and begin to preparation for the dark. Feasts are held to enjoy summer’s bounty. Thanks are given to Spirits and Deities alike, showing appreciation for the growing season and asking for blessings for the upcoming harvest.

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