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Celebrating the Magic of the Summer Solstice

The summer solstice is here with people celebrating around the globe. I’ve never paid much attention to it—except perhaps for a big yippee that summer has finally arrived. But this year might be different.  I want to pay more attention to the day, (June 20, 2024), as a small way of honoring the great cycles of life that exist beyond our human understanding.

What the Solstice is and isn’t

Our earth is tilted 23.5 degrees on its axis, a result, some say, of its collision with an asteroid. As the Earth orbits annually around the sun, the length of time at which different parts of Earth receive light varies.

It isn’t the “longest day in the year.” That’s too bad because I could truly use some extra hours for my art and projects. 

Alas, the “longest day” means the longest daylight—nature isn’t giving out any extra hours. Still, I love the light and so the many who will be celebrating.

Celebrating what humans didn’t create

I’m glad to celebrate something that is far beyond the reach of us humans who seem particularly good at screwing up our relationship with nature.

Fortunately, the sun and earth do not pay attention to our human blunderings as they proceed with their rotations. They are not influenced by pundits, election returns, speculation, Supreme Court decisions, or whatever nonsense has captured the airways.

I find this a relief.

Nature and the universe work in rhythms, cycles of rotations, and cosmic comings and goings.

Our culture, though, has become increasingly arrhythmic and divorced from nature. We live in our climatized houses and offices, often with consistent heat and air conditioning. We work round the clock if we feel like it, always able to turn on lights or stare at screens. We buy whatever food we want from whatever part of the world is growing stuff, unless we grow our own—limited by the local growing season.

Traditions from around the world

Around the world, and throughout history, people have found different ways to honor the solstice.

Watching the dawn at Stonehenge. The great stones were placed, it seems, with an eye to the sun’s movements. Every year, thousands flock to that sacred site to see the sunrise.

Jumping over a bonfire. In Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Russia, and other Eastern European countries, the solstice is celebrated on Ivan Kupala, an ancient celebration that revolves around love, romance, and Slavic fertility rites (from Couples test their compatibility by jumping over a bonfire together while holding hands.

(My husband and I will pass on this rite this year, figuring that 36 married years is its own test of togetherness.)

Watching the sun between the Great Pyramids. Apparently, the Egyptians honored their sun god, Ra, by planting their pyramids so that on the summer solstice, the sun would set directly between the two of the Great Pyramids. (You can see them in Cairo.)

Dancing. People around the globe have found ways to dance as they give thanks for the light. In Scandinavia, people wear flowers, create huge bonfires, and dance around maypoles. In many Indigenous tribes in the U.S. and Canada, the summer solstice is associated with a ceremonial Sundance. 

A time for magic 

In addition, some say the Summer Solstice is a time of magic.

According to Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol Professor of History:

“Mysticism and magic are a common theme in midsummer folklore…Magic was thought to be strongest during the summer solstice and myths told of the world turning upside down or the sun standing still at midsummer. [It was seen as] a time when the normal laws of nature or divinity could be suspended, when spirits and fairies could contact humans, when humans could exceed the usual limitations of their world.”

Some maintain that intentions, set at the Solstice, gain energy and become more powerful.

I love the possibility of magic, connection, and giving power to what matters to us.

And why not listen to see if we can hear the fairies sing?

I used to sing this children’s song.

White coral bells upon a slender stalk
Lillies of the valley deck my garden walk
Oh don’t you wish that you can hear them ring?
That will happen only when the fairies sing.

My solstice wish

Maybe magic isn’t just the stuff of magicians, shamans, and witches. Maybe a little magic can be there for all when we allow ourselves to be more child-like, playful, imaginative, grateful, and believing.

Does the Solstice carry a special power? Perhaps. Does the wind whisper a message? Why not listen as if it does? Or give a special thanks to the mighty sun. Or spend time with the ferns, fiddleheads, moss, stones, saplings and parts of nature that don’t speak—and imagine that they could.

As for fairies?

What if for a few hours we turned away from the pundits as a source of information—just in case the fairies have something wiser to share!

Happy Solstice!

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