“Three things cannot be long hidden; the sun, the moon and the truth”
Whilst it may be hard for us to imagine now, up until very recently in our evolutionary history our lives were dominated by the passing of the seasons. We tend to think of time today as a linear construct where as in actuality, time is cyclical in nature – something our ancestors could not escape – in fact their very survival depended upon it! Whether we feel it or not, we humans are very much a part of the earth… somewhere deep in the forgotten recesses of our hearts, we still move with the rhythm of the earth.
Midsummer Madness is actually a term in the Oxford English dictionary, meaning: Foolish or reckless behaviour, considered to be at its height at midsummer. The Summer Solstice is overseen and infused with the Divine Masculine energy, whilst immature or undeveloped masculine energy can most certainly be seen as foolish and reckless, it is the maturation and awakening of this energy in all of us that is important. When it is realised, the Divine Masculine actually represents; action, direction, responsibility, strength, focus, generosity, encouragement, abundance, clarity, transformation and growth. At the Summer Solstice it is much easier to allow this energy within yourself to surface, allowing these aspects to be more easily found – the rituals and ceremonies all ultimately lead to the awakening of the Divine Masculine, personified by the Sun God or the Oak/Summer King.
Sun Worship = Paganism… Doesn’t It?
The word “Pagan” is actually derived from the Latin word “paganus” which means: pertaining to the countryside, rustic, rural or countryman/woman. Unfortunately, our modern day religions in their efforts to suppress our connection to the earth and the cosmos, have demonised the true meaning of the word pagan. All it actually means is to respect and revere the earth of which we are a part and to be in tune with this beautiful planet that can, (if given the chance) support, nurture and provide for us beyond anything we may imagine in our wildest dreams. As the Wheel of the Year turns, each season brings with it a unique energy or frequency that is easier to tap into, completely natural and in tune with the earth.
The ancients knew that life comes from the sun, it is life giving, life supporting and without it, life would be lost. Furthermore, they knew that the sun we see in the physical world as a fire in the sky also exists in higher dimensions as a spiritual fire and source of creation – this is why ancient cultures venerated the sun, they knew of its supreme spiritual side too.
The longest day and shortest night, the word “solstice” comes from the Latin “sol” (sun) and “sistere” (to stand), literally meaning “sun stands still” - for around three days over the solstice, the sun appears to rise and set in exactly the same location due to the tilt of the earth’s axis. This year, the Summer Solstice actually falls on Monday 20th June at precisely 10.34 pm. It is usually celebrated in the UK from sunrise on June 21st. It is known in the Wheel of the Year as “Litha” meaning “Light”, pertaining not only to the light of the sun, it is also symbolic of the light of our consciousness shining more brightly in our awareness. Diametrically opposed to the Winter Solstice - a time of withdrawal and rest, the Summer Solstice is a time of expansion and growth – both are necessary.
A Time to Celebrate the Creative Power of the Sun
The playfulness of Beltane has escalated to a more fervent intensity at Midsummer Solstice. The Sun God is at the height of his power, bringing with him a fiery, mature, breathless passion - the cosmic drama of the Earth Goddess and the Summer King reaches its zenith, the Summer King has reached the peak of his power and must die. However, his waning power still ripens the harvest until harvest time (Lammas), by which time he is dead. Mother Earth realises she is pregnant once again, giving birth to the Sun God all over again on the Winter Solstice – and so the cycle continues. It is important to note that these stories are not about “worship of the sun”, rather the “enactment” of the process of enlightenment in line with the spiritual sun as it progresses through the year. Ceremonies are performed to understand the principles and purpose of the sun in creation and in nature. When performed in tune with the cycles of the earth, these ceremonies can act as a powerful catalyst in our consciousness, bringing us more in touch with our own creative power.
Ancient Celebrations to Modern Day Festivities
Midsummers Eve is the evening of herbs. Healing herbs and flowers gathered on this night are considered to be especially potent. Traditionally, Nettle, St John’s Wort, Lavender and Burdock were gathered this eve, they were hung on doors, windows and around the house for protection and good luck. Medicinal herbs, harvested at their peak potency were dried and stored for winter use.
The sun is the central theme in all of the Wheel of the Year festivals and bonfires are of huge importance – thought to possess great power, these fires offered strength to the sun, which in return would bring an abundant harvest and prosperity to the community. In Cornwall, up until the mid 18th century, the number of fires seen from any given point was used as a form of divination and used to read the future. To this day, the night after the Summer Solstice in Cornwall, fire beacons blaze forth from hilltops from Land’s End all the way to the Cornish/Devon border. These bonfires are a celebration of summer and the sun being at its strongest, a ceremony spoken in Cornish still takes place in Kit Hill on the Devon border. It climaxes with the “Lady of the Flowers” casting a garland into the flames comprised of good herbs (medicinal) and bad herbs, (thought to be poisonous).
In ancient Europe, the festival involved rolling giant wheels lit on fire into bodies of water to symbolize the balance between fire and water. Water was also seen as an important aspect of the Summer Solstice – people would bathe in water flowing towards the rising sun as it climbed the midsummer morning sky - this was believed to bring cleansing, healing and protection. The midsummer morning dew was thought to bestow health on those who drunk it and beauty to those who bathed their face in it.
Whilst it may not be possible to bathe in water running towards the midsummer sunrise (unless we are very lucky!), we can still tap into this aspect of water by taking a Solstice Aromatherapy Bath. Simply take some seasonal oils such as; Lavender, Chamomile, Thyme, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang, Rose or Pine and blend with your favourite carrier oil – Sunflower Oil (organic, cold pressed) is very apt for the season. For a lovely floral, summery mix you could try:
10 ml Base Oil
5 drops Lavender
4 drops Chamomile
4 drops Ylang Ylang
Add some coarse Sea Salt for cleansing and some rose petals for pure indulgence!
A Feast Fit for a (Summer) King
A Solstice Celebration isn’t complete without the accompanying feast – pack a hamper and have a picnic in nature. The bees are busy making honey and the midsummer full moon is known as the “Honey Moon”. It was traditional for couples to renew their vows on the Summer Solstice, many having been handfasted on Beltane – they would drink from a cup of Honey Mead, a drink believed to have magical and aphrodisiac properties. Thought to be the origin of our modern day "Honeymoon", the happy couple were provided enough mead to last a full moon cycle - this was to ensure a fruitful union and swift production of their first born child!
However, I digress, back to the feast…. Traditional foods range from anything made with honey (think honey cake, or if you want to be super healthy, Jun Tea – a fermented tonic made of Green Tea and honey). Of course the summer greens are a must, green beans, salad leaves, broccoli, sugar snap peas and fresh herb salads. Red, yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, peppers and tomatoes – sun-dried tomatoes are especially apt. Summer fruits and berries are also a must, not only are they packed with vitamins and minerals you can make some divine recipes too. Here are some delicious veggie/vegan ideas for your hamper:-
Superfood Summer Solstice Picnic:
Washed down with elderflower cordial for the kids and elderflower wine or honey mead for the adults!
Full Moon Magic
Making this year extra special, we have a full moon on the exact date of the Solstice. Not seen since 1948, both solar and lunar energies will be at fever pitch, further enhancing the magical energy of expansion – making this a perfect time to release anything that no longer serves us or that which may be holding us back. Solstice is a time to set intentions for the coming months, be aware your manifestation energy will be amplified at this powerful time.
Being opposite from the sun, if the sun is at its highest in the sky, the moon will be at its lowest where the air is more dense and humid – this causes its light to appear amber in colour, a true Honey Moon!
Glastonbury Summer Solstice Shenanigans!
As ever, there is plenty going on in our vibrant little town. Celebrated here for millenia, people flock from all over the world to spend Solstice Eve on Glastonbury Tor and to watch the sunrise in the morning. There will be all night drumming, music and mayhem … then just before sunrise, everything goes quiet as the anticipation builds for the sun to peek its dazzling head over the horizon.
Many events happen on and around the Solstice – you can celebrate Solstice Eve at “Glastonbury Under the Stars”, a beautiful ceremony to hold peace and unity. After sunrise you may wish to make your way down to the iconic Chalice Well where you can partake in a midday meditation at the well head, followed by a bonfire and “Conversation Café”, or you might want to join the “Radical Faeries of Albion” on Paddington Farm in their celebrations! In the evening you can take your pick of music bands and dancing…. The Glastonbury Fringe Festival is happening all over town.
However you celebrate this magical time of year, we at Indigo Herbs wish you all a Summer Solstice filled with light, joy and happiness!
"The festival of summer solstice speaks of love and light, of freedom and generosity of spirit. Vibrant flowers whisper to us with scented breath, forests and woodlands hang heavy in the summer’s heat and our souls become enchanted with midsummer magic." - Carole Carlton
Sources for this article include:
Many thanks to Glastonbury Magic for permission to use a couple of photos: http://www.glastonburymagic.com/
Stonehenge Full Moon Image: Licensed under public domain via Flickr commons: www.flickr.com/photos/fidepus/12768510724/