On the 21st June in the Northern Hemisphere, we see the arrival of the longest day of the year 🎉. So in this blog post, I am going to explain how to celebrate the summer solstice, and the folklore surrounding it.
The summer solstice – or Litha – for some, is the highlight on the seasonal calendar, and most agricultural traditions have celebrated it. Around this day, the sun seems to just hang in the sky without change. In fact, the word solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium which literally means ‘sun stands still’. Midsummer, as it is also known, is one of eight festivals on the wheel of the year. For Pagans, Wiccans, and other folk who see themselves closely tied to the Earth and it’s seasonal changes, the points on this wheel are celebrated with as much vim and vigour as the festivals on any other religious calendar. The wheel is marked out into eight points, or sabbats: two solstices – one in the summer where the day is at it’s longest, and one in the winter when the day is at it’s shortest; two equinoxes, one in the Spring and one in the Autumn where day and night are of equal length; and four more points that mark the midpoints between. Even if you don’t follow the seasons as closely as in the Pagan tradition, almost everyone has heard of Midsummer’s Eve and the revelry that inspires. You may even have seen footage of folks gathering in their hundreds at Stonehenge to watch the sunrise on the longest day of the year.
This is the time of year when the sun is at it’s peak power and the earth is a bounty of fertility, fulfillment and celebration. Pagans just love a fire, and evidence suggests that this was a huge fire festival, more than likely to represent the sun which is at it’s strongest at this time of year. A mix of surviving historical records and folklore passed down by word of mouth, show that huge bonfires were lit atop hills to represent the space between heaven and earth. Early European traditions celebrated the solstice by setting huge wooden wheels on fire and rolling them down hills.
So what should we be doing to celebrate today? Basically, get outside! Get as much nature as is on offer. Get up early to watch the sunrise, or if that’s not possible, stay up until the sun goes down. Gather with friends, make fires, drink wine and generally enjoy your time in Mother Nature. You could also try bringing the outside in – something I love to do in any season. Elders have lots of folklore attached to them and is a very useful tree! Their stems are hollow and it’s said that if you happen to be standing under an Elder on Midsummers night, the faery folk will come out and serenade you with pipes and whistles they have made from it.
Bringing the outside in is one of my favorite ways to celebrate any of the pagan festivals, so every year around this time I make elderflower cordial. You can find out how in my blog ‘How To Make Elderflower Cordial’.
You can also read about some of the other festivals on the Wheel of The Year here: