Did you know that it is known by many names? Alban Heflin, Alben Heruin, All-couples day, Feast of Epona, Feast of St. John the Baptist, Feill-Sheathain, Gathering Day, Johannistag, Litha, Midsummer, Sonnwend, Thing-Tide, and Vestalia, among others.
Most people around the world have observed spiritual and religious seasonal days of celebration during the month of June, many of which are linked in some way to the summer solstice. On this day, typically June 21st, the daytime hours are at a maximum in the Northern hemisphere, and night time is at a minimum. It is officially the first day of summer. It is also referred to as Midsummer because it is roughly the middle of the growing season throughout much of Europe.
In pre-historic times, summer was a joyous time of the year for the indigenous people who lived in the northern latitudes. The snow had disappeared; the ground had thawed out; warm temperatures had returned; flowers were blooming; leaves had returned to the deciduous trees. Some herbs could be harvested, both for medicinal and for other uses. Food was easier to find. The crops had already been planted and would be harvested in the months to come. Although many months of warm even hot weather remained before the fall, they noticed that the days were beginning to shorten, so that the return of the cold season was inevitable.
This time of year, between the planting and harvesting of the crops, was the traditional month for weddings. This is because many ancient peoples believed that the "grand (sexual) union" of the Goddess and God occurred in early May at Beltane. Since it was unlucky to compete with the deities, many couples delayed their weddings until June. June remains a favorite month for marriages today. In some traditions, newly wed couples were fed dishes and beverages that featured honey for the first month of their married life to encourage love and fertility. The surviving vestige of this tradition lives on in the name given to the holiday immediately after the ceremony: The Honeymoon.
In Ancient China their summer solstice ceremony celebrated the earth, the feminine, and the yin forces. It complemented the winter solstice which celebrated the heavens, masculinity and yang forces.
Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires. "It was the night of fire festivals and of love magic, of love oracles and divination. It had to do with lovers and predictions, when pairs of lovers would jump through the luck-bringing flames. It was believed that the crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump.
Many of our North American tribes celebrate the summer solstice as well.
- The Natchez tribe in the southern U.S. worshiped the sun and believed that their ruler was descended from him. Every summer they held a first fruits ceremony. Nobody was allowed to harvest the corn until after the feast.
- Males in the Hopi tribe dressed up as Kachinas, the dancing spirits of rain and fertility who were messengers between humanity and the Gods. At Midsummer, the Kachinas leave the villages to spend the next six months in the mountains, where they were believed to visit the dead underground and hold ceremonies on their behalf.
- Native Americans have created countless stone structures linked to equinoxes and solstices. One, called Calendar One, is in a natural amphitheatre of about 20 acres in size in Vermont. From a stone enclosure in the center of the bowl, one can see a number of vertical rocks and other markers around the edge of the bowl. At the summer solstice, the sun rose at the southern peak of the east ridge and set at a notch at the southern end of the west ridge. The winter solstice and the equinoxes were similarly marked.
- The Bighorn Medicine Wheel west of Sheridan, WY is perhaps the most famous of the 40 or more similar "wheels" on the high plains area of the Rocky Mountains, most of which are located in Canada. At Bighorn, the center of a small cairn, that is external to the main wheel, lines up with the center of the wheel and the sun rising at the summer equinox. Another similar sighting cairn provides a sighting for three dawn-rising stars: Aldebaran, Rigel and Sirius. A third cairn lines up with fourth star: Fomalhaut.
If you haven't already celebrated, it's not too late. Do a simple-earth honoring ritual. It can be as simple as going outside and offering a simple prayer of gratitude for the fruits (gifts) of your life, and for the turning of things, the sacred cycles of our life.
Dancing is a wonderful way to honor the bright Summer sun at the Summer Solstice - and of course, at any other time too!
© 2009 Dr. Liana L Carbón & Sun Sister Publications.
All Rights Reserved.
All Rights Reserved.
Institute of Shamanic Wisdom, Inc.