The fiery sun is the source of all human life. The cycle of human life revolves around it. Many of us tend to take sun for granted and all too rarely pause to appreciate it and its unceasing life-giving nature. The Summer solstice event this year is an opportunity for us to honor and harness the energy of the sun and its aspects and to become part of and expand our consciousness of this energetic solar event.
Sunrise on the Summer solstice occurs this year precisely at 6:29 a.m. on June 21. On this day the sun is at its highest point in the sky and marks the longest day and shortest night of the year. This day marks the start of astronomical summer and the tipping point at which days start to become shorter and nights longer.
The word “solstice” comes from the Latin words “sol” (sun) and “stitium” (still or stopped). The ancients, even as early as the Stone Age, noticed that as Summer progressed, the sun stopped moving northward in the sky as it began to track southward again as Summer advanced to Autumn.
Approximately 800 years ago, Wyoming plains native Americans built the famed 80-foot wide Bighorn stone Medicine Wheel. It was built with 28 spokes one of which pointed to Summer solstice sunrise and another to the Summer solstice sunset.
Chumash Indians of California bored carefully placed holes in walls and ceilings of caves through which only the Summer solstice light would shine.
Anazazi Indians of New Mexico painted two spirals on a rock in Chaco Canyon. At noon on the Summer solstice a beam of light pointed to the center of one of the spirals.
In Central America, the Aztecs, Mayans and Toltecs built great temples aligned to the moment of the Summer solstice sunrise.
In the Mayan city of Chichén Itza in Mexico, the Spiral Tower is built with windows and doors that are oriented to the rising and setting sun at both solstices and equinoxes.
At the ancient Mayan observatory Uaxactún in the Guatemalan rainforest, present day viewers can welcome the Summer on a viewing platform to see the sun rise over a series of small pyramids, an astronomy cluster of four structures, built in exact alignment with the great solar event.
The Summer solstice was the most important day of the year in ancient Egypt when the waters of the Nile would begin to rise at this time. From the view of the Sphinx, the sun sets squarely between the Great Pyramids of Khufu and Khafre on Egypt’s Giza plateau on the Summer solstice.
The solstice was joyfully celebrated in ancient Europe with flower head wreaths, games and bonfires. It was believed that bonfires would boost the sun’s energy for the rest of the growing season and guarantee a good harvest for the Fall And while the actual purpose, function and origins of Stonehenge, the neolithic megalith monument in the south of England, has been long debated by archeologists, the site happens to be aligned with the direction of the Summer solstice sunrise.
In ancient China, the Summer solstice was associated with yin, the feminine force. Festivities celebrated Earth, femininity, and the yin force.
According to some ancient Greek calendars, the Summer solstice marked the start of the New Year and also marked the one-month countdown to the opening of the Olympic games.
In the days leading up to the Summer solstice, the ancient Romans celebrated Vestalia to honor Vesta, goddess of the hearth. At this time married women left offerings in the temple of Vesta as pleas and prayers for blessings for their families.
Midsummer was a pivotal time of year for the Vikings, who would meet to discuss legal matters and resolve disputes around this auspicious time.
Cultures around the world still celebrate the day with feasts, bonfires, picnics and song. Today, people dance around bonfires that blaze on hilltops in Cornwall, Wales and Ireland. Yoga centers and spiritual circles around the world usher in the solstice with drumming and chanting.
Each one of us has the individual opportunity to dive deeper into life and the Summer season by becoming more deeply acquainted with the Summer solstice. One way is by intimately experiencing the darkness of the evening of June 20 to assist us to know and appreciate the light of the Summer solstice sun the next morning more fully.
Here is a list of simple yet powerful practices to help us usher in the Summer solstice more consciously.
Eat simply throughout the day leading up to evening.
In the evening, turn out all the lights in your home.
Unplug your television, computer, and all electrical devices.
Go outside, outstretch your arms and breathe in the night air.
The moon will be 92% full so take in its silvery moonlight by gazing not just at the moon itself but at the blue-silver light it casts on the ground.
Take a long walk during this evening. Notice the stars and the clouds.
Light a fire outside, if possible. If you don’t have a firepit, use a portable grill.
Play an instrument fireside if you can.
Sing or chant quietly and reverentially.
Bake potatoes in the fire you built.
Lay down on a blanket near the fire and doze.
Go back inside and read a book by candlelight.
Take time to sit in silence.
Wake up before dawn (6:29 a.m.) to be ready to greet the rising sun.
Feel the energy and the presence of your ancestors.
Relish the power of the rising sun.
Sing a song or whisper a prayer of honor of the dawn.
“I welcome the sun into my life
And give thanks for its daily bounty:
For its warmth to bless me,
For its strength to empower me,
For its light to illuminate my way.
I do this in the knowledge
That its light is also the light
Of wonder and holy wisdom,
Blessings I make welcome
In the pattern of my days.” —John Matthews
Editors, History.com. “Summer Solstice.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 10 Aug. 2017, www.history.com/topics/natural-disasters-and-environment/history-of-summer-solstice.
Matthews, John. The Summer Solstice: Celebrating the Journey of the Sun from May Day to Harvest. Godsfield, 2005.