The Summer Solstice marks the longest day and shortest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. From this point onwards the days will shorten and the nights will lengthen until we reach the Winter Solstice once again. This is a transition moment, a recognition that a new cycle is about to begin, a moment to pause, to look back and celebrate what we have actively achieved in the last six months, and envision the harvest to come. By marking the Solstices we acknowledge this beautiful flowing symmetry that brings balance to the natural world and into our lives.
Traditionally people would gather together on Solstice Eve for a candle-lit procession, and entertain each other with music, dancing and plays. They would gather around a 'bon' fire (a 'good' fire) of Oak wood and stay up all night until dawn (around 3.30 am), to watch the Sun of the new cycle rise in the extreme North East.
Is there a way you could gather with friends and family and experience this ancient tradition? Daybreak particularly feels very special. Being out so early in the half light, hearing the loudness of the dawn chorus and watching the sky lighten or the Sun break free of the horizon as the day begins, is thrilling and worth the adventure of being up so early. (or so late if you stay up!) Ask everyone to bring food and drink to share and some firewood for the fire and ways for the children to sleep comfortably. Make simple head-dresses from twisted and bound grasses and wild flowers. The sticky long stalks of Cleavers (Sticky Willy) make instant circlets that can be used as a basis for further weaving. Encourage everyone to look for a special 'Solstice Stone' along the way, and use it as a meditation stone to contemplate this great turning point in the year's cycle.
As the Sun rises or the sky lightens, holding your stone, each calls out 'I give thanks for......' Everyone cheers each other on. Let your heart expand with your love for life! Share breakfast together and go for a walk afterwards.
Alternatively gather with family and friends for a 'Bring and Share' Summer Solstice Supper. Have an evening walk to a place that faces the North West and watch the Sun go down. Light an outdoor fire or if indoors, light lots of candles in a bowl of sand, and sit round it to share and celebrate what each person has done since Midwinter. Reflect on new skills and insights gained, possible new directions and understandings that will help take you forwards. This close-sharing around firelight is very magical and offers opportunity for deepening our relationships with each other. Again, cheer each other on, make it celebratory! Raise glasses in a toast to each other.
The Oak is linked with the Summer Solstice in folklore and legend as the doorway into the inner realms and the new dark cycle of the year that is about to begin. Set out on a quest to find an Oak tree that you can regularly sit with. For generations people have sat beneath the mighty Oak to gain strength and spiritual renewal. It helps the inner world to slip back into perspective, allowing new understanding to grow and decisions to be made from a place of balance.
Thank the tree before you leave, as this helps build personal and heartfelt connection. Our appreciation keeps our hearts open and paves the way for that wonder of wild edge phenomena - of having true friendship and relationship with trees.
Glennie Kindred March 2015
For lots more ideas about celebrating the Earth Festivals, my newly revised Sacred Earth Celebrations is available from my website.