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Summer Solstice

As the wheel of the year turns to the south we welcome in the summer solstice - the midpoint on the wheel between the spring and Autumn  equinox and the cross quarter  festivals of Beltane and Lughnasadh.

The word solstice derives  from Latin - sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) as during the solstice the Sun appears to stand still in the sky before reversing direction and the days start to shorten.

Although June sees the start of warmer sunny days once we get to the solstice the days will shorten so it is nature's way of reminding us that nothing lasts forever so take time to enjoy and embrace summer and all of the joy it offers as much as we can.

Another name for the summer solstice is Litha originating from the old English word lythe or lida which means calm or gentle and these words would be associated with the summer solstice as, at this time, when the days were long, the weather warm and the crops were growing, it would have been a time of relative calm and abundance as people had worked hard in the field throughout the spring and could now start to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

This festival has been celebrated for thousands of years and one we may be most familiar with is at Stonehenge where the stone circle has captured our imagination for centuries as the stones are precisely arranged to frame the sunset of winter solstice and sunrise at summer solstice. Thought to have been constructed around 3000 BCE its still debatable as to what the precise purpose of the stones are. One explanation is that they are sacred stone altars which are monuments perfectly  aligned with the movement of the sun  especially with the winter solstice which is when the light is being reborn.

Because the sun and the rhythms of nature were integral to life and survival throughout history there are lots of myths and stories related to this time the themersof which invite us to take a pause and  contemplate the cycles of the light and the  dark and the balance of forces in nature of death and rebirth with the natural cycles of life and the seasons.

Honouring the Sun on this longest day when the sun is at the peak of its power was a time when communities  came together to share in feasts and rituals. Many bonfires were lit as this time representing  the power of the sun and masculine  energy and these were believed to bring purification and blessings to people.

Also believed to be a time  of great magic it was believed that during this night the veil between this world and the world of spirit was thinnest and during the middle ages girls would try to discover who they would marry. One method was to throw hemp seeds over their shoulders at night believing that their future husband would then appear which is rguably more romantic than swiping right when drunk..

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