In the northern hemisphere, the Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, the time of the highest luminosity and the start of Summer, while in the southern hemisphere it is exactly the other way around.
The exact astronomical Summer Solstice takes place this year on 20 June 2016 at 22:34 GMT, on the same day of the exact Full Moon, which is at 11:02 GMT. The combination of Summer Solstice and Full Moon, which in this case is a Blue Moon, boosts the presence of light, since both the Sun and the Moon are at the peak of their luminosity.
Each one of us, despite our apparent differences, in the end longs for the same source of light. This source can be described with different words, images and visions, yet its essence remains the same, just like the Sun, which appears to change according to climate and longitude, is the same for everyone.
Hence, we can accept to live the Summer Solstice as an opportunity to acknowledge the presence of Light in every circumstance of life. In this regard, the most precious moments are those when everything appears dark, when obscurity tries to enslave us and we feel that light has abandoned us. In those moments, if we manage to hold just a little glimpse of trust, we can become the bearers of light, like the first apparently weak rays of a dawn, which inevitably lead to the climax of the sun and light.
In ancient times, since most people were not familiar with astronomical calculations, they honoured the Summer Solstice on a fixed date, i.e. 24 June (Midsummer Day or St. John the Baptist Day).
This shift from 20 to 24 June, is similar to that from 21 December (Winter Solstice) to 25 December (Yule or Christmas). Also, since in ancient times the days were measured from sunset to sunset, the real festivity began at the preceding sunset, which was indeed the most powerful time. Hence 23 June is Midsummer Night, or St. John’s Eve, just like 24 December is Christmas’ Eve.
The Solstice time and the month of June have always been a most favourite month for weddings. In Pagan tradition the Moon of Midsummer time is called Honey Moon, from the mead made of fermented honey prepared and drunk during marriage ceremonies on the Summer Solstice.
“Lord, what fools these mortals be!” exclaims Puck in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream referring to ordinary reality. Puck is the servant of Oberon, the king of the fairies. Midsummer’s or St Johns Eve is traditionally sacred to the fairies, and is obviously a time when the veil between ordinary and non-ordinary reality is particularly thin. Hence from both sides it is possible to play tricks and games. In many European countries it was habitual to light bonfires after sunset.
This was known as “setting the watch”. Participants often jumped through the fires for good luck. It was the popular version of a shamanic rite of passage. Shamans focused on their Intent, then allowed their bodies to be activated by the Sun spirit, integrating body-earth and spirit-sun in order to promote divine manifestation on earth.
This leap also signified passing through the gateway of physical incarnation with a clear focus on one’s soul purpose. Hence, the act of first setting Intent and then jumping was aimed at preserving this awareness once beyond the gateway. The more genuine and powerful is the Intent at the moment of jumping, the more it increases the possibility of its manifestation.
Midsummer’s night was also the time when the serpents would roll themselves into a hissing, engendering the glain, also called the serpent’s egg, or Druid’s egg. In art, John the Baptist is often represented similarly to a Pagan character. Many icons show him as a Pan horned figure, with the lower torso of a satyr, wearing a garment made of hair or using a staff with a serpent.
For our summer solstice meditation please click here.