The world is taking a pause… As we celebrate the Solstice on 21 June – Summer in the Northern Hemisphere and Winter in the South – the Wheel of Life seems almost to stand still. There are so many ways to mark this timeless moment with gratitude, before the Wheel resumes its journey of life.
Celtic Festival of Lithia
It feels as if life comes to a brightly lit standstill as the sun’s position stays nearly the same for a few days either side of the Summer Solstice, here in the north of Scotland. The world takes a pause, bathing in light. Darkness seemingly ceases to exist. We arrive at the height of summer.
Midsummer wild flowers in Cullerne Garden
Crops, flowers and herbs are abundant and bountiful. Lithia is the celebration of the fullness and fertility of summer. The seeds that were planted at Imbolc are bearing fruit, carrying inside them the promise of seeds for the next circle of life to begin after the winter.
Even though life seems to be at a momentary standstill and the sun at its greatest point of power and warmth, the Wheel of Life is soon going to turn once more and the nights will get darker again. The sun will slowly lose its strength and autumn and winter will be on their way. Time to harvest the riches of summer in our gardens and in our lives. A time to give gratitude for all that has been growing in our lives internally and externally.
Solstice Sunset over Findhorn Beach
Here at Findhorn we celebrate the longest day of the year on the Summer Solstice. It is the day when the sun reaches its highest position in the sky and is visible for just over 18 hours. The sun rises at its most north-easterly point around quarter past four in the morning and sets again at its most north-westerly position at quarter past 10 at night. Between sunset and sunrise the sky stays light for many hours, never seeming to get fully dark as the sun just dips under the horizon for around six hours. Quite the opposite of the Winter Solstice, which we celebrate on 21 December, when we get around six and a half hours of daylight.
Although the precise history of the standing stones found all over the British Isles is not fully clear, many people gather around these monuments now to watch the sunset and sunrise on the Summer Solstice. Especially at Stonehenge, erected around 2500 BC in the south of England, the Solstice is still celebrated today. From the centre of the stone circle the Solstice Sunrise can be seen in alignment with the ‘Heel Stone’, a large standing stone outside the monument.
Standing stones at the Clava Cairns, 30 miles from Findhorn
Many standing stones or stone circles mark the position of sunrise and sunset during the solstices and equinoxes. Even if their origins, and the feasts that were held at these special astronomical points in time, are not fully known, the importance of the turning of the Wheel of Life for crops, animals and humankind was well known and the changes of season were therefore marked and celebrated.
Traditionally in the Northern Countries, the longest day of the year is celebrated with feasts, song, dance and bonfires. Tables are full of flowers and food, plentiful at this time of year, and decorated throughout the home. Women often wear colourful, light summer dresses and flower crowns in their hair.
Summer Solstice rituals
There are plenty of traditions that have been kept alive over time – why not enjoy some this year as you celebrate the Solstice?
- Bonfire: Light a bonfire to celebrate the light, mirroring the sun in the sky down here on earth, to give thanks to the Sun God who helped our crops grow. Address the fire and speak aloud your gratitude for all the gifts received in your personal life this year.
- Flower decorations: Decorate your home abundantly with flowers and greens, especially with oak and birch leaves, or make a flower decoration to hang in your garden. Pictured right is a decorative Rhododendron blossom strung on rushes.
- Flower crowns: Make flower crowns with willow, thread and all the beautiful flowers that are abundantly available at this time of year. Find out how to make a flower crown here.
- Flower charm: Pictured right. It is said that if an unmarried woman picks seven different flowers during midsummer night and puts them under her pillow, she will dream of her future husband.
- Dry and preserve herbs: Herbs are at the height of their potency now – they have absorbed the full power of the sun. If you dry them now you can save some of the strength of the summer sun for the long winter nights to come.
- Sunset and sunrise: Watch the sunset and sunrise on the longest day of the year from your favourite sitting spot in nature. Meditate on what you are grateful for in your life.
Sing, dance, feast and enjoy this warm, light and abundant time of the year! Give gratitude for the bounty in your life!
Britta Schmitz is a coworker of the Findhorn Foundation and we are grateful to her for sharing about the power of the Solstice.
Image credits: Standing Stones courtesy Adelle Horler; all other images courtesy Britta Schmitz.