Summer Solstice for Humanistic Pagans

Today is this summer solstice.

Bart Everson of A Celebration of Gaia observes how those in the United States have forgotten the meaning of the summer solstice:

“Sadly, most Americans are ignorant of this seasonal moment. We seem marginally more familiar with the winter solstice, probably because of the vast commercial pressures that have accreted around that time in late December. Even so, most of us remain unaware that the winter solstice, our time of maximum tilt away from the sun, is the inverse, the opposite, the antithesis of the summer solstice. Six months removed from one another, we might regard these two celestial events as antipodes, points on opposite sides of a circle representing the cycle of the seasons.

“The poetics of the winter solstice are perhaps slightly better understood in our popular culture: the birth of light in the depths of darkness. What, then, are the poetics of the summer solstice? If it is truly the inverse of the winter solstice, then it stands to reason that it must be the birth of dark at the peak of lightness, or the dying of the light at its very summit.

“Perhaps this is why Americans have forgotten the summer solstice and the Midsummer holiday. We love summer, with its connotations of fun in the sun and trips to the beach. You’d think we’d be interested in celebrating this moment when the sun is at its zenith. But at this moment of the sun’s greatest power, it begins to decline, to wane, to die. There’s something subversive about recognizing this, something almost offensive to our national character. Our nation is caught up in a fantasy of endless growth and constant improvement. Acknowledging limits established by nature goes against our grain”

The Summer Solstice is known in Contemporary Neo-Paganism as Litha or Midsummer. Neo-Pagan mythology often marks this as the moment the sun god meets his death, though sometimes that event is reserved for the cross-quarter in August or the autumnal equinox in September.

Glenys Livingstone of PaGaian Cosmology writes:

“This is the time of Summer Solstice – the time when the light part of the day is longest. In our part of the world, light is in Her fullness. She spreads Her radiance, Her fruits ripen, Her greenery is everywhere, the cicadas sing. Yet as Light reaches Her peak, our closest contact with the Sun, She opens completely, and the seed of darkness is born.

“As it says in the tradition, this is the time of the rose, blossom and thorn, fragrance and blood. The story of Old tells that on this day Goddess and God embrace, in a love so complete, that all dissolves, into the single Song of ecstasy that moves the worlds. Our bliss, fully matured, given over, feeds the Universe and turns the wheel. We join the Beloved and Lover in the Great Give-Away of our Creativity, our Fullness of Being.”

To symbolize this, Livingstone distributes flowers, fruit, and the like to ritual participants, who then give away this bounty by casting it into the central fire.

NaturalPantheist of the Nature is Sacred blog recites the following from ADF Solitary Druid Fellowship ritual on this day:

“As I stand here on this celebration of Litha, the sacred wheel of the year continues to turn. As my ancestors did in times before and my descendants may do in times to come, I honour the old ways. This is the time of the Summer Solstice, Alban Heruin, the Light of the Shore. On this longest day of the year, when the warm sun has reached its height and the world around me is abundant and green, it is time to honour great Sol as it shines down brightly upon the earth. In the midst of the warmth, light and beauty of the summer sun, it is a time to look forward and to anticipate the coming harvest as the days begin to shorten and we head once again towards winter. I give thanks for the blessings of the great star.”

Jon Cleland Host of the Naturalistic Paganism yahoo discussion group suggests kayaking local rivers or lakes, hiking in the woods, and holding a ritual in the forest. He also takes this as a time to celebrate marriage, as well as to consume mead:

“Mead is often consumed – celebrating the honey of our marriage and the season. Mead is honey wine, and the full moon closest to Litha is traditionally called the mead moon or the honey moon (hence the name “honeymoon” for the vacation after a wedding).”

Áine Órga of writes how the summer solstice is a time for harnessing the energy of the season:

“I often conceive of life as being a wild and dangerous dance. It starts slow, speeds over time, careening wildly, until it gradually slows from exhaustion, and finally dies. This pattern is visible in human and animal life, but also in the changing seasons on Earth, and throughout Cosmos as stars and planets are born, collide, and die, only to be reborn again.

“The Summer Solstice is the peak of the dance. It is that time in your time, that moment on Earth, those millennia in the life of a star, when performance and creativity are at their most prolific. It is the time when dreams are manifested, art created, offspring born.

“Beyond it is the inevitable spiral back down. But right now is the time to dance.”

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