The Summer Solstice happens every year on the 20th or 21st of June. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it is the one day with the most daylight of all other days of the year. The sun is at its peak, the highest point in the sky. The rays of the sun are the brightest and warmest. The earth is tilted in a way that her face is aimed at the sun, basking in the heat like an open sunflower. The word “solstice” comes from the latin words sol (sun) and sistere (stand still) because the sun appears to stand still before it reverses direction and begins its decent back into the southern sky.
The Summer Solstice is the time when Mother Earth opens her arms wide to the heavens. When we harvest the fruits of our labors. This is when the doors swing wide open and we can most readily connect with the overwhelming power of the sun. Now is when we come to know abundance. We come to understand and live abundance of spirit, abundance of love and abundance of nourishment. These are the days when heaven walks on Earth in the form of beautiful bounty.
Our spirits, our souls, are invited to be swept away in the levity, the aliveness of all things, and we have the opportunity to be utterly caught up with joy. The chorus of bird song and the scent of growing grasses and flowers overwhelm our senses. This is the time of year when we gather together and celebrate all that we have accomplished, all that we have been given. This is a time to laugh and share with our friends. This is a time of passion and energy, openness and joy.
A Time for a Gathering
The solstice is a perfect time of year to come together with family and friends. Even if you don’t plan any ceremonial activities, simply coming together to share a meal helps you tap into the lightness and gratitude radiating around the world on this day. The laughter and love of your gathering will contribute to the overall vibration of happiness on this bright day.
What? No Fire?
The Summer Solstice is paradoxically associated with the South on the Medicine Wheel despite the fact that the sun is at it’s northernmost point in the sky. With the heat of summer and the intensity of the solar exposure, the south and summer are often also associated with the element of fire.
In addition to the associations between fire, summer, and the south, in this time for celebration we want a fire! Nothing says excitement and passion more that a crackling, spark throwing fire. Telling stories, roasting food, and playing music around the bonfire signify summer more than most other experiences. However, this is also the season when the rains subside and the ground dries – wildfire season. Some years and in some areas the wildfire danger is higher than others. Some solstice ceremonies can include a fire, while a wide majority of others can’t. Due to this reason, I don’t include rituals surrounding fire in my Summer Solstice plans. If a fire is possible, we have it as an added bonus after the formal gathering and dinner.
With the sun being so close and staying with us so long through the day, she provides more than enough flame. I recommend honoring her with symbols of her greatness. Red, yellow and orange flowers do the job best. Include hearty, heat tolerant flowers such as sunflowers or calendula (pictured above) on your altar during a Summer Solstice ceremony. Painting images of the sun or including fabric with a bright sun motif will also make an impact. If you don’t set an altar, include these items in the communal or dining area.
How About the Apogee?
The apogee or climax of the sun’s power is midday, but planning a celebration for this time sends everyone running into the shade and shunning the heat. Plan to gather in the late afternoon and watch the sun set together, reminiscing already about how great the day was. A BBQ with crisp, refreshing salads and fruits can then follow for dinner.
Gratitude & Abundance
If you are pining for a Summer Solstice ceremony, but are a little afraid to come out and ask your friends to partake what they might judge as a pagan holiday, you have options! Instead of talking about Mother Earth and the Sun God, you can simply invite people to share what they are grateful for in their lives. Ask them to talk about where they find abundance in their lives and what fills their cup overflowing. The experience of abundance and gratitude is universal. No matter what faith or beliefs your eclectic group shares, this will bond them together and honor the energy of the day.
You can also invite guests to collect natural things from the land that are beautiful to them and collect the items in a central place. In the photo above, the group was surprised that even during a dry New Mexico summer, they found an abundance of amazing things to display on the altar. Grains such as corn (pictured above), rice, bird seed, and dried beans make great symbols of abundance to scatter around your yard or display in your home.
Music is a universal force that lends itself fabulously to the dancing, excited energy of the sun. Invite a friend or more who play an instrument to come and add melody to the festivities. If you don’t know any musicians, be sure that you have a stereo with some uplifting tunes to play. Some people, like my husband, never have to be reminded of this necessity, but others have to remind themselves to put on some music.
It is always good to introduce balance into a ceremony. Since we have an excess of fire energy on this day, I am always certain to put a craft of water on the altar during a Summer Solstice ceremony (see vase in photo above) and I often incorporate a ritual or two with the water. Having the group bless water and then use it to nourish parched plants is a lovely, simple way to say “thank you” for all the abundance around us.
Salute the sun
There are many formal group activities you can do together to celebrate the Summer Solstice, and this is one of my favorites…
A Guided Meditation – Let us take a moment to bask in the rays of the longest day. Let’s turn to the sun, like the face of a flower and take in her glory. As you face the sun, turn your palms out towards this immense source of her power. Now pay attention to how the rays of the sun warm your skin, how the rays are received as brightness in your eyes, notice even, the smell of the sun. We invite you to open your heart to this joy and allow it to pour in. Allow your soul to surrender to the sun’s rays, to the sun’s warmth, to the sun’s love. Allow the abundance of these times to overfill you.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner and Ordained Minister, plans and facilitates ceremonies of all types from house blessings to weddings to life transitions. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and vast knowledge about the natural world, Stacey brings a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective to every ceremony she conducts. Every ceremony is custom-built and includes the valuable ideas and input from those she works on behalf of. Stacey can travel to you to conduct the ceremony in person, or she can meet with you by phone or Skype to work together and help you plan your own ceremony.
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