Celebrating the Summer Solstice by Martine Alexis
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Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice of June 21st-also known as the Festival of Litha- is on the longest day and the shortest night of the year. On this day the Sun at it’s apex and it’s fullest power.
From the day of the Summer Solstice and onward, the sunlight will wane. Each day after marks the receding of the Sun- until the time of the Winter Solstice of December 21st, which marks the shortest day and the darkest night.
After the Winter Solstice, the sun is reborn and the days become longer once again. When we mark these points on the Wheel of The Year, we’re embracing death and re birth, the eternal cycle of life and our inclusion in this.
The Battle of the Oak and The Holly Kings
We also commemorate the ‘battle’ between the Oak and the Holly Kings. The two Kings fight to rule over the seasons as the Wheel of the Year turns.
The Oak King reigns until The Summer Solstice when, once again, the Holly King returns to reign over the darker days to come..until The Winter Solstice when the Oak King will in turn vanquish the Holly King again. This battle symbolises the eternal cycle of life and the duality of Light and Darkness. We are acknowledging and embracing that the Light and Darkness which co exist and battles for our Earth, also co exists and does battle within ourselves…….
We are part of The Wheel of The Year
Marking, observing and paying homage to these changes between the seasons attunes us even more to this eternal cycle- and reminds us that we are part of it.
I feel that in this particular time, it’s more important than ever that we do this.
We face overwhelming technological change and pre- occupations. There are vast changes in society and it’s belief structures and, so often, an overall feeling of disconnection from nature. To me, it’s vital that we realise Earth is not some separate entity from us. We don’t live on The Earth – we live with The Earth.
Thus, marking the cycles and the seasons are a vitally important way of recognising and maintaining our connection with nature and our place within it.
Everything is interconnected. We’re part of a natural continuum and not insulated from it, despite what many 21st century minds may consider to be the case. Celebrating these times on the Wheel of the Year helps us to remember that we exist within something bigger than our individual selves- and not in some sort of vacuum.
Summer Solstice Celebrations
We’ve marked the Summer Solstice with ritual since ancient times and we continue to do so today. The most prominent part of our rituals will focus on the exact point of the sunrise on this day. Here in The British Isles, we’re very blessed to be able gather together at powerful Sacred Sites to mark and celebrate the Summer Solstice and the other festivals of the Wheel of the Year.
For example, at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, the heelstone will mark the Midsummer Sunrise from the centre of the stone circle.
Many will gather at this hugely powerful energetic and sacred space which links the Earth, the Moon, the Sun and the Seasons.
What happens at Stonehenge connects us to both our ancestors and our deepest and most visceral connections with the planet’s energy. We can join together there to mark the Solstice, just as our ancestors gathered thousands of years ago .
Pilgrims gather to greet the sunrise at Stonehenge
Among some of the wonderful and powerful places of pilgrimage in England there are the stone circles of Avebury and the mysterious Silbury Hill, both in the English county of Wiltshire.
Despite the road that bisects this powerful and beautiful ancient site, the power is tangible to those who seek it! Nearby Silbury Hill is the tallest prehistoric human-made mound in Europe, and one of the largest in the world. It’s size is similar to some of the smaller Egyptian pyramids at Giza. This particular area is also world famous for the amazing crop circles that appear here every Summer
The powerful and ancient Glastonbury Tor lies in the spiritual heartland of the British Isles. Glastonbury, in the county of Somerset. Also known as The Isle of Avalon to many……..
It’s one of the most important spiritual and energetic sites in the world. Legends have grown up around The Tor- such as it being the resting place of The Holy Grail, it’s associations with King Arthur and of being the portal to another dimension. It’s claimed as the home of Gwynn Ap Nudd, who rules the Otherworld of The Fair Folk and who leads The Wild Hunt…….
Wherever you choose to spend the Summer Solstice- even if it’s not possible to make a journey to a particular Sacred Site, do try to greet the rising of The Sun outside if you can. Feel the earth beneath your feet to ground yourself and connect to The Earth as you raise your arms to salute The Sun. Feel and enjoy it’s energy coursing right through you.
Remember, you are not just observing this. You are a part of this.
Here are some ways you may wish to mark the Summer Solstice/Litha
In your home:
As mentioned, this day is the height of the Oak King’s power, you may wish to decorate your home or table with Oak Leave to represent him ( please only gather fallen ones- don’t pick them from the living trees!)
You can also light golden and yellow candles around your home or table too . Obviously, don’t leave any candles burning if you do leave the house!
Any candles you light before dawn can be extinguished and re lit later if you’re going out to experience the sunrise
I also like to burn the ‘warmer’ essential oils to fragrance my home on this day. Orange, bergamot and benzoin help you to bring the feeling of ‘sun energy’ into your house. You can also burn the more ‘protective’ rosemary or frankincense and ask the Universe to give this protection to you and your home.
You can ‘charge’ water by pouring some into bowls or clear bottles and placing them outside at sunrise to receive and hold The Sun’s energy at this point on the Summer Solstice. I like to leave the water out until midnight of the same day, if possible. The charged water can be used to cleanse and energise yourself- as drops added to baths and in drinks or put into a spray to cleanse your energetic aura or space. You can also use it to cleanse and charge all your crystals or sacred objects
A Summer Solstice Ritual For You
As this is is a festival of Sun and Fire, I like to work with the fire at Litha to ‘let go’.
I take small pieces of paper and write down on them anything that I feel is no longer needed. These can be things like life lessons I’ve done with or things that have now run their course in my life. All these are to be consigned to the flames at dawn in order to let them go…..
Some of you may be at places where there are larger communal fires, some of you may be at home and have a fireplace, or you may only have a small bowl of flame or some golden candles. Whichever of these you have around you, please always be very careful and sensible with the flames at all times.
As you cast your pieces of paper into the fire, focus on the power of the Sun and of the transformation of the seasons. Be aware that as the Oak King’s power fades into the darker days toward The Winter Solstice and the growing power of the Holly King- so the things you have written down and offered to the flames will also fade from your life.
I wish you a truly magical Summer Solstice and Lovely Litha!