Time: Three days beginning from sunset around 20 June (20 December in the southern hemisphere)
Focus: Full potency, illumination, mysteries revealed; healing, the height of joy, fulfilment, the need to seize the moment.
The summer solstice has been celebrated in cultures as far apart as Russia and North America, where Sun dances were an assertion of power and courage and in a new form still bring healing to the nations and the Earth.
The height of the festival is the first light falling on the morning of the solstice, like a shaft of gold across standing stones and stone circles, linking the dimensions. Many circles throughout Europe and Scandinavia, such as Stonehenge in Wiltshire, are aligned to the summer solstice sunrise, as are a number of stone medicine wheels in America and Canada.
These places, built on centres of great power, have accumulated not only the power of the thousands of midsummer suns that have shone on this day since their creation, but the hopes and prayers of those who have and still gather at such places. These include priests, Druids, healers, warriors, monarchs and ordinary men and women who connect with fusion of Sky and Earth energies, the sacred and ceremonial marriage of god and goddess on this most magical of days.
There is a long-standing pagan tradition of lighting bonfires on beacon hills to strengthen the power of the Sun before it began its decline. On Midsummer Day, fire wheels were rolled down the hillsides, flaming tar barrels were swung on chains and blazing torches tossed in the air. In Sweden, they still hold a midsummer weekend with a midsummer tree, or pole, decorated with greenery and flowers forming the centrepiece of music and revels. There is feasting in towns as well as the countryside in what is a national event and thousands of people gather as they have for centuries at focal points such as the Island of Oland on the Stockholm archipelago.
St John's wort, the golden herb of midsummer and symbol of the summer solstice, was said to offer fertility and powers to attract love if picked at midnight on 23 June, the eve of St John's Day, or the eve of the actual solstice. Hopeful lovers would carry it or place it under a pillow.
The power of the summer solstice can be harnessed for tackling seemingly insoluble problems and bringing light and life and hope to those who are depressed or who have been unable through circumstances such as poverty to fulfil their potential. It can help to tackle global warming, famine and disease, and to prevent oppression of people and cruelty in intensive farming methods where livestock suffer for human greed.
On a personal level, summer solstice rituals are for courage, male potency and fertility, for achievement, success, confidence, health and happiness, for fulfilling potential and providing ever-expanding opportunities both physical, mental and spiritual. These spells are especially potent for maturing adults approaching middle age.
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