What is the Summer Solstice?
The Summer Solstice is an astronomical event in which one of Earth’s poles are the maximum tilt toward the sun. In the northern hemisphere this event takes place in June, in the Southern Hemisphere it takes place in December. The sun is at its zenith so to speak. Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year and the shortest night.
Summer Solstice derives from the latin word sol, meaning “Sun” and stitium, meaning “still” or “stopped. This will be the most amount of sunshine we receive and with it come warmer temperatures and longer days.
When is the Summer Solstice?
The actual dates of the Summer Solstice shift each year. Generally, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, it occurs between June 20th, 21st, or 22nd. This is dependent on the shift in our solar calendars.
For 2022, Summer Solstice will occur on Tuesday June 21st at 4:13am CST (northern hemisphere and Wednesday December 21st 3:48pm CST (southern hemisphere). For many the Summer Solstice also marks the first official day of Summer.
Symbolism and Folklore
Summer Solstice celebrations take place all over the world. It is kind of a time out of life, a brief break, which is aligned with the idea of summer being a “leisurely” time. Agriculturally speaking, this is the time when the planting has been done but it is not quite time to harvest just yet. It is a waiting period to see what the crops will do.
For many this is in an abundant and highly fertile time, nature seems to be at full peak and brimming with life. Animals are out and about, the days are longer, the temperatures rise. This is a time to celebrate the sun (and its deities), but is also a time to celebrate and honor the element of water. For farming communities back in ancient times, the crops were dependent on rain. With the summer’s rising temperatures, summer could bring intense heat that could destroy crops if the rains did not come. For this reason, many cultural practices include symbolism of both water and fire.
In Ancient Egypt, the Summer Solstice also coincided with the rise of the Nile River; it was a time to honor Ra (Amun-Ra), the sun god. In other countries, bonfires are traditionally lit at this time of year. It has also been said that it is one of the days when the laws of nature can suspend and the faery realm is near. We see this in Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is said that if you’re around a stone circle (and mushroom circles in general) this time of year, beware, for the Fae could claim you for their own, and there is no telling when you would be home.
This was also a popular time for weddings and handfastings in different parts of the world. Even today, June is still one of the most popular months for weddings. Couples in love or newlyweds would jump the open flames of a fire for luck and abundance in their relationship. Venus and Aphrodite have often been called on during this time of year.
Symbols for this time of year are bees, water, fire, circles, faeries, flowers, roses, spinning wheels, spirals, and of course, the Sun.
Betwixt and Between
The Summer Solstice also hails a dual energy. Scientifically speaking, on the day of the summer solstice, this day will have the most hours of daylight than any other day in the year. The sun is in its fullness and glory. After the solstice, although it is a slow process, the sun’s light begins to “wane” due to the tilt of the earth and the changing of the seasons. In Celtic mythology, we see this idea with the battle of the Oak King and the Holly King.
The story goes that the Oak King was guardian of the waxing half of the year (meaning the time when the light returns to the earth and the amount of daylight gets longer) and the Holly King was guardian of the waning half of the year (when the light gives way to longer hours of night). In one version of the story, the kings will battle twice a year, on winter solstice and summer solstice. During the battle of the Summer Solstice, the Oak King is at his pinnacle and fullness, but he is bested by the Holly King and must lay down his crown. On this day, the Holly King takes his place, but he is still in a weakened state. It is not until the Autumnal Equinox that his power is fully restored.
Indeed, in this sense, Summer Solstice is like the rare flower that only blooms once a year. We observe and celebrate its blossoming and beauty, but we also bid farewell simultaneously. We know that nothing lasts forever, yet there is a call to celebrate and appreciate the current season, the blessings we have, and how far we have come in our journey. At the same time, we are called to prepare ourselves for change, letting go and a restoration of balance. If the summer solstice had a phrase, it would say…”Be here now”. Be ever present and enjoy the moment.
Activities for the Summer Solstice
Summer solstice is great for outdoor activities. Here are a few:
Water the Garden
For those who have a small collection of plants or huge gardens, take some time to water the garden deeply. It is the longest day and it is a great way to honor both the sun and water…and your plants too.
If you are fortunate enough to have a fire pit outside in the backyard or live in a place where it is okay to make a bonfire, light a fire as the sun begins to descend. You can choose to offer herbs or bits of bread as offerings to the fire as offerings. Many people would often dance or sing around the fire. For those who dwell in the city, especially in apartments where there are rules about lighting fires, a candle will do. Take some time to light the candle and meditate. Give thanks for the sun, water, and the turning of the seasons. *Always practice fire safety*
Offerings for the Faeries
Remember, this is one of the times of year that the Fae are mischievous and playful, leave an offering for them so that you or loved ones won’t be swept away in their games. It is customary to leave a bit of bread and milk. You can also offer honey, sweet cakes, or fruit.
Have you got a special someone? That you want to be with forever? Before you go and tie the legal knot, consider a handfasting. This is a practice, very popular and ancient among the pagans, that was traditional on the Summer Solstice. Couples would handfast and live together as life partners for a year and a day. At the end of the year and a day (the following Summer Solstice), they could decide if they wanted to part ways (without all the legal hassle) or if they wanted to make their matrimony official in the eyes of the law. There are books and wonderful blogs written on the subject.
Suncatchers and Sun Art
Since this is a day that honors the sun and we have the most amount of sunlight, making suncatchers is a wonderful addition to the home in the summertime. If you have little ones, it is also a way to get them involved with the holiday and connecting to the sun.
Connect to the energy of the Summer Solstice with a crystal or two! Perfect to use in a summer themed ritual or mediation. Read about our top picks for Crystals for the Summer Solstice here>
Shop our Summer Solstice collection here for all your ritual goodies to celebrate the season of summer>>>