Celebrating Summer Solstice

Tomorrow, according to the calendar, is June 21st, the first day of summer, the longest day and shortest night of the year. Known by many names – Litha, Midsummer, St. John’s Day – it has been celebrated through the ages, first as a communal agricultural rite to ensure a good harvest and as a fertility ritual. Bonfires are lighted, May poles are erected (pole = male, earth = female), mead made from fermented honey is drunk (hence “honeymoon” in June). Dancing, drinking, dreaming and lovemaking ensue.

Yesterday in Minnesota I wove a wreath of daisies for my hair and danced around the Maypole in a public park. I ate heart-shaped waffles doused with fresh strawberries and sweet cream. Families with picnic baskets sprawled on the grass.

Had I been living in Sweden, where Midsommer is a national holiday second only to Christmas, I might have  joined friends for pickled herring and new potatoes, washed down with schnapps and beer, then taken part in games and dancing.

In England thousands will gather at Stonehenge to watch the sun rise over the central axis of this megalithic stone circle. In Ireland neo-pagans may gather at New Grange, a megalithic grave mound constructed so as to receive the last rays of the setting sun on a stone at the back of the cairn – only on the summer solstice.

Midsummer. A time of magic? A time to head out for vacation? A time to renew your committment to preserving Mother Earth? You decide, but don’t let the day pass unmarked.



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