Midsummer is almost here! This Holy Day marks the longest day of the year, Summer Solstice. It’s a time for honoring the stable balance of Nature. A time for appreciating the sunlight at its strongest for all of the life force it has provided. And, a time for preparing ourselves for the steady decrease in daylight to follow.
We ourselves like to celebrate Midsummer out in Nature. We usually do so by going on a camping trip, preferably around a body of water. The significant balance between the elements of Water and Fire is especially honored during these warmer months. Too much or too little of either one can be harmful. So, we give thanks for Nature’s water cycle, as it allows us to fully enjoy and benefit from the strength of Father Sun at his fullest. Pictured above is us celebrating Midsummer during one of our past beach camping trips along the Gulf Coast.
Midsummer’s date lands around June 21st or 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere (December 21st or 22nd in the Southern Hemisphere) depending on the year. Litha is another name for Midsummer. A monk named Bede documented in De temporum ratione (“The Reckoning of Time”) during the 8th century the Anglo-Saxon names for the months. The word Litha comes from the name they associated with this time of year.
Midsummer Traditions Around the World
Midsummer has been celebrated by many cultures since ancient times. Ancient Greece held several festivals around Midsummer. These included the celebration called Kronia, which honored Cronus, the god of agriculture. In Kemet (Ancient Egypt), Midsummer aligned with the combined life-giving rise of the Nile River and Sun God, Ra. Conducted ceremonies in Ancient China honored the force of Yin on Midsummer. This was in balance with their Winter Solstice ceremonies honoring the force of Yang. Many Native American tribes also have centuries-old Midsummer traditions, such as colorful Sun Dances.
Ancient Romans honored the Goddess Juno and the Goddess Vesta during the time of Midsummer. Juno is the goddess of women and childbirth, who blesses women with the gift of menstruation. Her name is where the month of June originated from. She is also the patroness of marriage, which has made her month a continuingly popular time for weddings. Vesta is the goddess of the hearth. Midsummer marked the only time when married women were allowed to enter the temple of the Vestal Virgins to make offerings to Vesta for her blessings on their homes.
Many Ancient Northern and Central European Tribes (Including Germanic, Slavic and Celtic Pagans) celebrated Midsummer with bonfires. People throughout Europe still practice this tradition. Some European Midsummer traditions even include rolling large wheels on fire into a body of water. This symbolizes the balance between fire and water, and is meant to prevent drought. Nordic seafarers would also celebrate Midsummer with huge bonfires. Plus, they took advantage of the long days for hunting, holding meetings, and for traveling to healing water wells.
Much of the knowledge of the practices and traditions of many indigenous peoples has been destroyed throughout history by colonization. But some monuments have survived to show the importance of Midsummer to these cultures. Many of the Native Central and South American temples and structures align precisely with shadows cast by the sun on the solstices. Same can be said for various Native North American historical structures. The famous arrangement of stones, called the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, in Wyoming is one example. And of course, there are the many Neolithic and prehistoric stone structures throughout the UK, including the most widely known Stonehenge, that also align with the rising and setting of the sun on the solstices.
This Midsummer, may we truly see and feel the light. This light that warms us and recharges our own inner brightness. May we be able to appreciate the life it encourages around us. May we rejoice in the growth that came from the seeds we sowed in Spring, as our actions now mature to carry us towards the harvest to come. Be Blessed.