Passing Time: Summer SolsticeGuest Post, · Categories: Passing Time Rituals Series
Welcome to the fourth article in our rituals series. I went with the modern pagan wheel of the year calendar because several of us are familiar with it and it evenly breaks up the twelve months into manageable chunks of time. There will a mix of spiritual and secular practices and observations for each holiday–I can’t promise ahead of time if any will be weighted more one way or the other, but I’ll do my best to include something for everyone. I’ll post these the Wednesday before the holiday date. Thank you to the contributors! You are invaluable.
Happy Summer Solstice, Mankanites! Enjoy some seasonal tunes.
June 20th is the 2017 summer solstice, the longest day of the year. In astronomy terms, the summer solstice occurs when Earth’s rotational axis (i.e. the imaginary line through the center of the earth from North Pole to South Pole) points as directly toward the Sun as it can. In layman’s terms, the sun is at its highest point in the sky, and we get our longest day of the year.
This means that we lucky humans in the Northern Hemisphere get to bake in the sun for around fourteen to fifteen hours on the 20th, depending on where you live. If you’re a sun-worshiper type or are thirteen bearded dragons in a trench coat, this is great news. If you, like me, are seal-like and efficiently insulated by a layer of blubber better suited to an Arctic climate, summer sucks. I’m constantly uncomfortable in June and July. It’s hard to get in a celebratory mood when summer is your least favorite time of year and you’re pouring sweat like a melting Popsicle. And yet, I’m greeting the impending solstice with reverence.
Whenever I think about the grand principles that run our universe, I’m overcome with awe and a sense of cosmic gratitude–and the Sun is no exception. Because our planet is gently toasted by a miasma of incandescent plasma at just the right temperature, Earth was able to develop life, and continues to sustain it. During the summer solstice, we are being blessed with a healthy dollop of a major factor in our continued survival! That’s pretty damn cool, whether or not you’re happy with what humankind has done with the place.
The odds of microorganisms spawning on this planet in the first place, let alone evolving into sentient beings, are astronomical (pun intended). So far as we know, we’re the only dudes out here, in this unknowably vast universe of ours. Our existence is a miracle. No matter what happens, what personal crises we face or what fuckery is in our future, it is amazing that we’re here at all, in our green and living world. That’s worth celebrating, as the Earth takes its yearly bow to the Sun.
This solstice, I wish you all a lively sense of scientific curiosity, a dash of cosmic awe, and a nice cool pool or lake, plus a cold glass of something tasty. Say thanks to the Sun. Remember that it’s a motherfuckin’ miracle we’re here at all, and do your best by your fellow humans.
Summer has always been my favorite. I’m a chilly person (literally and often metaphorically) and I’ve always delighted in the long days. The extended twilight, the dark blue that lasts until 9:30 or later before succumbing to stars and darkness, always thrilled me and made me feel alive and joyous. But me being me, summer solstice triggers a sneaking ominous feeling as the back of mind says it’s all downhill from here and I psychologically prepare for the lengthening nights. That dread is especially present for me this year, as I struggle with feeling stuck and stagnant–unable to have soaked up the vibrancy and warmth I need to carry me into the cold months. If you’re in a similar place, perhaps this ritual will help you grasp some of this energy from our last and longest huzzah with Sol before March’s equinox tips us back towards her again.
Gather foods that mean summertime for you: cantaloupe, peaches, berries, lemonade (if you can’t make your own, store-bought is fine), perhaps these Summer Solstice cookies (thank you Doc Paradise for that link!). If possible, let the fruit sit out in the sun for at least an hour during the day to soak up the warm energy (whether you take that to be literal, metaphorical, or a combination is up to you). And hey, if your Foods of Summer are pizza and nachos with a cold beer, you do you. No judgement from this corner. If you’re able and of a mind to celebrate outdoors, consider having a cook-out. This ritual can be easily modified for a group, and backyard-grilled burgers are pretty universal in their summertime-ness.
Get one large candle and a few smaller ones in a summery color. Yellow’s the obvious choice, but if you hate yellow, go with whatever that makes you feel warm and energetic. Those working outdoors, get whatever you want for the small candles, but use a glass pillar/novena candle that stands a chance of staying lit outdoors or use an oil lamp (you’re probably burning citronella anyway, right?). If you’re the incense type, maybe get some honey incense (although I can’t recommend a brand since L’Occitane tragically discontinued theirs a few years ago).
Prepare your space however works for you–cast a circle, turn off your phone, lock your bedroom door, whatever allows you to mark the space as your own (as best as you can). If you’re working outside in a group, do what’s appropriate. Go all out with calling the quarters or, if you’re not witching it up, just start the coals in the grill (seriously, light the coals so y’all aren’t waiting until freakin’ dark to finally eat you know how this goes).
Light your candle/lamp and incense if you’ve got it. Appreciate the heat and warmth around you–from the candle, the warm air, the coziness of friends. If you want, hold your hands close to the flame and let the intense warmth flow into you (comfortably! don’t burn yourself). Investigate how the heat makes you feel–energized? comforted? Think about what qualities of summer (metaphysical or otherwise) you want to absorb through the remaining days of the season. Think specifically about how you might be able to carry these aspects with you, psychologically or spiritually. If this is a group ritual and you’re the sharing types, go around the circle and talk these out.
Take your smaller candles and, mediating on those desirable summer qualities, light your smaller candles one at a time. Let each burn just a few seconds before extinguishing. Keep these candles for the coming months. When things are particularly cold or hard, light one and let yourself recall the energy surrounding you when you first lit it in the warmth of the longest day.
Now that the srs bsns is over, it’s time to eat! Chow down on all those summer foods (aren’t you glad I told you to start the coals then?). Thoroughly enjoy them and allow yourself to over-indulge if you want. This is a seasonal time of plenty, after all.
When you’re done feasting, extinguish the large candle and, if necessary, any incense still burning. You can save the large candle to burn at the winter solstice, if you really want to go Too Witches. Close your circle/check your phone/tell people to help pick up the back yard (and make sure the fire’s out).