Friday, June 20, 2008
The Longest Day…
“As the sun spirals its longest dance,
As Nature shows bounty and fertility,
Let all things live with loving intent
And fulfill their truest destiny” - Wiccan blessing for Summer
The Summer Solstice arrives today here in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun has reached it apex and the earth is at her height of growth.
The year also reaches midpoint…where have the days gone?
Here in the hills, the celebrated sun is playing hide and seek behind opaque clouds that drift in and lower the temperature to a Fall-like 68 degrees. The brightness comes from whistling goldfinches and sweetly scented lemon lilies, until the sun’s rays finally break through and we all let out a collective sigh of appreciation.
Peoples around the world have observed this potent day for millennia. Native Americans created many astrological sites across the Americas to chart the path of the sun and mark this ceremonial day. Many of us think of the stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury and the Solstice ceremonies still observed there today.
One of the most enduring ties with these ancient rites was the Druid’s celebration of the day as the “wedding of Heaven and Earth”. This is possibly responsible for our modern notion of “lucky” June weddings. Another interesting notion that was carried over, involves the fermented honey “mead” that was imbibed to celebrate wedding ceremonies during the solstice. Because of the height of the bees’ honey production in June (that produced this euphoric drink) the Full moon of June was known as the Honey Moon… Starting to sound familiar?
Bonfires and dancing and leaping through the flames with one’s beloved were common across Europe on this night, the night also made famous by Shakespeare in his enchanting Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the East the ancient Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Goddess of Light. So many stories and rituals take place on this day, many are shared in the classic work by Sir James Fraser called The Golden Bough. It was a pioneering study of magic and religion, folklore and folkways by this distinguished Scottish anthropologist of the late 19th C. I highly recommend skimming it for a fun summer read. For interesting information and great illustrations of early cosmological sites around the world check out Early Man and the Cosmos by Evan Hadingham.
However you decide to celebrate this extended day and enchanted evening, may it surpass your expectations!