For my Celtic ancestors, the Summer Solstice was celebrated as Samhradh (MidSummer), as for them Summer began at Bealtaine around May 1st, and continued until the First Harvest of Lúnasa in early August. It was one of four solar festivals — two equinoxes and two solstices — which focused on the physical and spiritual realms of the Land, a sense of community and connection.
On this glorious day, they celebrated An Daghda (pronounced dag-dah), perhaps the most powerful god in the Tuatha dé Danann, Áine (aw-nyuh), the Celtic goddess of Summer, and —of course — Father Sun. The Mother Goddesses of many cultures, such as Gaia and Demeter, are also associated with this peak of Summer and Fire energy.
One summer, I celebrated a solitary Solstice at Spanish Banks Beach here in Vancouver. The day before, I dyed a piece of silk using turmeric and created what I hoped were sunburst patterns in the cloth, for using as an altar cloth. I took a jar of spring water and infused it with the sun’s rays throughout my afternoon with Father Sun. I brought some oracle cards, sacred objects and crystals. I created a makeshift altar in the sand, and gathered some stones infused with the liminal energy of the beach . . . where Sea meets Land and Sky.
That is now one of my Solstice traditions.
The traditions of Summer Solstice and MidSummer around the world can inspire each of us in different ways. And they can connect us to our roots, both spiritual and physical.
As I look back at these traditions, particularly in the lands of my birth (England) and heritage (Ireland), I can see that these traditions changed over time, from their earliest pagan roots to the syncretization with the influx of Christian theology (for instance, celebrating St John the Baptist at Summer Solstice and Christ at Winter Solstice). But even within those two major expressions of Solstice activity, traditions changed and grew in response to the changes within those cultures. New traditions were born. Everything was dynamic and a reflection of the changes in the society or culture around them.
How will you celebrate the Summer Solstice in a unique way that reflects your beliefs, your locale, your history, your environment and might also honour the Land, your community and your connections with all?