Guest Speaker

Summer Solstice Around The World

The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times.

First of all some facts :Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).The summer solstice occurs when the tilt of a planet's semi-axis, in either the northern or the southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward the star (sun) that it orbits. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the summer solstice occurs sometime between December 20 and December 23 each year in the southern hemisphere[and between June 20 and June 22 in the northern hemisphere. The term is colloquially used like midsummer to refer to the day on which solstice occurs. The summer solstice day has the longest period of daylight – except in the Polar Regions, where daylight is continuous, from a few days to six months around the summer solstice.

The celebration of Midsummer's Eve (St. John's Eve among Christians) was from ancient times a festival of the summer solstice. Some people believed that golden-flowered mid-summer plants, especially Calendula, and St. John's Wort, had miraculous healing powers and they therefore picked them on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southward again. In later years, witches were also thought to be on their way to meetings with other powerful beings.

Because Midsummer was thought to be one of the times of the year when magic was strongest, it was considered a good night to perform rituals to look into the future. Traditionally, young people pick bouquets of seven or nine different flowers and put them under their pillow in the hope of dreaming about their future spouse. In the past it was believed that herbs picked at Midsummer were highly potent, and water from springs could bring good health. Greenery placed over houses and barns were supposed to bring good fortune and health to people and livestock.

From a psychic perspective energies and perceptions will reach a peak on this years solstice, the 21st June.   The waves of vibration that will come into play on the Summer Solstice will bring about significant change. They are the dawning of a new cycle, especially where emotional issues are concerned. By affirming your desire to ride the waves of change, you will open your unconscious to new possibilities and potential. As the Solstice approaches, it is a good idea to work such an affirmation into your meditations. You can consider aspects of yourself and your situation in life that may have become stale or stagnant and communicate the idea to your spiritual self that the time is ripe for these things to alter. As the energies from the Solstice come to bear the message you are embedding in your subconscious will gain in strength and potency, readying you for any changes that are to come. While this may sound as though you are preparing yourself to become like a leaf in a breeze, in reality you are preparing to wash away old habits and rituals that might be hampering you.

Many with psychic abilities find that they experience more lucid dreams that are fraught with symbolism. To help your abilities find balance once the Solstice has reached its zenith, it is worth keeping a dream diary in the days before. Make a note of the feelings and symbols that are most prevalent in your dreams. These symbols are your subconscious communicating the areas of your psyche that need attention. By analyzing your dreams during this time, you will find you are able to harness a greater depth to your natural abilities in the time after the Solstice has passed.

In the Great Britain from the 13th century, Midsummer was celebrated on Midsummer Eve (St. John's Eve, June 23) and St. Peter's Eve (June 28) with the lighting of bonfires, feasting and merrymaking. In late 15th-century England, John Mirk of Lilleshall Abbey, Shropshire, gives the following description: "At first, men and women came to church with candles and other lights and prayed all night long. In the process of time, however, men left such devotion and used songs and dances and fell into lechery and gluttony turning the good, holy devotion into sin." The church fathers decided to put a stop to these practices and ordained that people should fast on the evening before, and thus turned waking into fasting.  However these days celebrations have resumed with the English Heritage  running a "Managed Open Access" to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice celebrations.

However  In Sweden, Finland, Latvia and Estonia, Midsummer's Eve is the greatest festival of the year, comparable only with Walpurgis Night, Christmas Eve, and New Year's Eve. So what does happen around the world and do we here in the UK, not make the most of it?

In Austria the midsummer solstice is celebrated each year with a spectacular procession of ships down the Danube River as it flows through the wine-growing Wachau Valley just north of Vienna. Up to 30 ships sail down the river in line as fireworks erupt from the banks and hill tops while bonfires blaze and the vineyards are lit up.

While the World Cup festivities go on, Portuguese St. John's Day, brought to Brazil during colonial times, has become a popular event that is celebrated during a period that starts one week before St. Anthony's Day (June 12) and ends after St. Peter's Day (June 29). This nationwide festival, called "Festa Junina" (June Festival), or São João, takes place during midwinter in most of the country. Rural life is celebrated through typical clothing, food, and dance (particularly square dancing, or quadrilha). The quadrilha features couple formations around a mock wedding whose bride and groom are the central attraction of the dancing.

In Denmark, the solstitial celebration is called sankthans or sankthansaften ("St. John's Eve"). It was an official holiday until 1770, and in accordance with the Danish tradition of celebrating a holiday on the evening before the actual day, it takes place on the evening of 23 June. It is the day where the medieval wise men and women (the doctors of that time) would gather special herbs that they needed for the rest of the year to cure people. It has been celebrated since the times of the Vikings[citation needed] by visiting healing water wells and making a large bonfire to ward away evil spirits. Today the water well tradition is gone. Bonfires on the beach, speeches, picnics and songs are traditional, although bonfires are built in many other places where beaches may not be close by (i.e. on the shores of lakes and other waterways, parks, etc.) In the 1920s a tradition of putting a witch made of straw and cloth (probably made by the elder women of the family on the bonfire emerged as a remembranceof the church's witch burnings from 1540 to 1693. This burning sends the "witch" away to Bloksbjerg, the Brockenmountain in the Harz region of Germany where the great witch gathering was thought to be held on this day. Some Danes regard the relatively new symbolic witch burning as inappropriate.

In folk magic, in Finland,  midsummer was a very potent night and the time for many small rituals, mostly for young maidens seeking suitors and fertility. Will-o'-the-wisps were believed to appear at midsummer night, particularly to finders of the mythical "fern in bloom" and possessors of the "fern seed", marking a treasure. In the old days, maidens would use special charms and bend over a well, naked, in order to see their future husband’s reflection. In another tradition that continues still today, an unmarried woman collects seven different flowers and places them under her pillow to dream of her future husband.

In Latvia, Midsummer is called Jani (Janis being Latvian for John) or Ligo svetki (svetki = festival). It is a national holiday celebrated on a large scale by almost everyone in Latvia and by people of Latvian origin abroad. Celebrations consist of a lot of traditional and mostly pagan elements - eating Jani cheese (special recipe with caraway seeds), drinking beer, baking piragi, singing hundreds of Latvian folk songs dedicated to Jani, burning bonfires to keep light all through the night and jumping over it, wearing wreaths of flowers (for women) and oak leaves (for men) together with modern commercial products and ideas. There are tens and hundreds of different beliefs and traditions all over Latvia on what should be done on that day for good harvest, for predicting the future, for attracting your future spouse.

Ivan Kupala Day is the day of summer solstice celebrated in Ukraine and Russia on June 23 NS and July 6 OS. This is a pagan fertility rite, which has been accepted into the Orthodox Christian calendar. Many rites of this holiday are connected with water, fertility and autopurification. The girls, for example, would float their flower garlands on the water of rivers and tell their fortunes from their movement. Lads and girls would jump over the flames of bonfires. Nude bathing is likewise practiced.

In modern Sweden, Midsummer's Eve and Midsummer's Day (Midsommarafton and Midsommardagen) were formerly celebrated on 23 June and 24 June, but since 1953 the celebration has been moved to the Friday and Saturday between 19 June and 26 June with the main celebrations taking place on Friday. It is one of the most important holidays of the year in Sweden, and probably the most uniquely Swedish in the way it is celebrated. When Sweden got its National day (6 June), discussions were held about making Midsummer the Swedish national day because of the strong civil celebration on this day.  Raising and dancing around a maypole (majstang or midsommarstang) is an activity that attracts families and many others. Before the maypole is raised, greens and flowers are collected and used to cover the entire pole. People dancing around the pole listen to traditional music and sing songs such as Sma grodorna associated with the holiday. Some wear traditional folk costumes or crowns made of wild springs and wildflowers on their heads. The year's first potatoes, soused herring andpickled herring, chives, sour cream, beer, snaps and the first strawberries of the season are on the menu. Drinking songs (snapsvisor) are also important at this feast, and many drink heavily.

So make sure you have your flowers under your pillow and a jar of pickled herring ready for Friday!

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