The Summer Solstice in Modern Paganism

There is a story that one day when they were both in their nudist (i.e. nudist) retreat, Gerald Garner (founder of Wicca) and Ross Nichols (the bard) , founders of Ovum and Druid) are discussing that their holiday should be celebrated. Gardner thought he was rebuilding a natural religion, and he wanted to celebrate the four solstices and the vernal equinox. Nichols, a druid who would go on to build his own druid order, wanted to celebrate the four Celtic fire festivals. In the end, they decided to do both, and the modern Pagan Wheel of the Year was born.

The story may be more made up than history, but it is certainly true in a mythological sense. The fire festivals of Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain are confirmed in pre-Christian Celtic legends – they have been celebrated for two thousand years. The solstices and equinoxes are natural phenomena – they have been around for as long as the earth revolves around the sun, and the winter solstice may be the oldest holy day for mankind.But putting all eight together into the wheel of the year because we know it’s the mid-20sth century invention.

Around the summer solstice, we don’t have many legends about ancient pagans. Most of the customs we know of date back to Christian times, although some from the Baltic region certainly look pagan. We don’t even have many names.

It’s ok. The authenticity of religion does not come entirely from what people did centuries ago. It comes from building and maintaining relationships with nature, our God, and each other in ways that are meaningful and helpful to us here and now. Our lack of understanding of how our ancestors celebrated the summer solstice — or even if they celebrated it — simply means we have more freedom to celebrate it in a way that suits us.

So as we approach the summer solstice (which could happen between June 20th and June 22nd – 2022 is Tuesday June 21st at 4:13am CDT), let’s see how modern pagans celebrate this holy some ways of the day.

Salute to the sun in its prime

If we celebrate the death and rebirth of the sun on the winter solstice, then we should also celebrate when the sun is at its strongest: the summer solstice.

Solstice is when the sun first rises and last sets (due to the way we define “sunrise” and “sunset”, the actual times can vary by a few minutes). It is the northernmost point where the sun rises on the eastern horizon and sets on the western horizon. This is the highest in the sky at noon.

This is more extreme at high latitudes. In North Texas, the summer solstice has 14 hours and 21 minutes of daylight. In Seattle it’s 16 hours. In Stockholm it is 18 hours and 37 minutes. In Barrow, Alaska, the sun rises on May 11 and does not set again until August 2.

Without the warmth and light of the sun, there would be no life on earth. We get so much from the sun – the least we can do is thank the sun.

Mark the longest day

Note that I said “marking” the longest day, not “celebrating” it. If I have Reverse SAD or I just prefer dark and cool days, I don’t. All I know is that by mid-May I started noticing very long days. Now my alarm clock is unnecessary because the birds wake me up an hour before sunrise…that’s about 45 minutes before I have to get up.

The worst of the Texas summer is yet to come. Our hottest months are July and August. But once we get past the summer solstice, I know the days are getting shorter, and while the blast furnace heat is coming, it won’t last forever.

worship the sun god

Or the sun goddess. Most of us think of the sun as masculine and the moon as feminine, but some cultures think it’s the other way around.

For me, when I hear “the sun god”, I think of Ra in Egypt. Denton CUUPS held Egyptian temple ceremonies on the summer solstice every year for 15 years, many of which were dedicated in whole or in part to Ra. We’ll be doing something different this year, but again in July we’ll be paying homage to the Egyptian gods.

The 2009 Denton CUUPS Egyptian Summer Solstice Ceremony was held at White Rock Lake Park, the largest park in the city of Dallas

celebrate a quiet pause

If we know very little about how the summer solstice was celebrated in ancient times, maybe it’s because not much happened. The height of the sun does not have the spiritual and emotional connection that solar rebirth has. From an agricultural standpoint, not a lot is happening either. Planting is completed in spring and harvesting begins in late summer. Weeding, watering and preventing seedlings from being eaten by insects, birds and other animals is an eternal job. But midsummer is a relatively slow time.

It’s also a quiet pause for those in education, both as students and teachers. I remember when I was a kid, about three weeks later, I went from the excitement of school to the boredom of doing nothing. I won’t go back to that place again.

But especially in a country where most people have vacations of two weeks or less, we might as well stop and take a break.

Because it won’t be long before we have to go back to work.

Things have reversed in the southern hemisphere

In the southern hemisphere, the opposite is true. They are getting ready to celebrate the winter solstice and enter the coldest part of the year. But nearly 90% of the world’s population lives in the northern hemisphere, so we tend to think our way is the “right” way — even if it’s just the most populous way.

Summer Solstice Resources

Summer Solstice – A Solitary Ritual

8 Things To Do On The Summer Solstice As A Lonely Pagan

7 Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice by Jason Mankey

Sunrise and sunset times from TimeandDate.com


Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: