Summer Solstice

 

stonehege

The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year and the shortest night. During the Summer Solstice the energies of light briefly overcome the energies of darkness and the power of the Sun is at its full force.  It marks the beginning of Summer.  For centuries our planet’s movement around the Sun has been observed and celebrated.  Here we celebrate the completion of the cycle that began at the Winter Solstice.  The Summer Solstice is a doorway of the second half of the year, energizing the paths that lead within.

For some pagans this marks the marriage of the God and Goddess and their union as the force that creates the harvest fruits.  This is seen as a very joyous occasion  because by this time the ground had thawed out, warm temperatures had returned, flowers are blooming and the leaves have returned… signs of abundance can be seen everywhere.  Summer is seen as a time of rapid growth, fruitfulness, and abundant awareness.

But the Summer Solstice also holds a much greater spiritual significance.  The Sun has always been symbolic of the highest divinity.  The Summer Solstice represents our Spirit’s ascension to the Divine, the reunion of Self with the Divinity.  The light of the soul shines its brightest over the darkness of the shadow.sun inthe woods

This is the time of enlightment.  The Summer Solstice is an ideal time for you to let go of your ego and old patterns of suppression and focus on what you desire to bring into your life.  It is a portal opening of energy that overwhelms obstruction, blockages, and ego.  This is a time of strength, accomplishment, and achievement.

Before Christianity, Midsummer was thought to be one of the times in the year where magick was the strongest.  It is considered a good night to perform rituals that could change the future.  Midsummer is a supercharged time physically and emotionally, which makes it ideal for making resolutions to:  kickstart new habits, strengthen human relationships, and let go of negativity.  Now is the time to create daily habits that will be hardwired into lifestyle changes that will keep your spirits afloat as the days become shorter.

fire spellThis is a good time for all types of healing work, for setting intentions and resolutions, for doing affirmations or visualizations, for doing artistic work, for making love and connecting with your partner at a deeper, more spiritual level, and for connecting with the various “kind beings of the universe” — your spiritual helpers, power animals, higher power, and so on. The sun at this time is just moving into the Water sign of Cancer. Cancer is a very psychic, sweet, empathetic and sensitive sign, so you’ll feel these influences come in.  Some evocative and powerful words to think about or concepts to meditate on include: hope, transformation, transfiguration, release, ecstasy, and resolution.

Globally, a wide range of rituals for the Summer Solstice which focus on the themes of fulfillment, enlightment, abundance, sharing, and the joy of living on this beautiful Earth.  Ceremonies are also performed regarding community, career, relationships, Nature communion, and planetary wellness.  Most common Summer Solstice themes tend to revolve around warding off negative spirits, protection, marriage, and fertility.

handfastingAncient cultures around the world have celebrated the Summer Solstice by making bonfires, as Fire represents Summer, the Sun, and heat.  The Sun is the giver of life.  Thus, certain cultures have associated the Summer Solstice with fertility and is believed to be a good time to get married.  Celebrations of feasting, dancing, and singing were held.  Yellow and orange flowers are used in decorations and activities.  You can use the flowers to make a floral wreath, a sun wheel, or a mandala.  St. John’s Wort was often picked and thrown onto the fire.  People usually leapt through bonfires, considered to bring good luck.  The bonfires were also believed to ward off negative spirits.  Protection amulets were made and charged under the Sun on the Summer Solstice to charge and heighten its power.  People would gather to see the Sunrise.

Ironically, while summer is just hitting its stride, the Earth is already turning towards the dark season as the nights begin to lengthen and the days will shorten from this point on, until after the Winter Solstice.

So where as in May we celebrated and honored the mother energy, in June, we celebrate and honor the father energy.  This is seen as the Father Sky or the Yang symbol in the Chinese symbol.  It’s the Active force in life.  It’s characterized as hard, fast, focused, and aggressive.  This energy comes in handy when we need to push through things, shine light on the dark, transform heaviness into lightness.  It’s the go-getter attitude, filling us up with passion, enthusiasm, and motivation to move and do!

summer solstice centerpeice

 

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Beltane

may eve

Beltane is the last of the three Spring fertility festivals.  Most commonly it is held on April 30 but sometimes on May 01.  Beltane is a fire festival that represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. It celebrates fertility of the coming year.  Celtic festivals often tied in with the needs of the community. In spring time, at the beginning of the farming calendar, everybody would be hoping for a fruitful year for their families and fields.

Beltane and Samhain are the two greatest festivals of the solar year.  They both are celebrations of life and death… at Samhain emphasis on death and at Beltane the emphasis is on LIFE.  LOVE is in the Air!  Earth energies are at their strongest and most active. All of life is bursting with potent fertility and at this point in the Wheel of the Year, the potential becomes conception. On May Eve the sexuality of life and the earth is at its peak. Abundant fertility, on all levels, is the central theme. It is about sexuality and sensuality, passion, vitality and joy. And about conception. A brilliant moment in the Wheel of the Year to bring ideas, hopes and dreams into action. And have some fun…..Being a fertility festival sexual pleasures were common often occurring outside on the Land to bless fields, herds, and homes. May Bowl was the beverage of choice, a punch (wine or non-alcoholic) made of Sweet Woodruff blossoms.

maypoleThe Maypole is an important element to Beltane festivities, it is a tall pole decorated with long brightly colored ribbons, leaves, flowers and wreaths. Young maidens and lads each hold the end of a ribbon, and dance revolving around the base of the pole, interweaving the ribbons. The circle of dancers should begin, as far out from the pole as the length of ribbon allows, so the ribbons are pulled tight. There should be an even number of boys & girls. Boys should be facing clockwise and girls counterclockwise. They each move in the direction that they are facing, weaving with the next, around to braid the ribbons over-and-under around the pole. Those passing on the inside will have to duck, those passing on the outside raise their ribbons to slide over. As the dances revolve around the pole the ribbons will weave creating a pattern, it is said that the pattern will indicate the abundance of harvest year.

The Maypole dance is an important aspect of encouraging the return of fertility to the earth….it’s symbolism.  It’s not just an insinuation of  sex (the union of male and female which creates new life) but also is the connector of the three worlds. Dancing the Maypole during Beltane is magical experience as it is a conduit of energy, connecting all three worlds at a time when these gateways are more easily penetrable. As people happily dance around and around the pole holding the brightly colored ribbons, the energy it raises is sent down into the earth’s womb, bringing about Her full awakening and fruitfulness.

bonfire beltaneFire is still the most important element of most Beltane celebrations and there are many traditions associated with it. It is seen to have purifying qualities which cleanse and revitalize. People leap over the Beltane fire to bring good fortune, fertility (of mind, body and spirit) and happiness through the coming year.  Beltane rituals would often include courting: for example, young men and women collecting blossoms in the woods and lighting fires in the evening. These rituals would often lead to matches and marriages, either immediately in the coming summer or autumn.  Other festivities involved fire which was thought to cleanse, purify and increase fertility. Cattle were often passed between two fires and the properties of the flame and the smoke were seen to ensure the fertility of the herd.

The three days before and the three days after Beltane are super powerful times for healing work, psychic meditation, and setting intentions/affirmations into motion.  Beltane is a time of divination and communion with Fairy Folk/Nature Spirits.  Long ago the indigenous people saw how the energy that runs through the “ley lines” of the Earth (power points or meridians) gets stronger and more intense at the equinox and solstice and mini-equinox or mini-solstice times. The electromagnetic field of the Earth is intensified, creating a rich atmosphere for tapping into the energy part of your being. . .the spiritual side or psychic side. This aspect of you is more readily available during the three days leading into one of these times and for the three days afterwards.

The May waters were also seen to have magickal influence.  A common Beltane tradition included Rolling in May Eve dew or washing your face in pre-dawn May Day dew for health, luck, beauty.  Also, getting your head and hair wet in Beltane rain to bless the head.  A common practice was Blessing springs, ponds, other sacred waters with flowers, garlands, ribbons, and other offerings.  People would collect sacred waters and scry in sacred springs, wells, ponds, and other waters.

There would be gatherings and exchanges of Flowers and Greens on May Eve, pre-dawn May Day, Beltane.  People would decorate their homes, barns, and other buildings with Green budding branches, including Hawthorn. Yellow flowers such as primrose, rowan, hawthorn, gorse, hazel and marsh marigold were set at doorways and windows.  Making and wearing of garland wreaths of Flowers and/or Greens.  May Baskets were given or placed secretly on doorsteps to friends, shut-ins, lovers, others.  Oatmeal and dairy products was the food of choice during this time also used for offerings to nature spirits or faeries.

beltane32Beltane is a popular time for pagan weddings or Handfastings, a traditional betrothal for ‘a year and a day’ after which the couple would either choose to stay together or part without recrimination. Today, the length of commitment is a matter of choice for the couple, and can often be for life. Handfasting ceremonies are often unique to the couple, but include common elements, most importantly the exchange of vows and rings (or a token of their choice). The act of handfasting always involves tying the hands Handfasting (‘tying the knot’) of the two people involved, in a figure of eight, at some point in the ceremony and later unbinding. This is done with a red cord or ribbon. Tying the hands together symbolizes that the two people have come together and the untying means that they remain together of their own free will.

However, in addition to sexual fertility, Beltane is also about abundance, in many forms. Don’t just focus on material gains… it’s about the growth of the earth and its bounty, and it’s about increasing your own spiritual and emotional wealth.  Overall, it is a good time for celebration, play, creative activity, and real “magic.”