By trade, I am a cake decorator for a big box store. This job really calls to me for it invokes celebrations of life, death, and everything in between. I get to share in all of the hallmarks in someone's year and every milestone of their lives. It's a spiritual experience for me turning confections into a work of art. I live in a world of modern conveniences, so watching the change in colors and designs of the buttercream keeps me in-tune with the changing of the seasons. It's a wonderful simplistic way to celebrate being a kitchen witch and the wheel of the year.
We have two periods in the bakery where we are the busiest; one we call "Grad Season" and the other is Christmas. Grad Season is 3 months of hell where we are bombarded with a myriad cakes for baptisms, weddings, birthdays, graduations, and family reunions starting in May until August. Many orders overflow from the cooler every weekend in the summer. I don't think its a coincidence that this aligns with the only two major solstices of the year.
The entomology of the word solstice comes from Latin "sol" meaning the sun, and "sistere" which means make stand still. There is only one minute where there is a true solstice where the sun stands still, which vary based on geographic location. Traditionally the Summer Solstice marks the longest day of the year and the shortness night, which means optimal sunlight. In the northern hemisphere it usually falls on June 20th approximately, give or take a few days. The Winter Solstice is the exact opposite as a time for maximum darkness and find us around December 20th.
Our ancestors were at the mercy of the sun and the harvest. Most of their lives were centered around cultivation of agriculture to survive, where as today we are not bound to seasonal food and run no risk of starvation if a crop were to fail. Most people are ignorant to how and why they celebrate the seasons because it's disguised by commerce. Does the length of a day even matter any more with the advent of electricity? How do we connect ourselves to our ancestors and honor a time before modern convenience? Why the f*ck should we?
I am firm believer that we must look into the past to appreciate our future. Our natural biorhythms still feel the cycles of nature and our shifting moods are an expression of the seasons. It's no wonder that summer is a time of outdoors, action, exploration, and celebration. The sun is empowering us and invigorates that movement. The Summer Solstice is so basic and universal that it doesn't need be highly ceremonial. I'd like to examine how the ancients celebrated it so I share a modern perspective of how to honor this holiday.
All cultures celebrate the day where the sun is at it's zenith and the night is at its shortest. It marks the transition into the dark side of the year. The Midsummer is always marked by solar fire festivals to celebrate all the crops being planted and fruits of an early harvest. It's a time for fertility, abundance, prosperity, success, and good fortune. One day is offered in rest from farming to celebrate the little things. Mother Goddesses are honored, along with their relationship to Father's Gods who impregnated them and the land. It's a perfect time for marriage to honor their union and celebrate Father's Day. This is also hallmarked by the need for rain, life-giving and healing to ensure the crops would grow.
Ancient Greece: Prometheia is a multiple day fire celebration to Prometheus the "Fire-Bringer." He stole the sacred fire and gifted it to human beings. Plays, reenactments, and activities are held at the foot of Mount Olympus. Also, Greeks honored Cronus, the god of Agriculture, at celebration called Kornia. The first new moon at the Summer Solstice almost marked the new year in the Greek calendar.
Romans: June is named for the Goddess of Marriage, Juno. Also the women who married, honored the Goddess of Hearth Fires, Vesta.
Chinese: The Yin, or cosmic female energy, is honored at this time for fertility and renewal. Offerings were set a flame so the smoke could carry the messages to heaven.
The Saxons & The Norse: Midsummer gets it's name Litha from the Saxons, but gain popularity when Tolkien wrote "Lord of the Rings". We also see veneration of the God Thor from the Norse people, because the need for rain was so essential. To celebrate the Sun's ascension into the sky, bonfires were held.
Christians: This time was allocated for the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist, lighting fires on hilltops to honor his birth. It's also known as Saint John's Eve. Followers commonly visited local streams and rivers followed by gathering family for celebrations.
Vikings: They met to settle disputes and legal matters, went fishing, and participated in foreign trade. This time was also marked by pilgrimages to scared and healing waters. Of course, there was feasting and merriment.
Celts & Druids: These people saw the Solstice as the marriage of earth and heavens. Many marriages were performed in conjunction with gathering sacred herbs to use in the darker months. They also uses the sunlight to banish evil spirits and demons. Couples would also jump flames for good luck and healthy crops. It was also a time to commune with Fearies and leave offerings for good fortune.
Native Americans: The Hopi hold dances with masked dancers called Kachinas to represent spirits of fertility and to encourage rain. Many ceremonies were held to honor the sun and their connection to the ancestors.
In modern Paganism, we see the Triple Goddess being honored in her motherly form. The Sacred God is at his peak of his virility. He sacrificed his body to fertilize the crops, only to be reborn again in the Fall. This is an act of love for his Goddess, his wife, and the Land. There is a wonderful list of these Gods and Goddess of fire, thunder, healing, water, love, mothers, and pregnancy to research at this time.
There is enough blogs that can detail herbs, recipes, crafts, and crystals to use as reference. I feel a lot of the information tends to only present for idealistic conditions that be hard on modern witches, especially if your not into all that pomp and circumstance. Instead, I would like to offer you my list of simple and inexpensive ways to observe the Summer Solstice based on these traditions.
Go the F*ck Outside: Even I am guilty of spending too much time indoors. It won't kill you to simply walk out your front door for 5 minutes and enjoying your morning coffee in the sunlight. It will have an amazing effect on your physical and emotional well being. As humans, our skin NEEDS a little vitamin D and it boosts serotonin levels in the brain. Close your eyes, turn your face toward the sunlight, and bask in a moment of appreciation for it's wonderful properties of healing.
Get Your Feet Wet: Summer is inherently linked to beaches, boating, pools and swimming. Take a bath or dip your toes in a local creek or stream. Many people sought out sacred waters on this day so it's very easy for you to do the same. Outdoor sources of fresh water are known to build your immune system, therefore giving you strength for your everyday life. My therapist also gave me a coping mechanism to elicit a dive response by holding your breath in a bowl full of ice water. It triggers the brain to slow the heart rate and reduces blood pressure. In addition many beauty bloggers can attest to the benefits for the clearer skin.
Feed Your Candle Addiction: It's not always practical to light a huge bonfire, but many witches keep candles around. Try some bright yellow, orange, red, or gold candles to invoke the colors of the sun. Lavender scented is a great choice too because it was burned by the ancients as offerings to the gods in exchange for peace and healing. Rose was preferred by those trying to get lucky in love by honoring Venus and Aphrodite for their marriages.
Get Creative: Take this time to be inspired. Many witches have souls of an artist and it's time to practice your craft. Paint, Write, Create. The Solstice should motivate you into action. Work with whatever medium moves you, even if it's home improvement. God's Eyes are a wonderful craft to do with the kids because you are using bright colors and equal armed cross, like the ancient Hindu symbol of the sun and inspiration. Don't complicate it. One solstice I was invited to a sun catcher party where we shrank some dinks (made Shrinkie Dinks)!
Eat some Rabbit Food: Make yourself a healthy salad or a fresh cup of tea. Enjoy local seasonal fruits and veggies. Salsas are delicious fresh snack or make some homemade Sangria to get your drink on. Ancients loved to celebrate with wine. Have fun with all the wonderful fresh options that the sun has given us.
Pump Up the Jam: Now is a great time to turn up your radio and dance like no one is watching. We all have our favorite playlist and we can enjoy those tunes with our significant others and our children. Dogs and Cats love to dance and move with their pet parents as well! I plan on playing Just Dance on my Nintendo Switch.
Read a F*cking Book: We need light to read and now is a great time to learn something new or indulge your passions in a different way. Read about all the Gods and Goddess honored at the solstice or just finish the novel that's been on your nightstand for last 6 months. Quit making excuses. You have a longer day so make it count. Finish something you started.
Walk with Ghosts: Taking a page from Brandi's book, I think it's a wonderful tradition she has of decorating her brother's grave for all seasons. We are only reminded to pay our respects to the dead in fall months, but every holiday, sabbat, and solstice is an excuse to honor those that have passed on.
Pick Up Your D*mn Phone: That thing is constantly in your hand. Why not use it like a phone the way it was meant to be?! What better way to connect to your family and friends than actually CALLING THEM FOR A CHANGE. Let them know you love and honor your chance to speak with them. Ancestors are part your family and I am sure they aren't upset when you connect with your living relatives in a meaningful way.
Meditate: It's free, all it costs is a little of your time. Any excuse to cultivate a mindfulness practice is a good one. The sun is extended for a long glorious day, and by extension, so should your mind. There are many correspondences to this holiday you can reflect on to manifest in your life such as: Abundance, Gratitude, Creativity, Growth, Cleansing, Healing, Inspiration, Self-Love, Self- Affirmations, Opportunity, Success, Warmth, and Personal Power.
"Midsummer: Rituals, Recipies, & Lore for Litha" by Llewellyn Publications
"What is the Summer Solstice?" by Emma Vanstone (https://www.science-sparks.com/what-is-the-summer-solstice/#:~:text=The%20summer%20solstice%20is%20the,(%20Northern%20or%20Southern%20Hemisphere%20)
"Summer Solstice in Ancient Greek & Modern Times" by Scarlet Magdalene (https://www.patheos.com/blogs/teaaddictedwitch/2018/06/summer-solstice-ancient-greek-modern/)
"The Diving Reflex" (https://www.breatheology.com/mammalian-dive-response/)
"Holistic Living: Summer Solstice Guided Mediation." by Jessica Renae (https://www.peacefuldumpling.com/summer-solstice-guided-meditation)