One of the festivals we know with certainty was celebrated back into pre-history, is the summer solstice. There are ancient sites that align with it, indicating that it was important to our ancestors. However, we don’t really know how they celebrated it. So, how can a modern pagan approach this festival?
You might choose to experience the short night, watching the sun down, and being present to see it rise, greeting the dawn of the longest day. I’ve done this a few times on hilltops, and was once blessed with a fabulous full moon setting as well. I’ve been rained on, and I’ve seen baby badgers. It’s my favourite way of honouring this time of year, when weather and energy levels permit. Watching the landscape emerge out of darkness as the sun comes up is truly magical.
Some people rise to greet the dawn. I’ve been at Stonehenge for dawn gatherings, watching mist across the Salisbury plain.
For others, the focal point of the day comes when the sun is at its highest – which makes a lot of sense really. My main reason not for celebrating this point in the day is that I am very prone to heatstroke and mostly hide!
I don’t know why drumming is so popular for the summer solstice. I suppose all the banging gets people’s hearts racing, but it doesn’t do it for me. I’d rather be able to hear the birds. A sunrise untroubled by people is a slow, quiet thing, and very impressive. I think we know it’ll come back even without us making a racket.
Drink to the sun with golden mead, celebrate with sunflower seeds, honour it with songs at midday, or quiet meditations as it sinks finally into the west. There’s no one right way. But be there. Know that it is happening, feel the changing sun tides as we tilt towards the darker half of the year. Take a moment to look at the sky (but not directly at the sun) to feel it on your skin, to know that your life depends upon it. Wherever you are, however you celebrate, know that across the globe, many other pagans are with you, honouring the solstice. We are part of something much bigger than ourselves.