Monday, 21 June 2010

The Sun Stands Still

Stonehenge Summer Solstice Sunrise
- photograph by Simon and Vicki
used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 Generic licence

''Solstice'' is derived from two latin words: ''sol'' meaning sun, and ''sistere,'' to cause to stand still. As the summer solstice approaches, the noonday sun rises higher in the sky on each successive day. On the day of the solstice, it reaches its zenith, and it appears to have stood still.

People have for centuries celebrated the first day of summer: the Summer Solstice, Midsummer, St. John's Day, or the Wiccan Litha. Today, the day is still celebrated most notably in England at Stonehenge and Avebury, where thousands gather to welcome the sunrise on the Summer Solstice.

Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires, when dancers would leap through the flames, Aromatic herbs such as St. John's Wort were said to be burned on the fires.

Midsummer Eve was traditionaly a time for fairies to cross over from the Otherworld. Dancing around bonfires is said to attract them!

Making flower headdresses is an ancient tradition for this day, with wreathes of sacred plants and herbs hung on houses for good luck and prosperity.

When the Summer Solstice was incorporated into the Christian calendar, it became the feast day of 'St. John the Baptist'.

For druids the Summer Solstice was symbolic time of the wedding between Heaven and Earth. The Goddess as Earth Mother and God as Sun King. The Midsummer moon was called the "Honey Moon" for the mead made from fermented honey that was part of wedding ceremonies performed at the Summer Solstice. June is still a traditional time for couples to marry.

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