Friday, June 21, 2013

The Longest Day - Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Since the beginning of mankind people of many cultures regarded the Summer Solstice or the longest day of the year as a major celestial event. This is the day that marks the triumph of light over darkness.

Mesmerized by the great power of the sun, civilizations all over the world have for centuries celebrated the first day of summer otherwise known as the Summer Solstice, Midsummer, the Saint John's Night, or Litha. The Chinese honored the Goddess of Light Li. The Slavs and the Celts celebrated the longest day of the year with dances and bonfires

Saint John's Night celebration in Poland

In Poland the Saint John's Night is celebrated as a magical feast of purification and fertility. Celebrations are rooted in ancient pagan rituals that honored the mystery of water and fire. To this day people all over the country dance and sing around bonfires until midnight. They make wreaths out of wild flowers and herbs and let them float on water after attaching candles to them. Young lovers set out in search of the magical fern flower that only blooms once a year during the Summer Solstice. The flower is supposed to bring great fortune to those who find it.

In England hundreds of people from all over the world typically gather at Stonehenge, the ancient megalithic circle in Wiltshire, to see the sun rise. The Heel Stone and the Slaughter Stone, set outside the main circle, align with the rising sun giving an incredible spectacle of light that affects people in the same way as it did thousands of years ago when the stone circle was first erected there.  

By Dominique Allmon

Image credit here and here