The magic of June really does shine through in this wonderful month and it has been particularly amazing with all the hot weather we have been having.
Midsummer’s day, and night, has always been a special time in the Northern Hemisphere and last week we had this year’s longest day, and shortest night, on the 21st of June. While this is an astronomical phenomenon, for centuries it has been marked as a day of prayer and celebration, in culture, history and literature as a special day.
The word Solstice comes from the Latin for “Sun stands still”. Many cultures, like the Mayans and Aztecs, built monuments that would welcome the sun’s first beam on them on the Summer and Winter Solstices. Stonehenge is also one such place, closer to home.
The life giving sun was celebrated on this day in Greece, when it signalled the start of the New Year and the month-long countdown to the Olympic Games. It was also the only day when slaves were free to join the festivities and celebrations as free folk.
The Romans, Native Americans, Chinese and all other old cultures celebrated in some way on this day. The day also became integrated into the calendars of formal religions, once they took over the ancient traditions. After all, we still celebrate the fertility of spring with the Easter Bunny.
For the druids however Midsummer’s was a day, and night, that was unparalleled. Crowds of people still gather together at sites like Stonehenge or in their own gardens with a few friends to celebrate one of the most joyful days of the year. Plants picked on this day or night are supposed to have magical properties. If you choose, you could see the wee folk tonight, and it is easy to see why Shakespeare set his fairy comedy on Midsummer night’s evening.
Thus we come to the celebration of the summer season’s triumph and waning in literature. The Interesting Literature website has a page devoted to 10 summer poems everyone should read. These cover the warming glow of summer, to the passing of it like grief, to the suspicion always of a storm lurking in the gentle breeze, as good things never last. There are pages and pages of summer and Summer Solstice quotes online.
Summer is always the time of heat and passion in literature. In The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan talks about always waiting for (and then missing) the longest day of the year. This is such a profoundly sad statement, as it talks about a single day that we wait for all year, and then it is gone in a blink. She could be talking about youth, love, passion, heat – all things that we long for and then if we are aren’t paying attention, they are gone before we know it. Think of Grease and “Summer lovin’ happened so fast…”.
But summer is also personal, as can be the Summer Solstice. The days of June, July and August are filled with memories of British seaside holidays and picnics, none as real as the ones read about in Enid Blyton’s books as a child. It is tanning on the beaches of a hot, exotic holiday destination, buying bright coloured cotton dresses one can hardly wear in the grey light and sharp breezes of the UK.
It is also starting over, spiritually, or getting a boost for all the things that need doing, energetically. The life-giving Sun is the reason we all exist on this planet, the only rock we know in the universe (so far) teeming and bursting with flora and fauna and humans. It is the time to let go of the past and look to the future, and harvest now seeds of what we planted in the spring.
This Thursday we also have the full moon coming which is in Capricorn and will bring great changes so do a ritual, write in your journal, forgive someone or yourself, celebrate with your friends, throw a backyard barbeque with bottles of ripe red wine bursting with flavour. The summer is here, will be here for a short while, and during that time, life is good. All things are possible now, even carousing with the Queen of the Fairies. Make some magic!