The Summer Solstice, known to many Druids by the Welsh name Alban Hefin marks the longest day of the year. It can fall any time between the 20th and 22nd of June and this year occurs on the 21st June at 4.31 am and the UK will bask (hopefully) in 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight. The sunrise will be at 4.52 am and it will set at 9.26 pm.
It is one of eight seasonal festivals that create the modern Pagan Wheel of the Year. Four of the eight festivals are linked to ‘things that grow’ here on Earth, and the other four, the Solstices and the Equinoxes, are linked to astronomical events. The Summer Solstice occurs when the Earth’s axis is most inclined towards the Sun and directly above the Tropic of Cancer. It is a moment in time, a moment that has been marked by Humans for thousands of years, so when we mark the Summer Solstice in our modern practice we are literally standing within the same spiritual stream of consciousness as our ancestors when they too observed the Summer Solstice.
Some Pagans see this day as the moment when the Oak King is crowned. Born as the tiniest of light at the time of the Winter Solstice the Sun/Oak King has now grown in strength and power and shows his face at his Zenith. The Oaken Crown of the Waxing Year is placed upon his head. But at that exact same time the Holly King is born, he who grows during the Waning Year and is crowned with Holly at the Winter Solstice, and thus the Wheel turns. This is an exchange of Light, not heat, as the weather will continue to get hotter, but the light and the length of the day becomes shorter, signifying that the Holly King is taking control.
To me, there are two obvious natural significators of the arrival of the Summer Solstice here in southern England. The Elderflower covers the Elder trees and a walk in the woods can be a sensual overload of scent. And the corn stands green in the fields. Green corn (not maize) tells me the Summer Solstice is here, and the Wolf in the Corn, the Corn Ghost, well you can see the Spirits of the Corn so clearly at his time of year. Some would say it’s just the shapes made by the breeze, but the Magician sees the Ghosts and Spirits of the Fields moving among the grain, lazily walking through the green corn, under the Summer Solstice Sun.
So how can you celebrate the Summer Solstice?
There is a simple way that anyone can tune in and become one with that moment, and that is to get up early, or maybe even hold a vigil throughout the night, and watch the sunrise. Thousands of people usually go every year to see this from Stonehenge. If you like crowds that might be your thing (although I don’t think the Stones will be open this year) but I like peace. So I find a local hill that is open to the direction of the sunrise and get there with plenty of time before the actual sunrise itself – the slowly emerging dawn begins long before the Sun shows his face over the horizon, with a myriad of dazzling colours. Just be still. Tune into your body, your senses. Listen to the birdsong, the movement of leaves, open your senses. Look to the horizon and sense the Sun just below. See the slowly changing colours of the sky, the clouds. You might have something you would like to be blessed by the Sun on this morning. If so, raise it to the sky as the Sun rises. Or you might have something else you would like blessed – a new project or life direction, a relationship, something that is important to you that you can mark at the moment of the Solstice itself. Now is a wonderful time to acknowledge it – blessed by the Sun at his Zenith.
The beginning of astronomical Summer, and I’m so happy it is nearly here. However you celebrate the Summer Solstice may the power of our Star bring you wonder and peace.