Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer Solstice

Today is the summer solstice, a/k/a Midsummer, Litha, St. John's Day, Alban Heflin, Alben Heruin, All-couples day, Feast of Epona, Feast of St. John the Baptist, Feill-Sheathain, Gathering Day, Johannistag, Sonnwend, Thing-Tide, Vestalia, etc.

The Summer Solstice occus on the longest day of the year and the beginning of summer. It is also referred to as Midsummer because it is roughly the middle of the growing season in Europe. People around the world have observed celebrations during the month of June (or in December in the southern hemisphere), most of which are holy days linked in some way to the summer solstice.

"Solstice" is derived from two Latin words: "sol" meaning sun, and "sistere," to cause to stand still. This is because, as the summer solstice approaches, the noonday sun rises higher and higher in the sky on each successive day. On the day of the solstice, it rises an imperceptible amount, compared to the day before. In this sense, it "stands still."

Many ancient celebrations related to the feminine, fertility, prosperity and abundance. They honored Mother Earth and other goddesses representing the divine feminine. The Celtic Druids celebrated the apex of light, midway between the spring and fall equinoxes.

After the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the feast day of St. John the Baptist was set as June 24 (the alleged date of his birth).

There are many ancient sacred sites where temples or other structures are built so that they are aligned with the solstices and equinoxes. The largest room of the ruins at Qumran (location of the Dead Sea Scrolls) appears to be a sun temple with two altars at its eastern end. Stonehenge's main axis is aligned on the midsummer sunrise. Machu Picchu's Sacred Plaza, Temple of Three Windows and Intihuatana platform align with the summer solstice. Many medieval Catholic churches were built with solar observatories, typically a small hole in the roof admitting a beam of sunlight which would trace a path along the floor. The path, called the meridian line, was often marked by inlays and zodiacal motifs.

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