- Midsummer, Midsummer’s Eve, Gathering Day, St. John’s Day, St. John’s Eve, Summer Solstice, Alban Hefin, Feill-Sheathain
- 20th – 22nd June (Northern Hemisphere)
- 20th – 23rd December (Southern Hemisphere)
- 0 degrees of Cancer
As with the other cross quarter days the mid summer celebration has more than one name by which it is known and all there are used almost interchangeably. Midsummer and Summer Solstice are relatively self explanatory, being a reference to the higheat point in the season and the name of solar station which occurs at this time.
Another name which is used in modern Pagan circles is “Litha”. The use of this word to describe this celebration is a relitivly modern innovation though the word itself is far older. As with Ostara the best examples of its use can be found in the writings of the historical Bede, with Litha being the old Saxon month roughly equivalent to June. As Saxon fell out of use as the language of the Isle’s the more traditional “Midsummer” took prominence as a description for this point in the season. Modern pagan calendrical systems place this celebration at the start of the summer season in actual experience it is truly the mid point of season and year.
Midsummer represents one of the four lesser celebrations and aligned with the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. It is the high point of season, when the sun is warmest and days long and even thought the dog days of summer lie ahead). The Sun is high and the crops are ripening in the field but even with all this abundance all around the wheel is slowly beginning its turn towards the (low point).
Summer Solstice is the time of the God’s greatest power, with the Sun at its zenith the masculine forces are at their peak and his presence cannot be denied. The Goddess is in her aspect of the Mother, filled with the promise of life which is echoed in nature as the ever ripening corn and garbed in the striking beauty of the summer gardens. Both God and Goddess are at the height of their power and there is is a ‘certain something’ in the air, the essence of power, and perhaps mischief, as captured by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Today, many Pagans celebrate the Summer Solstice by visiting ancient sites which have associations with the solar cycle, such as Stonehenge. The historicity of claims that these sites were constructed to include significant solar alignments to facilitate ritual worship is debatable, and indeed this is contrary to the most recent research conducted by Mike Parker Pearson (riverside project link). That being said it is much more pleasant to see in the Summer Solstice sunrise on Salisbury Plain than freeze to death seeing out the Winter Solstice. Whether the alignments are coincidental or deliberate modern celebrations lean heavily towards fun and frivolity. Music, dance and song are common themes and much fun is had by all.
Beyond ritual itself the most appropriate thing to do would get to get out and enjoy the Summer Solstice in all it’s glory. Soak up the sun, enjoy the vibrancy in nature and give thanks for the blessings of the sun. The easiest way to celebrate the longest day of the year is to see its very beginning. Witnessing the sunrise of Summer Solstice is one way to celebrate the peak of the summer season. As the sun peaks above the horizon and builds in strength take a moment to give thanks to the God and Goddess for all the things that the year has brought so far and formulate a few goals to be achieved in the rest of the year to come. Draw the power and strength of the sun into you as you visualise your goals in your mind, giving them form and solidity.
Sun Weaving has been a time honoured Solstice craft in our house. We’ve used everything from saved pizza bases to paper plates and my never ending stash of left over wool. We usually tie them to the garden fence and make wishes on the breeze as the long tails flutter. Unfortunately this summer solstice has been busy and the children were far more interested in running around under the sun than sitting in it so I have been left to my own devices. Next year I am inclined to make make yummy edibles such as Sun Medallions or something that we can hang in our home like a salt dough plaque.