Friday 21 June marks the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. At exactly 16:45 the sun’s zenith will be the at its furthest point away from the equator. It will reach what appears to be its most northern point and stand directly above the tropic of cancer.
And Pagans everywhere will go wild with celebration.
(Actually, they will probably be winding down after a day’s partying since the sun rose over Stonehenge and Glastobnbury this morning.)
But why? What magical significance does the summer solstice have?
All too often we loose sight of true magic – the energies which are playing out around and within us. We focus instead on the technical, the external, the stuff we are told is important.We try desperately to learn all the facts and ‘get it right’ and in the rush we miss the most magical part of all.
So I just want to take a few moments to reflect on what is happening in the world around me right now, and what it means for my witchcraft.
A few weeks ago I wrote about my changing attitude to the wheel of the year, and you may recall that I said that the solstices really are huge moments of changeable energy for me. I want to dig into that a little more.
This past 2 weeks or so have been an absolute roller coaster of change for me.
I suddenly changed jobs (for the second time in 3 months). People have come back into my life from years ago. People have suddenly left my life.
My childcare plans for the summer holidays suddenly fell apart!
My organised, predictable life got thrown up in the air and now I wait to see where it lands.
Plants that have been steadily growing since they first showed their heads above the still Icey ground in February have suddenly exploded in a riot of green.
At full moon last weekend we couldn’t stand upright to tread the compass because the trees had suddenly sprouted branches and leaves in the most awkward of places!
The full moon in June is often called the flower moon – how true this has proved.
All I saw a day or 2 either side of the FM was an abundance of wild flowers in the hedgerows. They seems to suddenly burst out!
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen as many Oxeye daisy’s before as I have this week. The poppies are redder than I remember them too. Foxgloves, Herb Robert, Red Clover, Ragwort, Meadowsweet, Bindweed, Hogweed – they are ablaze. A striking sight against the verdant greens of the trees, grasses and hedge which are all almost out of control with their growth. It may have rained a lot recently, but its pushed the growth up.
That’s another thing – the weather is all over the place!
On Wednesday I went to work in the bitter cold, walked across the car park in pouring rain, and emerged in the afternoon to blazing sunshine. But mostly I’ve seen a lot of rain recently. This time of year is about growth as much as heat and sunshine. And you need rain for growth!
June is often stormy in UK. Night storms with lightening, thunder and dramatic rain. We saw that in North Wales recently. My daughter assures me that the rain she is collecting in a bowl in the garden is sweeter than tap water. She is right – summer rain is sweeter than winter rain too.
At the weekend I took time to sit and watch the rain drops hanging off plants in the garden – like late morning dew. Beautiful and so powerful. Each tiny drop so strong, containing life giving refreshment and reflecting the world around it constantly.
And it’s not just the tangible things which are full of change . The air is filled with expectation. My heart feels like its lurching constantly between my stomach and my mouth. I can smell change.
And I know more is coming.
But today, we sit in the eye of the storm.
Its almost calm. Expectant but still.
Logically I know it won’t last long – just a few hours or maybe a day. But I’m holding on for the rush I know will inevitably come.
The sun sits like a pendulum, poised in the sky.
Every sun rise and sun set has appeared to move northward on the horizon for weeks. But now it seems to stand still. It has reached its most northernly point. And despite what you might think the sun is not close to the earth during the solstice – in fact it’s the furthest away its going to be all year. But its about to start coming back.
But first the solstice itself.
Technically speaking, the summer solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, or 23.5 degrees north latitude. This will occur at exactly 16:54 British Summer Time on Friday the 21st June. It doesn’t always fall on this day – it can fall a day or so either side.
Surprisingly even though it’s the longest day of the year with the most light it’s not the earliest sunrise of the year OR the latest sunset. The earliest sunrise was on 17 June. The latest sunset will be on 25 June.
Did that just blow your mind? It did mine a little bit when I first discovered it.
It is because a day is not actually 24 hours long.
A day lasts from solar noon to solar noon. And that’s different everyday. We just choose to average it out for the sake of an easier life.
So….. the whole day is longer at the summer solstice – not just the amount of light v dark. Its also longer at the winter solstice. And shorter at both the equinoxes. And yes, in this respect, a sun dial is more accurate than a rolex. (Although as a witch way wiser than I pointed out to me at coven meet last week, that depends entirely on what you are trying to measure.)
If you want to blow your mind with the science of the solstice – go ahead. I did it once. I understood it for less than a milli second. And then got confused again. BUT, it doesn’t really matter.
All you need to know:
21 June will be the longest day this year. The Sun is more accurate than man made machines measuring the man made construction of time.
And besides that’s not what the solstice is about magically.
Its about the sun appearing to stand still for a tiny moment. A stop, the held breath of the universe in comparison to our earth. About to swing back.
Traditionally the focus of celebrations wasn’t on the day of the summer solstice – folk traditions abound either side of the day, from St John the Baptist’s Eve (23 June) to St Peters Day (29 June). A season of change – not an isolated moment in time.
So really, the magical significance isn’t so much on the standstill, but the moment immediately after – the outbreath – the hurtle begins towards another point. It’s prudent to jump on this moving tide of energy and ride it!
Magic which works with the tides is much easier – and so more powerful – than any magic done against them.
But remember the tide changes may be gradual and half hidden. You have to watch carefully for the signs. The smells. The feelings. The things I’ve noticed the past few weeks.
I didn’t need to know today was the solstice to feel the energies building and making themselves known in my life.
But I did need to have my eyes open for the signs. To add up all the little indicators to see the bigger picture.
And when the pendulum swings back I’ll brace myself for more change – and I’ll do magic to make the most of it. I’ll switch out from magic for growth and building and turn my attentions to begin to ripen for the harvest. No longer will I aim for larger fruit, but more intense flavours and rich sweetness from my efforts.
I love this time of year. I never have a clue where it will take me, but the magic is buzzing and it’s a wonderful time to be alive and be witching!