Summer Solstice (also known as Litha) is one of the eight festivals in the Wheel of the Year, which in its entirety represents the cycle of life. In this cycle of becoming and unbecoming, death and rebirth, Summer Solstice marks the peak of growth, after which the time of maturation begins.
Its opposite is Winter Solstice, symbolising the moment where the Old is released (Death) to make room for the New ((Re)Birth).
When do we celebrate Summer Solstice?
Summer Solstice marks the longest day and shortest night of the year and usually happens on June 21st in the Northern Hemisphere (December 21st in the Southern Hemisphere). The exact time differs a little from year to year, because it depends on the moment where the sun reaches his highest point on the horizon. In some years, this already happens on June 20th, in others on June 22nd, and it also depends on the time zone you live in.
Here in Germany, Summer Solstice is the astronomical beginning of summer, but in northern countries it’s already celebrated as a mid-summer festival, because due to the different angle of the sun, summer runs from May to June over there.
Why do we celebrate Summer Solstice?
At Summer Solstice we celebrate the abundance of Nature, which is in full bloom at this time. It’s about taking a moment to pause and reflect, much like the sun himself, because the word “solstice” means “standstill of the sun”. The sun has reached his highest point on the horizon and remains there for a moment, bevor climbing back down the horizon to his lowest point (at Winter Solstice on December 21st (Northern Hemisphere) or June 21st (southern Hemisphere)).
This is a time of review, reflection and gratitude for everything that has happened in the first half of the year – and at the same time of preparation and reorientation for the second half of the year.
What are your dreams and desires for your future and what can you do to make them reality? What might you need to let go of, that’s still holding you back?
What is the energetic quality of this time?
Summer Solstice is a natural turning point in the rhythm of the year, which also shows up in our lives. In fact, the energetic quality of Summer Solstice is similar to that of Full Moon or ovulation (if you (still) have a natural menstrual cycle). We usually have the most energy and strength, feel alive and love being outside and with friends.
We can observe this in Nature, too, where plants and trees are in full bloom right now and proudly show their abundance. Everything that was sown in winter and spring is growing and starts to ripen. The first fruits are ready for harvest and we can enjoy different berries, cherries, salads and herbs. Nature shows us her bounty.
We can consciously experience the quality of this time by enjoying the power of the sun and being outside, but also by taking good care of ourselves. Self-care is extremely important, since too much heat – whether through the sun himself or through stress and obligations – causes things to burn, in the worst case us and our zest for life. Which is another reason to have a closer look at what you really want from life and what you can let go of.
How can you honour the quality of this time?
We often believe it needs to be something big and significant to celebrate a certain time or period of life, but it is the little daily rituals that make the difference. Here are a few ideas to honour this time in your day-to-day life:
- Create your own summer altar: Maybe you can set up a corner in your room, or put a big bouquet of summer flowers onto the table or you decorate a bowl with everything that reminds you of summer, abundance and wealth. Then you can either actively connect with this energy, by taking a moment each day to consciously look at it and cultivate gratitude for what you have in your life, or you simply let your subconscious mind do its thing, because it notices the altar every time you walk by, and “programs” your brain to look for wealth in your life, without having to “do” anything specific.
- Go swimming: The element of water is also celebrated at Summer solstice and if you go to a stream, the swimming pool, your bathtub or whatever is possible for you, you can consciously connect with the cleansing energy of this time and let everything you no longer want in your life be dissolved by the water. And it’s of course a welcome refreshment during the hot days of summer ;-)!
- Opulent parties: Meet with friends to celebrate joy and life together, in whatever way feels comfortable to you. There’s a reason BBQ and parties are popular in summer, they reflect exactly what Summer Solstice is all about: Spending time together, being outside and celebrating the gifts of Nature.
- Music: Listen or dance to music – alone or with other people. Rhythmic drumming, electronic music or Salsa, what kind of music makes your body move?
- Fire: Whether alone or with friends, sitting around an open fire (e.g., a fire pit) and gazing inside is extremely meditative and relaxing. Fire symbolises the transformative power of this time, which we can tap into to burn the Old and rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
The meaning of Summer Solstice
Abundance and Gratitude
The bigger themes of Summer Solstice are abundance, celebration, gratitude and letting go.
It’s about recognising the abundance and wealth we already have in our life and in nature, and to express our joy and gratitude regarding it. Gratitude for the things we have (starting with a roof over your head und most probably running water and electricity), but also for the people in our life, for our body (which takes care of our survival every day), for our talents and gifts and for projects we’re pursuing.
We have unlearned to celebrate our successes and skills, because we’ve been told that bragging and self-praise are a disgrace, it’s boastful and haughty and somehow wrong. But only with a good dose of self-appreciation can we be proud of ourselves and develop a healthy self-confidence. When we can acknowledge and appreciate ourselves, it’s so much easier to truly accept other people’s praise of us as well. That’s why it’s paramount to practice celebrating ourselves again and again – for every little step of the way!
And because Summer Solstice marks a peak, or rather a turning point, this time is also about letting go of what no longer works for us – no matter if it’s outdated beliefs, ways of working or relationships. So that in the end we can pour our precious energy into the things that are really important to us, that we want to pursue, because we can hear them calling.
If you have set an intention for this year at Winter Solstice on December 21st of last year (for example in the Ritual of 13 Wishes), this project is now slowly beginning to ripen and might show its first fruits – metaphorically speaking. And so the first step is celebration: Become aware of how far you’ve come, what you’ve achieved or created, and give yourself praise for it. And share it with the outside world, too. By giving yourself permission to openly appreciate your successes, you show others that it’s perfectly okay to be proud of oneself!
You now also know more clearly, in which direction you’d like that project to develop further and can start “weeding and pruning”: No matter which area of your life that project relates to (e.g., relationships, work, health, beliefs) – what’s working really well, what isn’t? What needs to be released?
It’s of course also a question of how much attention you gave it during the first half of the year and what you did to nurture and realise this project. Maybe you find that the intention you set doesn’t relate to your current situation and your desires anymore. In that case, it’s a matter of feeling into where you want things to go from here and what you might need to adapt, release of start anew.
Caretaking and Maturation
Other important themes of this time are caretaking and maturation, or rather a “letting things ripen”. Yes, plants (and projects) are unfolding and in full bloom. But it’s not yet time to harvest, rather the beginning of a process of maturation. It needs regular care and nurturing, being discerning about what is needed right now (and what isn’t), and the necessary patience to let things unfold in their own time. The grass really doesn’t grow faster, when you pull at it ;-)
And we need to give the same care to ourselves as well. Whenever we want to change or achieve something in our life, we prefer to see results the day before yesterday. But that’s not how Nature works, and as we are part of Nature, we can draw inspiration from this wisdom for our own life: We need to connect back to the present over and over again, looking at what’s happening inside of us and what we need to feel safe and nourished. And we need to respect these needs of ours, and meet them. It’s not so much about DOING something specific, but rather about being what is, and ALLOWING things to unfold.
Summer Solstice in the Cycle of Life
The wisdom of each festival in the Wheel of the Year also applies to the bigger cycles of life we humans move through – no wonder, as they represent the cycle of life in its entirety.
At Summer Solstice the sun is at the height of his power and energy, comparable to noon, when the sun reaches his highest point of each day. If we think of a human life, this refers to midlife, often heralding a phase of reorientation. Many know the term “midlife crisis” (and may even be afraid of moving through such a phase themselves), but I see it more as a “midlife awakening”. We have lived half a life and know much more clearly what we want from life and what we no longer care to tolerate. Yet at this point, many people find themselves stuck in a life that doesn’t feel like “their life”, because they’ve built it around the (internalised) expectations of other people. Just as with Summer Solstice, we now have the opportunity to pause for a moment, release what we don’t want to continue being/doing/thinking, and reorient ourselves.
This might bring up a lot of fear, understandably, but it can also be a very powerful and potent phase. As I mentioned earlier, we know much more clearly what we want from life now and can start to design it around THAT. This process isn’t always easy, especially since our surroundings often prefer for us to stay where we are and might not be excited regarding your change. So getting yourself some support can be a really good idea. My coaching “Navigating life’s challenges True to You“ is designed to specifically support you in listening within, how you want to lead your life, and to be by your side while you put that into practice despite all the voices out there that want to keep you where you are. If you want to get out of bed in the morning full of energy and looking forward to the day and life ahead, please reach out!
How can you celebrate Summer Solstice?
The rituals of Summer Solstice are all about lighting fires to symbolise the illuminating and transformative power of the sun, celebrating life and letting go of and burning old beliefs that keep us from evolving into a direction we’d like to.
- Medicinal Herbs: At this time of year, the first herbs are ready for harvest, so it’s a popular custom to collect different healing herbs and tie them together into little bunches. They’re often given into the fire as a blessing, or hung in the home as fragrance or to cleanse and purify the air. You can also store them for later use, for example for burning them during the Twelve Holy Nights of Winter. Herbs you can find now include St-John’s-wort, lady’s mantle, mug wort, valerian, verbena, lemon balm and sorrel
- Honouring your (inner) garden: Take a few moments to review the first half of the year and journal about the following questions:
1. How has the year been so far, what was good about it, what not so much? What has grown in my personal garden and what do I appreciate about it?
2. What of the things that have grown do I want to continue nurturing? Where do I want to direct the energy I have, and what kind of support do I need for that?
3. Which insights do I take with me through the portal of Summer Solstice?
4. What do I let go of? Which projects, habits, thought patterns can be released – for right now or forever?
- Water Ritual: Take a glass or bowl of water and whisper everything you’re grateful for into it. Everything that’s going well in your life, that has grown for you, and also all the dreams and longings for the upcoming half of the year. Then drink half of the water and give the other half to Nature – let the water, or rather your gratitude, pour into the Earth or the flowers on your balcony. Water is very fascinating, because it stores the energy you’ve whispered into it. So you can not only let your cells be permeated by your desires and gratitude, but also honour the Earth with them.
- Connecting with Nature: Find a calm space in Nature, take colourful candles with you (only if that’s safe for you and for Nature!), colourful fabric or ribbons or incense, like incense sticks or cones. Sit down, light the candle and/or the incense and connect with Nature – with Nature spirits, if you like, or simply with the presence of the trees and plants around you. Feel them, listen to their messages or simply enjoy the silence. When you’re ready, leave a small gift, like some berries or an incense stick. Whenever you need some support during the upcoming year, you can come back here and ask Nature for advice.
- Shared Fire Ritual: Gather some firewood (take care of the safety of Nature and yourself!) and light a bonfire. Maybe you’d even enjoy weaving wreaths of flowers and wearing them in your hair. Everything that supports you in connecting with and expressing your gratitude for the abundance of life and for one another is allowed today. Play music, play the drums, dance around the fire in wild circles and shake everything from you that you no longer wish to carry. Tap into your joy of life. Later, you can sit around the fire together and talk about how the year has been for you so far. What went well, what didn’t go as well? You can write down what you want to release and throw the piece of paper into the fire.
Finally, hand your wreaths over to the fire, too, or burn some herbs as an offering to Nature.