Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The longest day

As the sun spirals its longest dance,
Cleanse us
As nature shows bounty and fertility
Bless us
Let all things live with loving intent
And to fulfill their truest destiny

--Taken from a Wiccan blessing for Summer

June 21 is when the Summer Solstice occurs in the northern hemisphere. Solstice, or Midsummer, means a stopping or standing still of the sun. It is the longest day of the year and the time when the sun is at its maximum elevation. Here, where I live, surise will be at 4.40 am and sunset at 9.26 pm. The day will have approximately 17 hours of light and 7 hours of darkness.
This date has had spiritual significance for thousands of years as humans have been amazed by the great power of the sun. Many stone circles and other ancient monuments are aligned to the sunrise on Midsummer's Day. Probably the most famous alignment is that at Stonehenge, where the sun rises over the heel stone, framed by the giant trilithons on Midsummer morning.
The Celts celebrated Midsummer with bonfires that would add to the sun’s energy, Christians placed the feast of St John the Baptist at this time and it is also the festival of Li, the Chinese Goddess of light.
Traditionally, in Britain, St John's Eve was seen as a time when the veil between this world and the next was thin, and when powerful forces were abroad. Vigils were often held during the night and it was said that if you spent a night at a sacred site during Midsummer Eve, you would gain the powers of a bard, on the down side you could also end up utterly mad, dead, or be spirited away by the fairies. Indeed St Johns Eve was a time when fairies were thought to be abroad and at their most powerful (hence Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream).
Like other religious groups, Pagans are in awe of the incredible strength of the sun and the divine powers that create life. For Pagans this spoke in the Wheel of the Year is a significant point. The Goddess took over the earth from the horned God at the beginning of spring and she is now at the height of her power and fertility. For some Pagans the Summer Solstice marks the marriage of the God and Goddess and see their union as the force that creates the harvest’s fruits.
This is a time to celebrate growth and life but for Pagans, who see balance in the world and are deeply aware of the ongoing shifting of the seasons it is also time to acknowledge that the sun will now begin to decline once more towards winter.
When celebrating midsummer, Pagans draw on diverse traditions. In England thousands of Pagans and non-Pagans go to places of ancient religious sites such as Stonehenge and Avebury to see the sun rising on the first morning of summer. Many more Pagans hold small ceremonies in open spaces, everywhere from gardens to woodlands.

--Adapted from a BBC text

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, my dear sweet sis.
I hope your day (and everyday) is full of happiness and love.
Love u and miss u
Ri

Claudia said...

Thank you, my love!

unowho said...

Happy birthday, my dear.
I hope...just what Rita said!

teresa said...

Parabéns Claudia! Tentei ligar-te. Tento outra vez mais tarde.

Rauf said...

India is lot hotter than England, where the sun shines 365 days. My friend who has been in Chennai all her life is in England now finding it difficult to cope with long days, and she complains that the sun is burning her skin which she never felt while in India, could be due to the fact that England receives direct rays in mid summer.

so much happens in the short mid summer night's dream.

Claudia said...

To make up for it, Rauf, during winter you hardly ever see the sun in England and the days are really short (and depressing). This year we're having a particularly dry and sunny spring (there's a drought, which is rare in this country). The sun has been very agressive sometimes.
Is your friend Arshi? She came over in March didn't she? It's always difficult to leave your country and so much of what's familiar and dear to you and make a home abroad...

Rauf said...

oh yes She is Arshi Claudia, Arshia her name Now Lives in Havant, near Portsmouth. I am really Amazed ! Really really amazed. That speaks volumes of your intelligence Claudia. Yes She landed there in March.
My salutes to your photographic memory and intelligence, I feel so small. I don't even remember my own blogs.
Only now I am reading the comments from your sister and uknowho
How could I miss your birthday Claudia ?
I am so embarassed
so so so sweet of you

Lord Boo said...

hello Claudia, this is Arshi, the one who complains about the sun *sigh* and yeah, looks like i'm famous for my anti-sun comments, thanks to Rauf :D and probably the only person in the whole of England who hates the sun rays beating down on my face :D Beautiful pic of Stonehenge; i would like to visit the place sometime. And oh, Belated Happy Birthday :)