Today is the first day of summer, the longest day of the year. The day inspired Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream. ” And, did you know that because it also marks a turning point of the days growing shorter, it is associated with the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden? Midsummer Eve has long been associated with faeries and magic. On this night you’re supposed to be able to see faeries, as the veil between the worlds is thinned.
Today, the Earth’s North Pole is tilted closet to the sun; also the day the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky. 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.”
In Europe, religious groups gather to dance, drum and chant at Stonehenge, a 4,000-year-old stone structure in England. I love to look at Pagan traditions to see how we have adopted them to our own lifestyle, as Pagan traditions pay tribute to nature – hence the sun. Winter Solstice, if you remember, was the day Roman pagans celebrated Saturnalia for the Natalis Solis Invincti, or “Birthday of the Invincible Sun God.” Constantine later rolled this into Christmas. It was a time of celebration, as the days, which were shorter, would now be getting longer, and they were celebrating the return of the sun. (Do you see this — this also means that Summer Solstice means the days will now be getting shorter.)
Some religious groups point to a biblical passages that may have occurred on the summer solstice. The verse in Joshua 10:12 in which Joshua stops the sun in the sky. (The term solstice is actually from two Latin words meaning, “sun stands still.”)
The feast day of St. John the Baptist is the oldest feast in Greek and Latin liturgies, set for June 24. They say this may be the date of his birth, while many other saint’s days are celebrated on the date of their death. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that St. John was “filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb…[thus his] birth…should be signalized as a day of triumph.” And just like Christmas is December 25, not December 21, the feast day is June 24. “Just as John was the forerunner to Jesus, midsummer forecasts the eventual arrival of” the winter solstice.
During the 1st century, the Essenes, were a powerful Jewish religious group in Palestine. This was the only one that used a solar calendar, and archaeologists have found that the largest room of the ruins at Qumran (location of the Dead Sea Scrolls) appears to be a sun temple. “At the time of the summer solstice, the rays of the setting sun shine at 286 degrees along the building’s longitudinal axis, and illuminate the eastern wall. The room is oriented at exactly the same angle as the Egyptian shrines dedicated to the sun.”
There are many weddings in June – and it’s not because the weather is nice. The weather is usually awful for weddings, because it’s too hot. The reason June is the traditional month for weddings is because the ancients believed that the “grand [sexual] union” of the Goddess and God occurred in early May at Beltaine. Since it was unlucky to compete with the deities, many couples delayed their weddings until June.” Honey is best harvested in June, hence the name “Honeymoon.”
The Roman Goddess of the hearth, Vesta, was celebrated from June 7 to June 15. Married women were able to enter the shrine of Vesta during the festival. At other times of the year, only the vestal virgins were permitted inside.