Trailblazery founder Kathy Scott examines our Celtic connection to the summer solstice, which is celebrated Tuesday, June 21.
In Ireland, our ancestors understood the interconnectedness and how we relate to all things. The ancients marked the seasons and cycles of birth, death and rebirth in nature. They honored the eight pivot points of the Wheel of the Year with ritual and ceremony.
This medicine wheel is a map that holds much wisdom for us today. It can redirect us to a sense of connection and belonging to something bigger. He can guide us into the “time out of time” that is so important in this age of overwhelming acceleration.
Here in the northern hemisphere, we thrive in the bright summer season. The summer solstice heralds the annual zenith of the sun over the tropics. This is one of the wheel power gates of the year. The longest day of the year holds the maximum peak of light which began to grow in brightness after the winter solstice.
Indigenous peoples understand the solstices as turning points that offer the possibility of transformation. The word Solstice means “still sun” or “grianstad” in Irish; Mysticism and magic were thought to be strongest at this time and myths told stories of the world turned upside down or the sun standing still. It was a time of celebration, to honor the light and our connection to the Sun and Earth.
Many cultures celebrated the solstices in ancient Egypt at the
The Aztecs, Mayans, and many First Nations people hold festivals to honor this day.
In Ireland, our ancestors built monuments to commemorate this time – Lough Gur in County Limerick, a mystical and enchanting place of stone circles, megalithic tombs, ring forts and castles.
The Grange Stone Circle is made up of 113 standing stones and aligns with the rising sun of the summer solstice. The Hill of Tara in County Meath is another holy solstice site, well known as the seat of the Ard Righ or High King of Ireland. It was a place held sacred by people of the Neolithic era who believed it to be a place of the gods and an entrance into the world of eternal joy.
In ancient lore, the oak tree is associated with the summer solstice as a gateway to the inner realms. Known as the king of the forest for its strength and longevity, the oak tree was most sacred to druids who revered the knowledge held by trees.
The name ‘Druid’ is derived from the Irish word for oak: ‘oak’ (dair or duir) meaning gate and (doire / oak grove) ‘those who know the oak’. On June 21, the Oak King is at its peak. Little by little, his power weakens, until the winter solstice of December 21 when the holly king regains power.
Midsummer June 19-24
These ancient celebrations are also known as Midsummer, referring to the many festivals held during the solstice period. New Year’s Eve is a time when fairies and spirits cross the human world more easily. In order to banish evil spirits that could harm their crops, our ancestors lit fires where they sang, danced and feasted.
It was also the main time for handfasting (pagan weddings) and it was customary for lovers to shake hands and jump over bonfires for good luck.
their relationship. Farmers also jumped, convinced that the higher they jumped, the more their crops would grow.
So how do you celebrate the longest day of the year?
This is the time to light bonfires, especially on hillsides, leave gifts for fairies in your garden, make a wreath of flowers and harvest wild herbs for syrups, meads, salads and teas.
Harvest the abundant herbs in the hedgerows at this time: Elderflower, St. John’s Wort, Marjoram, Nettle, Verbena and Wild Rose. Drink an infusion of your local mugwort tea to awaken your visions.
Visit a sacred site. Gather with others to create a circle or spiral. Exchange songs, stories and poems with others. Dance, drum, sing and party. Involve water in your ritual. Prepare a ritual bath with seasonal flowers and oils or head to the ocean for a salty solstice swim at dawn.
Go in search of an oak tree with which you can sit. For generations people have sat under the mighty oak tree for strength and spiritual renewal. Thank the tree before you leave, as it helps create a connection and relationship with the wild world.
This is also the perfect time to withdraw into yourself and reflect. Focus and feel your senses: Feel your feet on the grass and notice the smell of flowers and the rustle of trees. Meditate on the past season and dream of the season to come. Celebrate the nourishing light of the sun and honor the harvest of your life since the winter solstice in December.
Just as the ancients understood the solstices as turning points of transformation, we too can harness the power of the sun and celebrate our resilience as ancestors in formation. As we get closer to the Sun, we are invited to fire up our imaginations as we soar. This “climax” moment is an invitation to rediscover our senses and reconnect with our untamed nature.