On the longest day of the year, the sun, which has on the days preceding seemed to rise higher and higher into the sky, reaches its zenith and rises no more. This day, which in the Northern Hemisphere can occur between the 20th and 23rd of June, marks the start of summer and is known as the summer solstice. From time immemorial, the coming of summer's light and warmth has been a time of gladness and celebration. In June, the snows had long since melted, the ground had thawed, the first fruits were ripening on their vines, and Mother Nature had once again renewed herself. Though most of us have turned away from our agricultural heritage, the summer solstice remains a time of new beginnings and life-enriching endings. It is the day the sun reaches the peak of its power as well as the day that heralds the shorter days that eventually bring with them autumn's chills.
For ancient peoples of the Americas and Europe, the summer solstice was a particularly joyous day-and one auspicious for those seeking year-long luck, fertility, abundance, and prosperity. Men and women on two continents would gather to pay tribute to the sun's magnificence, to pray for a bountiful harvest, and to bolster the sun's energy with bonfires and fireworks. Today, the summer solstice represents an optimal time to reflect upon the blessings we have received in seasons past and visualize the new bounties we hope to receive in the season just beginning to flourish. At noon, when the sun is at its highest point, we can pay reverence to its incredible strength and its ability to create life while also musing on the impermanence of life as represented by the impermanence of the season. You can reestablish your innate connection to nature on the summer solstice by spending time outdoors; following the sun's procession as the day passes; burning sun oils such as orange, be! nzion, or juniper; or decorating an altar with solar images, summer greens, or colorful blossoms.
Just as the summer solstice is symbolic of agricultural growth, so is it symbolic of personal growth. It is a wonderful time to nurture your potential as you would nurture a tiny seedling and let your creative energy express itself fully. On the summer solstice, you may feel compelled to emulate the noontime sun and be at one with the world around you or to let your inner brilliance shine forth at full strength, if only for a single day. Your life, like the seasons, follows a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and summers, whether literal or figurative, can always be celebrated.