We are nearing the Summer Solstice and I am ready to get my celebration started. In this article I want to explore how the Summer Solstice is celebrated by three different Pagan groups. There will be historical commentary, items that might stand out as unique to each practice, and links to helpful websites. At the end of this article I am also sharing two recipes (yes, two!) that will brighten your celebrations this year.
Before we jump into the Heathen, Druid, and Wiccan practices around the Solstice; I want to take a moment to share some feelers. If you haven’t read my article My Paganism and My Politics, please take a moment to do so. In it, I go over some major events that have happened in June, and why this month is worthy of celebration. June is a great time to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, our struggles, our defiance against hate, and our survival.
An estimated 32.7 million people have died from AIDS related illnesses since the start of the epidemic. This largely targets people of color and the LGTBQ+ community. Please take a moment to learn more about how the LGBTQ+ community is working to combat deaths and transform one of our largest struggles into another triumph. I am deeply proud to be a gay man and part of a community that doesn’t just survive, we thrive! Remember that June is not just a month that celebrates the Solstice, it celebrates life in all of her colors. Now, let’s get back to our topic at hand.
Heathen – Sólmánuðr /Midsumor
Heathenry is an area that I am not familiar with. Beyond reaching out to a local Heathen kindred, it was relatively difficult to find a reliable website. However, Heathenry is fortunate enough to have practices that were semi-documented and absorbed into modern Scandinavian culture. To this day there are celebrations around Midsumor.
Midsumor served as a time where various tribes could come together and begin discussions around territory, harvest, and expansion. The holiday would typically continue into the night and include bonfires and feasts. Today in Sweden it is called St. John’s Day and the celebration includes folk dancing around a pole that has been adorned with vines. Modern tradition is full of magic and romantic celebration. Maidens’ heads are adorned with wreaths from seven different flowers (sometimes nine depending on the region). The flowers are then placed under their pillows and it is said they will dream about a future spouse.
Want to try celebrating as the Swedes do? I hope you enjoy boiled potatoes, pickled herring, and strawberries. These are some of the traditional foods that are served during Midsumor alongside beer and schnapps. It is clear that Heathens know how to have a good time and when to kick their feet up before the summer’s heat sets it. The holiday appears to focus on merriment, community, and has undertones of fertility everywhere.
Here is a link to the Longship , a Heathenry website dedicated to providing resources
Here is a link that describes modern Swedish Midsummer celebrations
Druid – Alban Hefin
I feel like a record player that got bumped and repeats the same thing over and over again when it comes to Druidry. We do not have enough archeological evidence at this time to really say what ancient Druids or Celtic people did to celebrate the Solstice. We do have enough to know that the Solstice did mean something to the ancient Celtic people and that Druids would have likely led ceremonies to celebrate this time of the year.
Oddly enough, we do know that Neolithic people in Ireland and the U.K. found the equinoxes and solstices extremely significant. Neolithic sites around the United Kingdom and Ireland are dotted with stone sites that we believe to be central in these celebrations. These include Callanish stone circle, the Ring of Brodgar, and Stonehenge. It is believed that Neolithic practices were absorbed into Celtic cultures and this is how we have come to see celebrations such as Alban Hefin.
Modern Druidry has great reverence for liminal times and this holiday is no exception. Alban Hefin is when the light of summer is brightest and longest. The light of day will no longer grow and the encroaching darkness will soon set in. The world is balanced and the sun’s strength gives us energy for the remainder of the year. One thing that I love about Modern Druidry is the embrace of various Celtic cultures. Alban Hefin is one example within one system of practice within Modern Druidry. The name Alban Hefin comes from Scottish Gaelic and is widely used by members of OBOD. However, if we look to our Welsh friends, we see the holiday called Heuldro’r Haf. Hopping across the Irish Sea, the holiday is called Grianstad an tSamhraidh (Samhradh to keep it simple). Each Celtic culture has their chosen deities and unique expressions of practice for this holiday.
Looking for common threads of practice in today’s Druidry is extremely fun. Several Druid practices see the day as one of three days where the veil between the spirit world and ours is thinnest. We are able to utilize the warmth of the sun to banish unwanted spirits and bring luck for the coming harvest. Bonfires are also a must have for any Druid celebration. At night a bonfire helps to bless the crops and you can jump the flames for good luck (please don’t try this without common sense and safety). Feasting and dancing are additional ways that Modern Druids take time to celebrate this liminal space in the calendar.
Not able to see how harvests and crops is applicable to your modern city life? Aside from the obvious impact to farmers who supply our grocery stores, you can apply the abundance to any area that brings bounty into your life. Additionally, most of the Western half of the United States is facing major droughts. Find ways to conserve, expand on recycling efforts, and help spread awareness in preventing wildfires. These are just some of the ways we can work with nature to help her bounty so that she continues to help us.
Here is a link to OBOD’s Solo Alban Hefin Ritual
Here is a link to general information around Modern Druid celebrations
Wicca – Litha
The Wiccan celebration of Litha holds a very special place in my heart. This holiday is when I was first initiated into a group, as a teenager. Each year I find time to celebrate this holiday with my friends and do my best to create a feast. Though I do not mark the event with a formal circle or religious tone, it still manages to be steeped in hidden meaning.
Historically speaking, the Wiccan celebration of Midsummer seems to have roots in Anglo-Saxon practices. Even the name Litha is said to be an Anglo-Saxon term for ‘gentle’. These Anglo-Saxon roots are saturated with beliefs that combine Germanic practices with sprinkles of Celtic influence. On one hand there are celebrations around the fair folk and on the other hand the Lord and Lady’s union produces fertility.
If a single word could be used to describe this holiday it would be color. In the Northern Hemisphere we are surrounded by wildflowers, flowing rivers, green forests, and the snow has finally melted from the surrounding mountains (unless you’re in Cottonwood Canyon….). We can see the land is fertile and that on the longest day of the year we are indeed in a liminal space. So how do we celebrate these abundant combinations?
Weather permitting, I always recommend taking the celebration outdoors. Feel the warmth of the sun, use it to charge tools, safely gather with friends, and have a feast. As the sun begins to set, take a moment to acknowledge the liminal space, feast with friends, and burn wishes in a bonfire (or cauldron). This holiday truly is about the light, the warmth, and liminal time. The liminal space gives our soul a moment to breathe before we continue our lives. The holiday may not be grandiose in the literary sense and that seems the point, to me.
Whichever way you choose to celebrate, you’re bound to enjoy the simple luxury of Midsummer. Be it with the fairies, a simple meal, or surrounded by your tools and bathed in the summer’s light. Midsummer really is a time to take things easy and create traditions that bring joy.
Here is a link to a Midsummer Ritual by Jason Mankey
Here is a link to general information around Litha
2021 Summer Solstice
This year is going to feel different than most years that I have celebrated the Summer Solstice. The pandemic isn’t quite finished and not everyone is safely vaccinated. I don’t think any of us wanted to live during this kind of historical landmark but here we are. Instead of lamenting about what I am unable to do, I want to attempt to map out ways I can celebrate the holiday.
Here, in Utah, I am surrounded by mountains that have gorgeous trails. I would like to spend the early day amongst nature, walking one of our beautiful trails. Later on, I will pack up the husband, some food, and head to a park. I’m thinking a picnic and some yard games will make the day special. To top it all off, I am bringing my Solstice berry salad and Solstice lemonade. We will cheers to the fey, the land spirits, and to our health as we watch the sun set behind the Oquirrh Mountains. I also send a cheers out to all of you and hope that you stay safe this holiday. Happy Summer Solstice!
Summer Solstice Food & Drink
Solstice Berry Salad – Serves 6
- 5 cups baby spinach
- 1 cup of sliced strawberry
- ½ cup blueberries
- ½ cup raspberries
- 1/3 cup sliced pickled red onion (trust me, so good)
- ¼ cup pecans – coarsely chopped
- Goat cheese of choice – feta is a great option
- Balsamic vinaigrette (homemade is the best but store brands are just as good)
- Combine: spinach, berries, onion, and pecans. Mix so that everything is evenly dispersed
- Don’t add the cheese or vinaigrette until it is time to eat (otherwise, things get soggy and you don’t need that on a joyous day)
- Crumble about ½ cup (or more) of goat cheese and evenly mix into salad
- Add vinaigrette to taste
Solstice Cherry Lemonade (21+) – Serves 6
- 1 ½ cups pitted cherries
- 7 ½ cups of water
- ½ cup sugar (add more if needed)
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 60 ounce pitcher
- Bottle of your favorite bourbon (vodka works too but bourbon is oh so good here)
- In a pot add: sugar and cherries – (do this and the next step before placing it on a heating element)
- Using a potato masher or wooden spoon, smash the cherries, and then add your water
- Bring water to a boil, immediately take the pot off the heat, and stir mixture thoroughly
- Pour the sweet cherry liquid into your pitcher and allow it to cool to room temperature
- Add lemon juice and lemon zest to the pitcher and stir the contents thoroughly (she’s going to be messy but she’s oh so good)
- Place the pitcher in the fridge until it is time to party
- Take out 6 Collins glasses (or rock glasses if you’re wanting seconds) – add ice to glasses
- Pour 1 ½ shots of bourbon in each glass (I like to do individual glasses versus adding to the pitcher. This gives everyone an even dose of the Summerland’s sweet nectar)
- Stir the lemonade again and pour into each glass, add an eco-friendly straw, and enjoy!