Summer Solstice – A Solitary Ritual

Summer Solstice – A Solitary Ritual June 9, 2015

Sunrise June 2015 03Holidays and holy days are better with friends and family.  But many Pagans maintain solitary practices.  Even if you work with a group, sometimes you can’t be with them for one reason or another.  And sometimes your group meets on a convenient day but you feel the need to celebrate on the exact day.  Whatever the reason, many Pagans will be celebrating the Summer Solstice by themselves.

This is a very simple, straightforward ritual.  It doesn’t need altars or magical tools and there’s nary a candle in it.  All you need is a spot with a view of the northeastern horizon, a large glass of water, and something to sit on.

There’s one catch:  you have to get up really early.

We can argue about what – if anything – the ancients did at Summer Solstice.  Jason Mankey and I had a brief conversation about that here last year.  But what is certain is that for the past 125 years or so, Druids have been celebrating the Summer Solstice at sunrise.  Stonehenge gets most of the publicity with its crowds of thousands, but if I could be anywhere I’d celebrate with the Anglesey Druid Order at Bryn Celli Ddu in Wales.

The exact moment of the Solstice is 11:38 AM CDT on Sunday, June 21, but the exact moment is far less important for most Pagans than observing the sunrise on the longest day.  What time you have to get up depends on where you live.  The farther north you are, and the farther east within your time zone, the earlier sunrise comes.

In Boston, sunrise on the Summer Solstice is at 5:08 AM.  In Dallas it’s 6:20 AM.  In Miami it’s 6:30 AM.  The Anglesey Druids have to be up in time for a 4:49 AM sunrise.

Some Pagans like to keep an all-night vigil on Midsummer’s Eve and then celebrate the Solstice sunrise.  If you feel called to do that, by all means do.  Just remember that “out all night partying” does not a vigil make!  Get a decent night’s sleep on Saturday and set your clock for early Sunday morning.

Setup

Find a spot where you’ll have a view of the northeastern horizon:  your back yard, a city park, or some other outdoor spot where you’ll be mostly undisturbed.  Few of us can get an unobstructed view of the sunrise – I had to drive around for almost an hour to find the spots where I took these pictures, and neither of them would have been suitable for a ritual, even an unobtrusive one.  Your spot doesn’t have to be perfect – you just need to be able to see the Sun shortly after it rises over the hills, trees, and houses.

Find the right time to start.  The official sunrise time is when the top edge of the Sun’s disc is first visible on the horizon.  This ritual needs to begin at least a few minutes before that.  I usually use the US Naval Observatory’s website for astronomical dates and times.  Their results also list “begin civil twilight” which is about a half hour before sunrise – that’s probably a good time to begin your preparations.

You’ll need something to sit on: a chair, a park bench, a blanket, or just the ground.

Preparation

Being in a dream-like state isn’t a bad thing for this ritual.  But make sure you’re awake enough that you won’t go back to sleep during the meditation.  Take a shower, drink a cup of tea, do something you associate with waking up.  Just don’t turn on the TV!

Opening

Pour a large glass of water and move to your ritual spot.

Stand facing East and say “I come to this place and this time to celebrate the Summer Solstice.”

Face East and say “Spirits of the East, Spirits of Air, I call to you.  Come into this circle, I ask, and share your wisdom. On this, the longest day, welcome Air!

Face South and say “Spirits of the South, Spirits of Fire, I call to you.  Come into this circle, I ask, and share your inspiration.  On this, the longest day, welcome Fire!

Face West say “Spirits of the West, Spirits of Water, I call to you.  Come into this circle, I ask, and share your love.  On this, the longest day, welcome Water!

Face North and say “Spirits of the North, Spirits of Earth, I call to you.  Come into this circle, I ask, and share your stability.  On this, the longest day, welcome Earth!

Invocations

Face East and say “Spirits of the land, spirits of this place, you who were here long before me, I invite you into this circle.  Join this celebration of the Summer Solstice, I ask, and accept this offering of clear water, given in hospitality and in love.

Raise the water in offering, then pour some onto the ground.

“Land spirits – hail and welcome!”

Say “Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, you whose child I am and on whose foundations I build, because of you I have life.  Join this celebration of the Summer Solstice, I ask, and add your blessings to this rite.  Accept this offering of clear water, given in hospitality and in love.

Raise the water in offering, then pour some onto the ground.

“Blessed ancestors – hail and welcome!”

Say “Hail O mighty Sun!  Though you are hidden below the horizon, I see your light.  I come to honor you on this, the longest day, at the pinnacle of your power. 

You who shone long before the Earth formed, I give thanks to you for your warmth and light, for without you, no life could exist on Earth.  I ask your blessings as the season of Summer begins.  May it be a time of discovery, of growth, and of joy. 

Mighty Sun – join this celebration of the Solstice, I ask, and add your blessings to this rite.”

Solstice Meditation

Now sit facing East and watch the lightening sky.

The Sun is hidden by the horizon, but sunrise is coming.  Crops were planted weeks ago, but the harvest is coming.  Think about the things in your life that are in process right now.  What, like the Sun, is on an unstoppable course?  What, like the crops, will require tending and nurturing?  Where do you need to work, and where do you need to let what will be, be?  Meditate on these things, but take care you don’t fall asleep.

Watch the lightening sky.  Notice how the Sun is not rising in the East, as it did at the Equinox, but in the Northeast.  Today the Sun will rise as far toward the North as it will rise all year.

When you can first see the Sun’s disc, stand and face the Sun.  If the sky is overcast and you can’t see the Sun at all, begin the next part of the ritual at the official sunrise time for your location.

Your mother probably taught you this, but it bears repeating:  don’t look directly at the Sun.  Nature is beautiful and life-giving, but it is also life-taking… or in this case, sight-taking.  Your worshipful intent is no protection.

Hymn to the Sun

If the ancient Druids had a hymn to the Sun they did not leave it to us.  The ancient Greeks, however, did.  This is an 18th century translation of one of the Hymns of Orpheus, “To The Sun.

Say:

Hear golden Titan, whose eternal eye
With broad survey, illumines all the sky.
Self-born, unwearied in diffusing light,
And to all eyes the mirrour of delight:
Lord of the seasons, with thy fiery car
And leaping coursers, beaming light from far:
With thy right hand the source of morning light,
And with thy left the father of the night.
Agile and vig’rous, venerable Sun,
Fiery and bright around the heav’ns you run.
Foe to the wicked, but the good man’s guide,
O’er all his steps propitious you preside:
With various founding, golden lyre, ’tis mine
To fill the world with harmony divine.

Father of ages, guide of prosp’rous deeds,
The world’s commander, borne by lucid steeds,
Immortal Jove, all-searching, bearing light,
Source of existence, pure and fiery bright
Bearer of fruit, almighty lord of years,
Agil and warm, whom ev’ry pow’r reveres.
Great eye of Nature and the starry skies,
Doom’d with immortal flames to set and rise
Dispensing justice, lover of the stream,
The world’s great despot, and o’er all supreme.
Faithful defender, and the eye of right,
Of steeds the ruler, and of life the light:
With founding whip four fiery steeds you guide,
When in the car of day you glorious ride.
Propitious on these mystic labours shine,
And bless thy suppliants with a life divine.

Raise the water in offering, then pour some onto the ground.

“Mighty Sun – hail and welcome!”

Drink some of the water, completing your communion with the land spirits, the ancestors, and the Sun.  If there is any left, return it to the Earth.

Take a moment and bask in the warmth of the first rays of the Sun.  This is the longest day, and you have participated in its beginning.

Farewells

Say “Mighty Sun, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever.  Hail and farewell.” 

Say “Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever.  Hail and farewell.” 

Say “Spirits of the land, spirits of this place, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever.  Hail and farewell.” 

Closing

Say “Spirits of the North, West, South, and East; Spirits of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air; I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever.  Hail and farewell.” 

Bow slightly to the Sun and acknowledge its growing light.  Say “This celebration of the Summer Solstice is complete.  Hail and farewell.”

Afterward

Pick up your glass and chair and go home, whether that means leaving a park and returning to your house or leaving your back yard and returning to your kitchen.

You may wish to write about your experience in your journal, particularly if your experience was strong.  Focus on recording the experience, not on your interpretation of the experience.  You have the rest of your life to figure out what it all means, but you have only a short time before your recollection of the events begins to fade.

If you normally keep early hours, simply continue on with your day.  If being up this early – or being up this early on a Sunday – is unusual for you, make something of it.  Cook breakfast for your family or yourself.  Get a Sunday newspaper and spend the morning browsing through it.  Perhaps this might be the day to visit that UU church you’ve been thinking about checking out.

May your Solstice be blessed, and may your Summer bring discovery, growth, and joy!

Sunrise June 2015 04


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