The summer solstice is a celebration of the longest day of the year and marks the height of the waxing season: a time of fertility of nature. Think of this as a time of being pregnant with possibilities.
As I wrote in my book The Joy of Family Rituals, since this is a time when the sun begins to wane, ancient cultures around the world lit bonfires to guarantee the sun’s return the following year. Often, as part of these rituals, celebrants picked prized summer flowers and herbs—mugwort, chamomile, geranium, St. John’s wort, thyme, and pennyroyal—to toss onto their festive bonfires. They believed these fires would banish sickness from their families and their livestock. For good luck, they jumped across the fire and even walked on hot coals, a precursor to the fire-walking ceremonies practiced today.
The summer rituals practiced around the world today echo these ancient beliefs. In Swaziland, the most important festival of the year, Incwala, which honors kinship, is always held on the summer solstice. The Swahilis believe that this practice ensures successful leadership and a prosperous year.
In North America, Native Americans celebrate with a sun dance, offering a healing prayer to the Great Spirit and one of thanksgiving for the gift of the buffalo and for life itself. It begins with a period of fasting and purification. The ritual can last four days, as the participants dance to unify with the spirit and harmonize with all life.
Here are three summer solstice rituals for you to try:
The Dance of Joy
Part of a celebration is expressing yourself through dance and music. The important thing is to enjoy your body and allow the music to free your spirit. Traditionally the dance for the summer solstice is a figure 8 dance that expresses the turning of the seasons and the cycles of the year. Whatever dance you choose, let yourself break loose and rejoice in the rhythms of life. I invite you to step into sacred time and space. As mystics have known for eons, you are not dancing alone; you are dancing with the universe. Let the spirit dance through you.
Falling in Love
Remember the feeling of a new love? Everything looks vibrant and alive, like Technicolor. Practice falling in love with yourself. Bring dancing, laughter, and music into your life. Pay attention to the flowers around you. Delight in the colors. Let yourself smile and express joy. The more you practice feeling joyful, the more joy you will experience. Expand your capacity to receive love and joy. Like any new skill, the more you practice, the better you will become. So start right now.
In ancient times June was considered the most favorable time to marry since Juno was the ancient Roman goddess of marriage. The word “honeymoon” relates to the abundance of honey available at this time of year.
There is an Italian tradition of exchanging a pot of basil and cucumbers with your sweetheart. It is said that if your plant grows thick, your love will grow in joy and happiness.
Watch my video on wedding traditions here.