That wonderful time of year is here: the time of the longest day and the shortest night, the time when the sun appears to stand still and shine down on us for the maximum amount of time. Did you know that the word ‘solstice’ comes from the Latin solstitium—from sol (Sun) and stitium (still or stopped)? Perhaps you’ve never wondered about this, but because the Earth is on a tilted axis, the Sun rises and sets at different points of the horizon as the Earth travels around the sun. At the Solstice, however, the Sun reaches its northernmost point in the sky and its path does not change for a short period of time- about 3 days.
I have found that living by the wheel of the year and celebrating all the festivals helps me to be more in tune with the natural processes or growth and decay, of light and dark, and that this is very much tied into the work we do on the allotment. Plants grow, produce flowers and food and then decay back to the Earth, all with their own natural cycles. The Sun is needed to bring them life and nourish them along with water and nutrients from the Earth and air. Thus, all the elements are needed and every plant has different requirements. I find the winter and long dark nights can be challenging, sometimes wondering if I have S.A.D. Certainly when I lived in Spain there was more light and I found it easier to deal with a shorter winter and a shorter night. Winter is tough. The dark is sometimes hard on the soul. However, celebrating and honouring darkness, as well as light, helps and brings gratitude and patience. Seeds can only germinate well in darkness, buried beneath the Earth. Too much Sun and everything is parched and burnt.
Whilst light will bring me a sense of lightness and joy, too much light feels like scrutiny, and I’ve never been able to sleep well with the light on. You may also find too much sun leaves you groggy and dehydrated. The metaphor and literal meaning, as with so much in nature, are intertwined. All seasons are needed to grow and as humans we all need different shades of emotions to experience the full picture of what it means to be human. We also need to understand our shadow side, instead of hiding it away. Life involves darkness and suffering. Loss and grief. If we wish to grow, we need to process and understand this too. After the Solstice, the days will get shorter, and the inevitable cycle will continue. To be part of this is humbling and at the same time reminds us that we are all connected in spirit.
Creating a Solstice ritual may enable you to connect with gratitude to the power of the Sun, linger in its light and feel rejuvenated. Yogis traditionally practice Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar). In Sanskrit, ‘Surya’ means Sun and ‘Namaskar’ means bowing down. What better way to honour the energy of the solstice sun, noticing the abundance of nature with gratitude and opening ourselves up to enjoyment, creativity, positivity and release? Traditionally, people celebrated the full return of the sun’s light, the growth of the crops and the potential for the new harvest. They celebrated renewal, life, fertility and abundance- both material and spiritual. It is indeed a special time of the year.
So do some mindful Sun Salutations and find ways to celebrate this time of year. You could also spend more time sitting in nature, have a bonfire, drum, sing, get up early and walk in the morning dew, meditate, dance, pick flowers, watch the Stonehenge livestream, go foraging, eat and drink with friends and family, or make a summer mandala with your kids. The list is endless. As life goes on, I realise that marking significant events, including the festivals in the wheel of the year, help us understand that life is precious and that there is so much to rejoice in. Have a happy Summer Solstice!