The summer solstice: everything you need to know and how to celebrate

·4-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

When someone says summer solstice, chances are the film Midsommar immediately springs to mind. The 2019 horror film follows Florence Pugh’s character as she gets inculcated into a murderous pagan cult celebrating the arrival of summer. But really, the summer solstice is just the longest day and shortest night of the year, a cause for celebration — depending on how your day is going, of course.

What is the summer solstice?

The summer solstice occurs when the north pole is at its maximum tilt (23.5 degrees) in the sky. Sounds complicated, but all this means is we get the longest hours of sunlight and shortest night of the calendar year, marking the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. In London, that means a whopping 16 hours and 38 minutes of natural light. But not only does the sun stay highest in the sky it also sets slower, meaning you should find a rooftop bar near you asap.

The process reverses in the southern hemisphere with the 21st of June heralding the shortest day of the year and the start of winter. Boo.

The sun begins to shine on the longest day (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
The sun begins to shine on the longest day (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)

How has it been celebrated?

Humans have celebrated the summer solstice in some capacity for millennia, each culture has had a slightly different name and ritual associated with it. The druids, who built Stonehenge, called the solstice Litha meaning light and it was celebrated as a festival of life-giving and regeneration. To this day pagans gather at Stonehenge and similar ancient stone circles to watch as the light from the sun lights up the middle of the stones, reflecting onto the central altar in a magical light display.

The Romans celebrated the solstice with a festival in honour of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth and women would leave flowers and offerings on the altars of her temples. Meanwhile, in Ancient Greece the solstice marked the beginning of the new year and feasting was laid on in the name of the agricultural God Cronus and the Titan queen Rhea with slaves being served by their masters. In ancient Viking settlements in what is now Iceland and Sweden, the solstice was one of the most important days of the year, celebrated with bonfires and visits to wells, which were thought to have healing properties.

What does it mean for us?

Astrologers and spiritual practitioners believe that the summer solstice (when the sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer) is a powerful time to manifest our desires for the year ahead. As a result of its association with the astrological sign of Cancer, the solstice is a time of self-reflection and re-centering our “homes” or inner worlds, in order to evolve over the next six months.

According to ancient pagans the solstice also known as Midsummer’s eve was steeped in magic and intentions or spells that were cast during this time were particularly likely to come true.

Astrologers, shamans and spiritual healers still believe that the energy of the sun, which burns brightest on this day, has the power to supercharge intentions, manifestations and any decisions made.

Summer Solstice 2022

How can you celebrate the summer solstice?

Our society has become more interested in spirituality and mysticism over the last few years, as a result the summer solstice is being acknowledged and celebrated in a more mainstream capacity.

If you’re heading to Glastonbury this weekend, head to the stone circle, now known as a spot for revellers to head to keep the party alive when everyone else has gone to sleep, but the druid formation is steeped in ancient folklore and is widely thought to be one of the most magical spots in the UK.

If you’re in London, why not clear your chakras with a Shamanic fire ceremony or head to Chelsea Physic Garden for their Summer Solstice Sound Bath ritual. Alternatively, just write a list of intentions or desires to manifest over the next six months and light a candle to harness some of the sun’s healing power.

Kill two birds with one stone and combine your workout while ringing in the start of summer at Parliament Hill Lido on Saturday with their solstice-themed evening swimming event. Or if your in central London head to Leicester Square’s The Merit Club on Sunday, where spiritual healers are hosting a goddess healing circle, sharing their expertise on everything from the tantric arts to transformative healing.

Or if crystals and star signs aren’t your thing, toast the arrival of summer with an ice-cold aperitivo instead in the bucolic garden at St Margaret’s House.

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