Today is, or more accurately was, the Summer Solstice (in the Northern hemisphere). This is the day when the angle of the earth is tilted at its maximum (towards the Sun) therefore increasing the amount of daylight received. This moment occurred at about 05:00 in the UK. (In the southern hemisphere, the summer solstice is celebrated in December, also when the daytime is at a maximum). It’s all academic when you wake up at 06:00 and the sky is just an impenetrable bank of semen coloured cloud.
I know. I was looking for another word but it seemed kind of apt. We’re all adults here. I hope I didn’t offend anyone.
The word “Solstice” is derived from the Latin words: “sol” meaning sun, and “sistere,” to cause to stand still. This is because, as the summer solstice approaches, the sun rises higher and higher in the sky on each successive day. On the day of the solstice however, it rises only an imperceptible amount, compared to the day before thus creating a sense that it is “standing still.”
As the sun spirals its longest dance,
As nature shows bounty and fertility
Let all things live with loving intent
And to fulfill their truest destiny
Wiccan blessing for Summer
This is a time to celebrate growth and life for Pagans. For them this spoke in the wheel of life is very significant because the Goddess takes over from the horned God who has been taking us through Spring. She is now at the height of her fertility and power, in fact for some pagans the Summer solstice marks the marriage of the God and Goddess (Heaven & Earth) who see their union as the force that creates the harvests fruits. It’s all about balance in the world and the natural environment and they like animals and possibly our forbears are deeply aware of the ongoing shifting of the seasons and that it is also time to acknowledge that the sun will now begin to decline once more towards winter. Yes I know. All is impermanence after all.
The impact of the sun’s journey is one that traverses all the world’s population throughout all time. People around the world have observed spiritual and religious seasonal days of celebration in June. Most are linked in some way to the summer solstice. The Celts & Slavs celebrated the first day of summer with dancing & bonfires to help increase the sun’s energy. The Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light and Christians placed the feast of St John the Baptist towards the end of June.
In fact all ancient cultures knew that the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. They built monuments, such as Stonehenge, to follow the sun’s yearly progress. Around the same time Stonehenge was being constructed in England, two great pyramids and then the Sphinx were built on Egyptian sands. If you stood at the Sphinx on the summer solstice and gazed toward the two pyramids, you’d see the sun set exactly between them.
Today we know the solstice as an astronomical event, it’s hard to understand just how powerful the connection with the Sun would have been for these earlier cultures. Life was intrinsically and instinctively linked. It was a natural and spiritual connection.
So what would happen if the Sun disappeared? Well if you are in daylight at the time then it would go dark but only after eight and half minutes because of the speed of light. What you would see during that time would effectively be a ghost sun; it would appear the same, it just wouldn’t exist! At that point the earth would also be free from the gravitational pull of the sun and start to move off in a straight line (probably) travelling at 18 mph into the eternal darkness. If you were in night-time and there was a full moon this would disappear and then the whole planet would be plunged into total night and the temperature would start to fall…the Sun is the glue keeping our solar system together.
Despite our distance from this spiritual reliance on the environment in our highly industrialised and technologically advanced society, we are still totally dependant on the Sun for life, yet we have nothing of the same reverence or celebration of its power today. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why to this day, it’s still so special to some: It communicates something deeply profound about the nature and fragility of human existence. The celebration of the solstice is one way of acknowledging this and perhaps on a more subconscious level, offers an opportunity to remove the mask of humanity’s global constructs and break through the ego-fuelled illusions and boundaries of race, culture, religion and nationality.
After all, without the sun all of humanity would simply be alone in the darkness.