'm not a summertime person, really. I hate the heat and, quite frankly, there's not much hunting to be
done during the summer and usually summer is the start of fire season here in the West. Even so, this year I find that I've been enjoying the spring and summer because La Nina has made this summer cool (relatively speaking) and wet for us in the Northwest. So, I'm able to take a breather and actually enjoy the green landscape plus work on my garden.
But all this got me thinking about solstice from a historical perspective. So, whether you call it Midsummer, Lithia, or just the summer solstice, I like looking at the roots of the celebration.
There's little doubt that humans in prehistoric times recognized the solstice and celebrated the day with the most amount of sunlight. Stonehenge and Externsteine were places where people could observe and mark the longest day of the year. The altar at Externsteine has a keyhole that lights up at dawn on the summer solstice. And Stonehenge is definitely a monument to the sun. The heel stone gateway capture's the sun's rays on June 21st.
Almost all prehistoric peoples worshiped the sun in some capacity. Bonfires were common both in prehistoric times and later to welcome the solstice.
Medieval and Viking Times
During the Viking era, northern peoples held a Thing and used the time to solve legal matters and disputes. Bonfires were common as were visiting wells that were thought to have magical properties. In northern Europe, it was customary to light a wheel encased with straw and roll it down a hill to determine if the harvest would be good or poor. If the wheel went out before it reached the bottom, it would mean a poor harvest. Methinks it'd be a good idea to pick a short hill. Obviously with the droughts in the West, that would be a foolhardy thing to do. At least I won't be doing that anytime soon.
Midsummer in Sweden
Not unsurprisingly, Midsummer celebrations are alive and well in Sweden. A direct descendant of the Viking era solstice celebrations, Midsummer is celebrated with feasts, music, dance, the Maypole, and honoring nature. Not surprisingly, the Church didn't squash the tradition, it merely usurped it and made it the feast of John the Baptist. Midsummer celebrations still has kept their fertility roots, thus hearkening back to the much older tradition. After all, who wants to let something like Christian conversion ruin a good thing?
My Own Midsummer Celebration
Solstices tend to be a special time for me. I'll be cooking a pork tenderloin and maybe make some special foods. I'll be honoring Freyja, Freyja, Sunna, Mani, and Tyr on summer solstice. Perhaps I'll used the time to reflect on what I want to accomplish before hunting season is upon us. I'll make offerings for a safe and fruitful season as well.
I hope you have a good solstice and let me know how you do to celebrate.
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