The Significance of the Solstice
Solstice derives from the latin word “solstitium’ literally meaning sun stops. It marks the 1st day of Summer or Winter. June 21st marks the beginning of Summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere. The solstices and the equinoxes signify the beginning of new seasons. These occur in the Cardinal Sign: Aries.Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. Cardinal signs are associated to the four directions and are defined by a strong quality of initiating change.
On the Solstices the sun will reach the highest or lowest point in relationship to the equator, with summer solstice being the longest day of the year and winter solstice the shortest. At the summer solstice the sun’s zenith is over the Tropic of Cancer, and at the winter solstice it is over the Tropic of Capricorn. Of course this is reversed for the southern hemisphere.These are important cycles that have for eons connected many cultures with the heavens. From ancient times people have used these cycles to mark the passage of time. There are rituals that connect with the start of the seasons, in many traditions it’s a time to celebrate with festivals, initiations and rituals.
“In Ancient Greece several festivals were held around this time, including Kronia, which celebrated the agriculture god Cronus. (Saturn) The strict social code was temporarily turned on its head during Kronia, with slaves participating in the merriment as equals or even being served by their masters. The summer solstice also marked the one-month countdown to the opening of the Olympic games.” history.com
“In the days leading up to the summer solstice, ancient Romans celebrated the Vestalia festival, which paid tribute to Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. Rituals included the sacrifice of an unborn calf remove from its mother’s womb. This was the only time of the year when married women were allowed to enter the sacred temple of the vestal virgins and make offerings to Vesta there.” history.com
“The ancient Chinese participated in a ceremony on the summer solstice to honour the earth, femininity and the force known as yin. It complemented the winter solstice ritual, which was devoted to the heavens, masculinity and yang. Ancient Northern and Central European Tribes Many Germanic, Slavic and Celtic pagans welcomed summer with bonfires, a tradition that is still enjoyed in Germany, Austria, Estonia and other countries. Some ancient tribes practiced a ritual in which couples would jump through the flames to predict how high that year’s crops would grow.” history.com
“The name for the festival of the Summer Solstice in Druidry is Alban Hefin, which means ‘The Light of the Shore’. Druidry has a great respect and reverence for places that are ‘in between’ worlds. The seashore is one such place, where the three realms of Earth, Sea and Sky meet. There is great power in places such as these. It is the time of greatest light when the Solar God is crowned by the Goddess as the King of Summer.” druidry.org
As you can see solstices (and equinoxes) were times when goddesses/ gods were worshiped as people were living in harmony with the natural cycles here on earth and in the heavens. These traditions were connected to the wisdom teachings of many ancient cultures across the planet. In esoteric traditions these passages signified the unfoldment not just of the seasons but of our human Souls. The yearly cycle of the Sun, with it’s increase and decrease of light represents the growth process of human consciousness.