June drifts in slowly here in the piedmont of NC, like a summer breeze, warming up a little more each day, humidity settling in like an old friend planning to stay awhile. Each day is a little longer than the one before, and each evening, fireflies light up the night as they dance through the air. The longer days coax all the garden babies to grow a little taller while the flowers bloom a little bigger. It’s a winding and playful build-up to the joy of the summer solstice.
What is the Summer Solstice?
You'd think this would be a straight forward answer, but depending on who you're talking to, the answer may be different! Summer Solstice is often associated with the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere, since it is the time of year when things are just beginning to warm up. Astronomically speaking however - and according to Celtic tradition -the Summer Solstice is actually considered mid-summer because it is technically the longest day of the year.
Whether you celebrate this day as a marker of the beginning or middle of summer, what matters most is being attuned to the season of the place where you live. Here in North Carolina, the Summer Solstice does feel like mid-summer since our summers are much longer than those who live in the North. For our Canadian relatives however, Summer Solstice will likely feel more like the beginning of summer.
So let's get back to the astronomy part of things... Summer solstice occurs when the Earth is at maximum tilt towards the sun, giving us the longest day and shortest night of the year. According to the farmer's almanac, the summer solstice will take place on Sunday, June 20, 2021 at 11:32 P.M. EDT in the northern hemisphere.
The summer solstice also marks the sun’s shift into the sign of Cancer. According to Ted Andrews, “cancer is the mother sign of the zodiac. It is the sign for manifesting the new waters of life.” In this spirit, the summer solstice is a time to dream of all that is possible and to manifest what you’d like to see in your life in the coming months.
More than the longest day of the year, the solstice is a day of celebration, of joy and playfulness, of abundance and enthusiasm. The long day of sunshine is energizing, and the whole of Nature feels alive, basking in the sunlight. It is a day to gather together, to dance, to play, to sing, and to laugh. It is a day of whimsy and delight.
Last Solstice: Our Day of Whimsy
Last summer solstice, we were in the worst of this awful COVID pandemic in the US, socially distanced and staying at home with no clear end in sight. We desperately needed a moment of whimsy, a time to take stock of all that we were grateful for, and a chance to celebrate. We were fortunate enough to have access to a nature preserve, and we set about finding our joy with our pod, planning a day of play out in nature and taking precautions in the weeks leading up to the solstice to safely gather.
We began our day with a slow flow yoga practice in the open field, stretching out to soak in some sunshine. We ended our practice in circle together, sending love to our nearest and dearest with a harmony of ohms.
With our juices flowing, we set out to play. To break out our inner children, we planned water balloon games that quickly dissolved into a gleeful and giggling water balloon war. We started out slowly, playing a game of water balloon toss, very reserved in our play. I’m not sure who threw the first balloon, but all shyness was pushed aside when that first balloon burst on Michelle’s belly, Just like that, we were dashing around the grass, dipping into three baskets filled with balloons, laughing as we snuck up on each other, drenching each other in cold water. We were all positively joyful as the last balloon burst, soaking wet, slightly out of breath from running and laughing, huge grins on every face.
After a little bit of balloon clean-up, we went adventuring around the land. We stopped in the vegetable garden, spending a little time with the plants, weeding the garden path while swapping stories and hardy laughs. We ventured down a moss-covered trail, searching for fairies and wild mushrooms in equal measure.
As we made our way past a tall grass field, Jess suddenly had an idea as we stopped by the gate to the field. Ever our artist with an eye for beauty, she deemed the lighting perfect for an impromptu photo shoot. We were all game, and we took to the field, walking, twirling, skipping, even dancing a bit among the tall grasses, while Jess dashed all around to capture our play. Looking back on those photos now is looking at a stolen moment of joy amid such a scary summer. Jess truly captured a bright spot in a summer of gray.
Next we headed over to the pond for a quick dip to cool down. This quick dip evolved into a lazy afternoon of floating on the water. We chatted as we floated near each other, breathing in the sweet solace of solitude when we drifted away from the group. We alternated between sunning on the dock and dipping back in the pond to float again. By the time we packed up our floats, we were blissed out and ready for dinner.
After dinner, the sun was setting, and Michelle got a bonfire going for us in the fire pit. We took a short walk over to a quartz circle for a solstice ritual. You can check out our ritual below.
By the time we finished up with our solstice ribbons, night had fallen, and our short walk back in the dark was slow and silent, except for the occasional warning to be mindful of a tree root or hole.
We arrived back to camp with Michelle’s beautiful bonfire lighting up the night. We all gathered around the fire, and I put on a drumming playlist. Solstice wouldn’t be complete without a little dancing, and boy, did we DANCE. We were wild women unleashed, dancing around the fire, whooping and hollering, howling at the solstice moon. There is something magical about being in a group of women you trust enough to let down all your inhibitions and dance with abandon together. It was freeing and glorious, a powerful way to close out our solstice celebration. We collapsed, breathing heavily and deliciously exhausted.
This stolen day was everything I love about the Way Of Belonging community, even though the pandemic restricted us to our pod. It was heartwarming, safe, joyful, supportive, and non-judgmental. It was adventures together and playing like kids together. It was real talks and soulful rituals. As I lay down to sleep that night, I thought this is what belonging must feel like.
A Simple Summer Solstice Ritual
If you can, plan to do this ritual outside in the sunshine. Alternatively, if you do not have access to a good spot outdoors, you can do this inside by a window and light a candle to invite in the warmth of the sun.
What You’ll Need
String / Ribbon / Cloth Strips (red/yellow/orange if possible)
Pen & Journal
NOTE: As a general rule, I recommend sunscreen, but particularly here as you bask in the sunlight
Find a good sit spot in the sunshine and make yourself comfortable. I can get cozy right on the grass, but bring a cushion, blanket, or chair to sit in if grass stains aren’t your jam. Close your eyes and feel the sun’s warmth on your skin.
Think about the things you’re grateful for. Think about the things you’d like to cultivate in the upcoming months. What prayers of thanks and celebrations can you offer to the universe? What would you like to call into your life? What would you like to release from your life?
Take a few moments and journal about what’s coming up for you.
When you’re ready, take a ribbon or string and speak your prayer, your wish, your gratitude into the ribbon and into the world. Tie the ribbon in a knot at the place you spoke. Continue speaking and tying knots until you feel complete. Alternatively, you can tie your prayer ribbons to a tree branch. This is similar to the Celtic practice of tying “clooties” near a sacred spot. If you opt to tie your prayer ribbons to a tree, I recommend cotton or wool materials, in the spirit of eco-friendly practices.
However you choose to celebrate this summer solstice, I hope you find your joy. I hope you gather with those you love if you are able. I hope you dance around a bonfire or around your house or out in the yard with blissful abandon. I hope you sit in the sun and soak in all the abundant energy of Mother Nature around you. I hope you laugh until you cry and then laugh some more. I hope you feel like you belong - because you do!
Happy Solstice, dear ones. We’ll be holding you in our hearts while we celebrate the onset (or peak) of summer fun. And if you hear Xena-the-warrior-princess calls in the night, don’t mind me. I’m finding my joy.
“Solstice will expand you—into hope, connection, revelation. It will draw you out with compassion, then demand the best your love has to give. Compassion is not all softness. It is fierce. It is unyielding, uncompromising in the love that feeds it. Centering love is no joke. No easy task. It is for those who can stand in the hugeness of summer and look into what the light reveals. It is for those who soften into connection, melt into tides, and also provide the definition of the shore.”
Peace, love, & belonging,
Andrews, Ted. Nature-Speak: Signs, Omens, & Messages in Nature. Dragonhawk Publishing, 2004.
Summer Solstice 2021 And The First Day Of Summer: Facts And Folklore. The Farmer’s Almanac website. Accessed 12 June 2021.
We’Moon Blog. We’Moon 2021. Accessed 12 June 2021.
Why Do Celts Hang Rags on Trees? The Culture Trip Ltd. Access 12 June 2021.