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Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year. It is celebrated in many ways by many peoples, in the Wicca or Pagan tradition it is a Sabbat ( holiday ) called Litha. This is the day with the most light, and it has been celebrated for centuries. The sun and it's travel through the year has been tracked by many people's all over the globe. For us in this hemisphere it occurs right around June 21st or so.
I have always had a particular fondness for this time of the year, and have always felt the shifting of something deep. I love the late nights that are light until nearly 10 pm! This has always meant summer to me. There is a mystery to the dusk at this time of year that is hard to put into words. It is as if there is magic in the very air and that you can see it like a faint shimmer that gathers as the light fades from the sky.
The Solstices in particular effect me deeply as do the Equinoxes. I always feel their approach energetically, and did even when I wasn't doing obvious rituals during this time. They have a particular 'feel" to me about motion and balance and that moment in time when there is this "breath" and then the cycles starts anew. That "breath" feels like a very important and magically charged time.
While in my experience, the Winter Solstice is more about going within and opening to what is deep and hidden, the Summer Solstice is about opening to the abundance that is both within and without, opening to the light that pouring to us from the Sun and from our own vibrant nature. It is also about acknowledging the light and it's importance in our lives, that it is that which brings the flower and full field upon the earth. It is the time when everything is at it's flourishing peak, the sun is at it's Zenith.
This Day has been celebrated with feasts and big bon fires that are danced around, I have heard tales of a past that included sexual union in the fields celebrating the union of the God and Goddess, which is also celebrated in the Spring, as well as during this time of culmination. It would be much warmer at the time of the Summer Solstice and so having sex outside would be much more comfortable than perhaps in the still cold spring!
For me this Sabbat or Holiday is also about transformation, about bringing the light of knowledge about who we are into our lives to let it carry us into the coming darkness where many times our faith is tried as we look at our shadow aspects later on in the year. It is odd in a way because it is this great celebration and then within many traditions there is the myth of the death of the Oak King as the Holly King comes into power.
It is an important reminder that there is always some sort of death that has to happen when we transform, even if it is the "death" of our idea of who we think we are. Perhaps this is why I always felt a hint of sadness at this time, because while it is a celebration of the peak of the light, it is also an acknowledgment that the days are from this point on are going to be shorter and the light is leaving once again. It may also explain why for me at the Winter Solstice even in the midst of greatest darkness I feel that small spark of excitement because of the knowledge of the still small light that is grower ever brighter.