Friday, June 21, 2013

Solstice--Summer or Winter

From ancient times various cultures have observed and marked the solstices. Stone circles around the world helped shamans and priests keep track of the sun's journey. For half of the Earth, today is the winter solstice--the shortest day of the year. Here in the north, it's the opposite, the longest day.

This is a day of beginnings and endings. For northerners, this begins the countdown to the darkening days of winter. For the southerners, this is the day winter starts moving toward spring.

Cultures all over the world marked these two days, some with solemn worshipful observations--others with wild joyful rites. Whatever form the celebration might take, the main incentive was to acknowledge a change, a change in time and a change in purpose for the culture or group. A large part of the rites were centered around agriculture.

In the United States, we are no longer a mainly agricultural society so for most, the solstice is just another day with little or no meaning to the general populace. We are also a primarily Christian culture where celebration of what is perceived as a pagan observance is taboo.

I find this sad. The scientific and historical observation of the solstices has nothing to do with religion. If some choose to mark the solstices with formal rites, what has that to do with the rest of the population? I am Baptist by faith and rearing. That doesn't mean I have a problem with the Catholics who celebrate their saints' birthdays or the rites observed by any other religion. All are free to worship as they choose, including those who celebrate the solar path.

In our eagerness to shun other faiths we've tossed out the baby with the bathwater. The summer solstice is an important turning point in our year. It's half-way. It's an opportunity for assessment and recalibration of our personal plans and resolutions. Have we accomplished what we wanted to up to this point? Do we need to focus our efforts more purposefully for the rest of the year?

Our calendar is an artificial construct with arbitrarily chosen names for months and days and varying lengths attached to those months. I find it untidy. Yet, we all must use the same method of counting time in order to navigate in the global culture.

I suspect life was much simpler when we followed the track of the sun.



  1. I suspect if McDonalds made a Summer Solstice burger then people would be interested

  2. Ah-hah! We should send them a proposal!