It’s the time of year everyone in the Northern hemisphere has been waiting for – the first day of summer. Also, known as summer solstice, the first day of the ‘hot’ season manifests as the longest day of the year, or the day of the most sunlight verses dark. The more north you go, the longer the light, and at some points in Alaska, northern Europe and Asia, the sun simply does not set now, for several days. What is the significance of this?
Many traditions and cultures throughout the ages have had very specific ways of celebrating this time of the year. It is believed Stonehenge in England was originally constructed to honor this particular day, as the sun rises uniquely on the solstice unlike any other time. Other structures around the globe of ancient origin seem to honor the sun as well. For example, in Egypt, on the summer solstice, the sun sets precisely between the two grandest pyramids when viewing them from the Sphinx. The Osireion temple in Egypt has solstice significance also. “On the summer solstice, the light of the setting sun shines through a nearby gap in the Libyan Hills, which intersects the Osirieon temple.”
There is another location in Egypt that also appears to honor the time of the most sun. In Qumran, the site thought to be sacred by the ancient Essenes, in the largest room of their communal building’s eastern wall the setting sun of the solstice falls so as to light up the altars constructed there. Ireland also has a sacred hilltop on Mt Seskin, where many stone structures have been constructed. The summer solstice sun rises right beside the Lambay Volcano -reflecting off Lin Oir -a pool of water on the hill, translated as the ‘golden pond.’
In India there are approximately 30 miraculously carved cave temples thought to be created by Buddhist monks called the Ajanta Caves. Two of the caves align to the two solstices – one to the summer solstice, another to the winter solstice. The summer solstice cave has been dubbed ‘cave 26’ and has a giant Buddha on a stupa bathed in the light of the rising sun.
In Guatamala and Mexico there are similarly spectacular temples aligned with the summer solstice signifying the obvious significance of this time of year to various cultures. In the U.S. as well there are certain spots such as Serpent Mound, Ohio where ancient people constructed an earth mound with serpents heads which face the summer solstice sunset.
It was thought during the summer solstice that faeries were likely to appear in forests everywhere, weddings would occur and prayers of thanksgiving would be held under the bright summer sun.
Why so much attention on the summer solstice?
It is true that there is more daylight today in the Northern hemisphere than the rest of the year. For many of us the sunlight actually affects our mood and our health. But is there something deeper? Could the peak of the sun’s expression symbolize for us the apex of our own individual consciousness and the opportunity we have, now in this moment, to shed greater light onto our own lives and experiences to perhaps reap something greater? Can we harness the intensity of the sun in our environment by letting it point us to the light each one of us has within?
On this day of the greatest sunlight perhaps we can take the example of the sun as inspiration into our own mode of expression. What if today you chose to shine the brightest you have ever shone in this world? What would that look like? What if today, as did the ancients, you created a celebration in honor of the light within yourself and every individual – even in the form of a grand smile on your face that did not falter? What if you allowed the temple of your own being to light up today as never before and illuminate for you and all you meet this day – the glory that resides within your own body and soul?
I challenge myself and each of us this summer solstice to embody this day the secrets of the ancients as exemplified in their outer structures around the globe. To be the light we wish to see at the height of the summer in this, the apex of our lives. For all of time, the millions upon millions of years before this moment have all led up to this instant in time. You and I may now choose to reap the power of the solstice summer sun to become greater versions of ourselves and celebrate the light we have inside. Today, the summer solstice rises again within us all as in ancient times – so let’s celebrate!
Written by: Stasia Bliss