Friday, January 10, 2014

High Day Essay: Summer Solstice

Summer solstice activities among neo-pagans vary greatly depending on region and hearth inspiration.  In general, most neo-pagan summer solstice activities focus on celebrating the power of the sun.  Outdoor activities (swimming, picnicing, camping, bonfires) are common.  A popular name for the summer solstice among contemporary pagans, Litha, is based on an Anglo-Saxon calendar term.

Mid-summer celebrations were common in most Indo-European pre-Christian cultures.  While actual observances varied greatly from region to region, the most common traditions include bonfires and specific rituals for unmarried girls and women.

In Slavic cultures the great festival known as Kupala (both Kupala day and Kupala night) typically occur around June 23rd.  Historically, this holiday was association with fire and water and included rituals for both purification and fertility.  Bonfires were lit, sometimes on the tops of hills, and celebrations around the fire lasted through the night until dawn.  This was a time for ritual bathing in rivers and lakes, as the powers of the trickster water spirits were viewed to be their weakest.  A tradition that survives to this day is that of wianki (literally, "wreaths").  Unmarried girls and women create lavish head wreaths out of flowers and greenery.  A lit candle is placed on the wreath, which is then let loose to float in a river or lake.  Tradition holds that a young man will find the wreath and fall in love with the maiden who made it.

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