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Celebrating Summer Solstice and Street Art
The Sun and art have been intertwined since the days of cave paintings and continues to be a source of inspiration to may people. The solstice is synonymous with symbolism and mysticism and for many is the highlight of the spiritual year. We explore art inspired by the sun - with a nod to the solstice.
2020 is certainly turning out to be a very different year to any that have gone before it; yet we are sure in the knowledge that the sun will always rise on another day and we can look forward to the summer solstice.
As we make our way towards the 20th June, the summer solstice (Litha) is literally on the horizon. Living here in Somerset with the Glastonbury Tor just up the road and near-ish to Stonehenge, over the border in Wiltshire; we have no shortage of spiritual locations for our druidic friends to celebrate the rising of the sun.
What is the Summer Solstice?
The term summer solstice is derived from Latin and means ‘the sun stands still’. The solstice – also referred to as Midsummer – is often thought of as a day-long event, but in fact represents a single moment in time: when the sun is at the northernmost point from the earth’s equator during a single year.
We asked our friend Ben, who is a Druid Pagan to explain a bit more about what the Summer Solstice means to him from a UK perspective.
What does the Summer Solstice mean to you?
Summer solstice or Litha is a very important point in the pagan calendar. The summer solstice falls usually between the 19th and 22nd of June. Now, it is important to remember that the reasons why we celebrate the solstice can be very personal to each person. There are many that have different names but essentially worship the earth, the sky and all the elements of earth, air, fire and water. Pagans, Druids, Wiccans, Witches and even some Christians and Muslims follow this path.
For me as a druid pagan, I celebrate the sun being at its peak in life during this time of year. The stories of old have many variations; I like to think about the sun as being the father, provider and keeper of light, the earth as the Mother, nurturer and giver.
Therefore, during the summer solstice with the sun at its peak we are realising that from this day the nights will get longer and darker. This happens as in our legends the sun god loses his battle with the holly king (who peaks at winter solstice) and starts his decline to allow the darkness to take over for the winter. Although this sounds a little dark, it is in fact essential for all life to survive and therefore keep balance and the wheel of the seasons turning. There is a good explanation here:- www.learnreligions.com
What happens on the day?
The ritual that is performed can literally fill me with euphoria and last for months on end. During the solstice, as I watch the sun come up over the horizon, I feel the full energy from the sun giving me strength, health and healing for the coming cold winter. The summer solstice is for me one of the most important days of the spiritual year and leaves me feeling rejuvenated and ready for the challenge of winter.
‘Raising the Spirits’
Traditionally Pagans, druids, wiccans and witches would gather on mass and these celebrations would begin with an opening ritual at sun down. This is started by ‘raising the spirits’ so we will chant 3 vowel sounds starting with A then I and O, These are important sounds that have meaning to us, the A represents a woman at the height of fertility, legs open and ready to mate. The I represents the phallic symbol of a man and the O is the sound of glorious lovemaking (Druids are obsessed with sex too and believe that sexual energy is sacred. Maybe in days of old this could have been an orgy, but we have moved on and so has the law). This passes conscious energy to everyone in the circle. This would then be followed by dance, singing and drumming until the sun rises again. Then at dawn, another ritual will take place and thanks given as the sun rises above the horizon first thing in the morning. At this point, when often thousands of us are holding sacred space at the same time, there is an amazing atmosphere. A pressure in the air that I like to call magic, and here we are given the chance to have 3 selfless wishes that the sun god will grant before his demise at the autumn equinox.
No matter what faith you believe in, what path you follow, Pagans Druids and Witches are welcoming to all faiths and welcome them into an open ritual like this. If you are yet to experience the ‘magic’ of solstice, I would recommend it. Many stone circles in the UK hold celebrations at the solstice and equinox. Most of us live by ‘the more the merrier’ and having bigger numbers at events like this often heightens the atmosphere.
Sunrise By Roy Lichtenstein
It is a day to give thanks to the Sun for providing light and warmth that has helped life to thrive in our fields and forests, it is a day to feast and dance and sing. A time to be thankful for life, and those that put us here.
A quick google search (or Ecosia if you care) should reveal some local spots you could visit to celebrate with us. Or you could stand in your garden, on your balcony and watch the sun rise and send your selfless wishes to the new sunrise. Blessed be….
Morning Sun by Edward Hopper
With restrictions due to Covid-19; English Heritage have cancelled this year’s summer solstice event at Stonehenge. However they have decided to live stream the event for free. English Heritage Solstice Live stream
If you are able to leave your home and adhere to local social distancing rules, this article from Countryfile gives some great ideas of the best places to see the solstice and celebrate the longest day of the year in the UK.
Although Stonehenge is a key part of the solstice celebrations in the UK. The Summer equinox is celebrated in many countries around the world, these are just a few that caught our eye:
Chile | Spring equinox and street art
We found this brilliant evocation of what the equinox means to the artists Jeske and Cines; They explain the Spring Equinox mural as “the flowering of life and human beings, love, light and fertility of our planet”.
Aaron Glasson has produced this superb large mural in Estonia
https://aaronglasson.com/filter/mural/Kihnu-Naine-and-the-Summer-Solstice - Aaron Glasson has captured the spirit of the summer solstice. Kihnu is regarded as one of the world’s last remaining matriarchal societies. Its economy is reliant on the island’s men, who spend most of their time fishing the Baltic Sea. Kihnu women work in the fields, raise the children, and essentially run the island. They’re also responsible for passing down centuries-old traditions to the island’s younger generations such as song, dance, and their colourful symbolic weaving. While many of Estonia's indigenous cultures were lost during the centuries of occupations and invasions, Kihnu persevered. The mural depicts three Kihnu women during the summer solstice. The central figure is Kihnu Virve a well-known folk singer from the Island, another looks on at the summer solstice tradition of burning a boat while one levitates within a double helix of herring.
Also from Chile is artist Otto Schade who works in two distinctive styles, the ribbons and the sun. This piece depicts the evolution of man leading up to a cliff edge, set against a brightly burning sun. This piece is located at the Marlands shopping centre in Southampton UK.
Having spent some time in Finland for work, here at WHYP we remember our Finnish colleagues who looked forward to Midsummer as the start of their holiday season. On Midsummer, it was a great excuse to get very, very drunk, light a bonfire and dance; with the added bonus of it being really light even at 11.30pm
This launches the Finns on a great escape to their summer cottages by the lakes across the country; for up to a month. They are fond of really getting away from it all. Setting up in their summer cottages with no running water or electricity and even without WIFI ! - if they want to go for the hardcore get away.
Midsummer in Finland is certainly quite surreal for someone from the UK, sitting outside bars having a beer and the sun never going down (huge hangover); however as the city empties it is an ideal times to go on a street art tour of Helsinki.
Solstice Music to Relax to
We have put together a Spotify playlist that makes us think about summer and the solstice, we promise not too many folk songs! On June 20th why not put on some tunes, put up your fake bonfire (health and safety at all times!), garland your hair with meadow flowers and greet the sun the next the morning.
What music would you add to the playlist? let us know and we will include it.
However you decide to spend the solstice, stay safe, be kind and enjoy it.
Many thanks to Ben H for his insight into the solstice.
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