Summer Solstice: The Beginning of the End

June 22, 2017

Well, today marks the beginning of the end. OK, so maybe that’s a little melodramatic, but with the summer solstice two days behind us, we now begin the slow and steady decline into the depths of winter. Fortunately for us, we live in Colorado, where we have an entire industry predicated on what other people might consider terrible weather. But wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Technically, even though Tuesday marked the longest day of the year and the astronomical peak of summer, the warm season is only just beginning. Oh, you’re not a dedicated pagan and have no idea what we’re talking about with this summer solstice business? Apologies, we’re a little distracted by how much we love summer weather (and can see people slacklining out our window right now, ugh). We’ll start from the beginning.

What the Heck Is the Summer Solstice?
According to Vox, “The summer solstice occurs when the sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer, or 23.5° north latitude.” For the less astrologically inclined, this basically means that the summer solstice occurs when the northern hemisphere is at its closest, most direct line to the sun. That said though, the earth is actually closer to the sun in the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice (the shortest day of the year and the deepest depth of winter). Why? Because just like most things in life, the earth’s rotational path is not a perfect one. Without getting any further into an accidental astronomy lesson, the earth’s rotation is a bit oblong. However, the earth’s rotational weirdness isn’t what causes the seasons—that’s the earth axis’ job (at 23.5°). So basically what we’re saying between the lines here is that the earth, like your childhood, your parents, your relationships, and life as we know it, is not perfect. But because of those imperfections, you can experience the raw and undeniable joy of both weird summer tans in the shape of sunglasses, and your friend from Florida hilariously struggling to get on a ski lift for the first time in the winter. Life is beautiful.

Why Is My “Pagan” Friend Rob Photoshopping Photos of Himself at Stonehenge Right Now?
Great question. On a practical level, it’s probably because Rob can’t afford the $2,000 mid-week pilgrimage to southern England (As he’ll tell you, Burning Man preparations get more expensive every year). On a more spiritual level, the summer solstice has a special significance to pagans, as it represents the polarity between the earth and sky. Since paganism is, at its core, a kind of spirituality dedicated to the earth, Litha (as it’s called in pagan circles), also has certain agricultural significance. Sunshine represents prosperity, both metaphorically and practically (you know, for the growth of crops and whatnot).

So How Can Rob and I Celebrate the Summer Solstice in an Authentically Pagan Way?
Apart from heading across the Atlantic to meet ambiguously spiritual hippies at Stonehenge, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate the summer solstice retroactively. If you’re going for the more “generic” pagan path, a bonfire is a pretty good way to praise the earth’s unification with the sun, as both, technically, are made of fire (that’s why a bonfire is a popular part of most pagan rituals). If you’re more of the Druid ilk, try donning some green in, on, or around your Druid cloak (being closely associated with the Celtic traditions of yore). If you dig the Wiccan vibe, try gathering some of your favorite herbs—assuming your favorite herbs are things like St. John’s wort, rosemary, and foxglove. If you’re more of the GVASH type (Garden-Variety-Ambiguously-Spiritual-Hippie), then check out the ancient spiritual tradition of Frisbee golf. If you want to get really weird, you can try to do all three: a little competitive Frisbee tossing around the embers of a fading fire at dusk, with pockets full of foxglove. Or you can just be like us, and enjoy the beautifully long summer days by writing about beautifully long summer days—from the confines of an air-conditioned cubicle. Sigh. OK, this article is done. We’re going outside.