From my pagan days:
The ancients revered planets and stars, identifying them with and as deities and carefully marking their paths across the night sky. Our ancestors acted as if their lives depended on the position of these small orbs in the sky, and in reality, they did. Agrarian societies needed to know when to plant, and they observed the turn of the wheel by the movement of celestial bodies. The year was marked by the cycle of the moon, the two equinoxes, and the two solstices. The equinoxes, vernal and autumnal, were times of balance: two days of equal length denoting the beginnings of spring and fall. The summer and winter solstices, the longest and shortest days of the year, herald their respective seasons.
This time of year, of course, our thoughts turn to the summer solstice, which has a bit of a split personality! The solstice falls on June 21 and Midsummer (aka “Lithia" ) is June 24, but they are inseparably linked as the time of the year that we associate with fruitfulness, warm days, and plenty. On the solstice, the turn of the wheel has reached its apex BUT once reached, it begins to descend; thus, the summer solstice begins the death of the year. The day after is shorter, and the day after even shorter . . . And on until the winter solstice arrives.
The summer solstice is a time for magic and chaos. Shakespeare knew this when he penned A Midsummer’s Night Dream in which all sorts of magic and mayhem occurs. Long before Titania and Oberon were known, though, Egyptians celebrated the solstice in conjunction with the flooding of the Nile. The Greeks observed it as the first day of the year. Europeans staged bonfires and the Vikings resolved disputes and attended to other legal matters (“Summer Solstice Traditions&rdquo. Although Stonehenge “records” the solstice, it is misconception that the Druids built the edifice and it is disputed whether they held rituals there; the circle does indicate the importance of the turning year to ancient cultures.
The solstice/Midsummer has many names including “St. John's Day, Litha (Wiccan), Alban Heflin, Alben Heruin, All-Couples Day, Feast of Epona, Feast of St. John the Baptist, Feill-Sheathain, Gathering Day, Johannistag, Litha, Sonnwend, Thing-Tide, Vestalia” (“Summer Solstice 2012" ). The Chinese celebrated the day in honor of the goddess Li and feminine energy. The concept of June as the perfect month for weddings is due to the solstice and the conception in the British Isles that the month is the "wedding of Heaven and Earth”; “honeymoon” is derived from the June full moon, the best time for gathering honey from hives (“Summer Solstice 2012" ). In Scandinavia, Midsummer is still an important holiday, second only to Christmas.
As they did with Samhain, the Christians appropriated Midsummer, renaming it St. John’s Eve and designating the next day as St. John’s Day. Regardless, ancient traditions still prevail in the modern world. If you see Puck on this night and he asks, “whither wander you?" Answer him as does the fairy:
Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere.
And go wandering, seeking the magic that is afoot only during Midsummer—but be prepared for chaos and confusion as the fey are also afoot.
“Summer Solstice 2012”.The Ancient Origins of Summer Solstice Traditions.
Examiner.com. 20 June 2012..
“Summer Solstice Traditions.” History in the Headlines. The History Channel. 21
When you think about how many things of great importance to early people, not just the seasons, but the tides as well for people near the sea, and the directions for those going on journeys before the magnetic compass the heavens seemed to predict, with great accuracy. Then it is easy to see the bit of false logic which leads to astrology, for if the heavens predict all the big important things, then surely they, in their complexity, must predict all the little things too. After all, it has to be easier to predict little things than big things, obviously is it not.
It seems silly now but it is a perfectly natural piece of logic.
I make a point of having a glass or two of the grape on the summer solstice. I guess it's the closest thing I have to any kind of religion. And why drink it? Well, maybe just to get a little bit drunk. I stay with a dry red and hardly ever have any repercussions the next day. Cheers.