With the longest day of the year next week, we look at why we celebrate the sun at the peak of its energy and what you can do to join in.
The word Solstice comes from the Latin – ‘sol’ meaning sun, and ‘sistere’, meaning to stand still – describing the sun is at the height of its power at the northernmost point in the year. The power of the sun at this time has inspired element of mysticism, spiritualism and magic and celebrations have taken place for thousands of years.
But pagans and druids aside, it is increasingly becoming more mainstream, helped by the UN making June 21st International Yoga Day. So, grab yourself a flower crown and a yoga mat and get ready to jump over a bonfire..before tackling those 108 sun salutations, Ayurveda style!
- June 21 is widely known in astrology as the first day of summer.
- It is the day that the sun is at its highest point in the sky and its further point from the sun
- Many ancient sites are built in alignment with the sun on the solstice –Stonehenge, the Pyramids, Machu Picchu, Chaco Canyon and the Ajanta caves in India to name a few..
- In ancient Egypt, the summer solstice were so revered that it heralded in the new year
- The herb St John's Wort is said to be magical at Midsummer
5 spiritual meanings:
- It celebrates the sun: a celebration of light, enlightenment, renewal and life
- It celebrates nature: many festivals are outside to embrace the elements
- It celebrates fire: parallel to the symbol of light, fire is also symbolic of the time and is said to purify and cleanse
- It celebrates energy: the peak of the year with the full power of the Sun
- It celebrates the spiritual world: the belief that the separation of the world of the spirits and humans are at their closest.
So what does Ayurveda advise? The June solstice is one of four major sandhis, or junctures, where the seasons change. Around now, Ayurveda prescribes a gradual shift from kapha balancing practices to pitta pacifying practices which are cooling and regenerative to avoid imbalance and allow the body to adapt slowly to the transition.
How can I celebrate? It is seen as auspicious to practice the Surya Namaslar, or Sun Salutations, at this time, particularly in a repetition of 108, to connect with the solar energies. 108 Sun Salutations are traditionally practised at the change of seasons, so at the Summer and Winter solstices, the Autumn and Spring equinox – but that doesn’t stop some yogis practicing more frequently than this. If this is too much or you don’t have the time then practice just a few as part of your normal routine.
Why 108? The number 108 appears in ancient texts but in Ayurveda it is common: there are 108 marma points in the body, Mala bead necklaces have 108 beads, there are 108 tantras, 108 upanishads and in India, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites
Want to try something really different? Check out these alternative Solstice festivities. Head to Denmark and you will possibly be burning an effigy of a witch in the belief that the fire wards away evil spirits. If you are in parts of Eastern Europe, Russia and Spain, you may be jumping over the bonfire. In Sweden, where Midsummer’s Day on 24th June is a national holiday, summer flowers and herbs, believed to be most potently medical at this time, are collected and hung in doorways overnight before dancing around a maypole. Flower crowns are made on Midsummers Eve, to then be thrown into the sea or river while shouting a wish, If the crown floats away or sinks that the wish has been granted! Or closer to home here in the UK, join the thousands of new-age druids at Stonehenge to celebrate Wicca.