Mine is the Month of Roses; yes, and mine
The Month of Marriages! All pleasant sights
And scents, the fragrance of the blossoming vine,
The foliage of the valleys and the heights.
Mine are the longest days, the loveliest nights;
The mower’s scythe makes music to my ear;
I am the mother of all dear delights;
I am the fairest daughter of the year. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The apparent path of the sun will cross the celestial equator at 17:16 Universal Time today, which is to say 12:16 Central Daylight Saving Time. For those of us in the northern hemisphere this means today is the first day of astronomical summer, but for our friends in the southern hemisphere it is the first day of astronomical winter; so while today is the longest day of the year in the north, it’s the shortest in the south.
I must admit that as an adult, I’ve never been a fan of summer. Of course, as a child I was thrilled to be out of school and spent the hottest part of each day reading, but once I entered the working world summer just meant longer, hotter days and much higher electricity bills. In South Louisiana the summers are particularly oppressive; actual temperatures there rarely exceed 33 Celsius, but since the humidity is generally over 80% it feels like an oven and even the shade offers little respite. Nor are the evenings much better; due to “Daylight Saving Time” darkness doesn’t come until almost 9 PM, and both the buildings and the very air itself store up heat through the long, sultry afternoons and don’t often become noticeably cooler until well after midnight. While I was escorting there were many evenings in which I emerged from air-conditioned hotels after 3 AM to find myself glowing with perspiration before I could make it to my car. And when I was in my teens and twenties, I tended to lose weight every summer because the heat often stole my appetite; in those intervals when I lived alone my summer meals might consist of egg salad sandwiches, and I was a cheap date because sometimes all I could manage was a milkshake, a sno-ball or maybe a glass of iced tea with an order of onion rings.
As I got older I grew to tolerate the heat more, then once I moved farther inland it wasn’t nearly as bad. The summers are shorter here (in New Orleans it’s often brutally hot from early May through the end of September) and the humidity isn’t nearly as high; though it isn’t unusual for the temperature to climb above 40 several times in July and August, the drier air means it’s much cooler in the shade and the temperature usually drops to the low 20s at night. Of course, like most modern people I don’t rely on the beneficence of the sun as our ancestors did; for them summer was the time of growth, the season when their crops moved toward harvest and the season of snow was farthest away. And of course, in Northern Europe the summers are far milder than they are in the American South!
For our ancestors, and for modern pagans, Midsummer was the festival commemorating the sun at his zenith; as is my Sabbat custom, here is an essay from my witch friend JustStarshine on the spiritual significance of the day:
The Significance of Litha
The Latin for solstice – solsitium – literally means “sun stands still” and refers to the way the sun seems to hang there without moving on this the longest day of the year. In the northern hemisphere this will take place on June 21 at 17.16 but the day can vary from year to year between June 21 – 24.
This time, which heralds the shortening of the days, has been marked throughout recorded history by different cultures. In witch law it is often given the Saxon name “Litha” and on the Wheel of the Year occupies the position immediately opposite the Winter Solstice or Yule.
For witches this is a time of celebration when we can sit back and enjoy what we have and thank the Goddess for what she has given us. It’s a time of year when we feel nearest to the Holy Grail, a cup of happiness given by the Goddess.
But it’s also a time of change. The sun is at his strongest but from now on his strength begins to wane and we, too, must change, since we cannot hold on to the golden moment however much we may want to. The Wheel must turn; it cannot stand still.
During our ritual we meditate on what is currently bringing fulfillment and what we need to do to make further changes in our lives. We visualize these changes, see them as though they have already happened and then attempt to see life as it would be afterwards.
May all my readers, no matter what your beliefs, find happiness in what you have already and experience an increase in your fortunes even as the days decrease in their length. Blessed Be!