December 17, 2022

Honouring The Summer Solstice Sun

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Summer Solstice, in the Southern Hemisphere, arrives just as everyone else celebrates Christmas. This can feel somewhat counterintuitive since Christmas is a winter celebration associated with Yule. Santa is in his woolly garb, winter pine trees are being decorated, and reindeer and snowmen are popping up everywhere! Whether you believe in the rebirth of the Sun God, the birth of Jesus, or take a more secular approach toward following the Wheel of the Year – if you choose to celebrate with the rest of the world on the 25th, it’s entirely up to you. I’m personally a big sucker for the festivities, presents, and family get-togethers, and that’s fine with me!

But on the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, the Sun’s light is at its peak and reaches us for the maximum amount of time. We’re dusting off the barbeque, scoffing cherries, and cracking a cold one by the beach or pool. Yet it is only the very beginning of the summer months, and the hottest weather is still yet to come.

The most easily recognisable sign of summer in Aotearoa is the Pohutukawa blossom. Framing the scenery of most North Island and many South Island beaches, they were the backdrop of most of our childhoods on the beach with our whanau. Toetoe also waves its feathery frond while harakeke shows its crimson flowers. Red and black makomako are fruiting, the berries eaten raw by Maori and picked by early colonising Pakeha to make jams. Kawakawa droops with its yellow fruit, attracting Kereru.

 

Celebrations were traditionally enjoyed at this time of year before Christmas was even heard of in New Zealand. In both Maori and European traditions, Litha was a season of hard work; haymaking, weeding crops, gathering fish, and preparing for the harvest. The Sun was an essential aspect of these times, making preparations for winter possible. Younger community members stayed up through the night, casting fragrant bush herbs and flowers into the fires to honor Maihuika, the fire Goddess who held the power of fire within her fingernails. The ocean was also said to take on the healing powers of Tangaroa, so offerings were given to him while people bathed in the sea through the shortest night.

While Christmas is a significant focus for much of the world at this time, it is important not to miss the opportunity to celebrate the abundance of the Sun’s energy and give thanks for what you have accomplished over the year. You can mark the occasion by having a sunrise or sunset picnic, cleansing your magical items under the noon Sun, or practicing fire divination by scrying into the flames of your candles or fireplace.

In our rituals, we remember that the power of the Sun has turned, and the first seeds of darkness are being sown. But it is also a time of positivity and affirmation, bolstered by the gift-giving of the celebrations around us. Let in as much sunlight as you can, indulge in the fruits of the season with friends and family, and take a moment to watch the Sun finally dip beneath the horizon at the end of the longest day.

As we both give and receive, we can become conscious of our gratitude for all we have in preparation for whatever times lay ahead in the coming winter. By giving thanks for the work we have completed so far, we can let go of the working year, as most people head out on holiday, and step forward to enjoy the fruits of the coming harvest.

As always, I recommend turning your focus inwards for a moment at the turning of the seasons. At Litha, spend some time meditating or journalling about what cycles have come to an end within you. What goals have you fulfilled and need to celebrate? In which areas of life do you need closure so you can look ahead with hope to the next horizon?

‘The wheel turns,’ Selena said, smiling down at little Clover who gazed from Damien to herself in rapt attention. ‘The wheel turns, and we bring ourselves in line with its turning, both outwardly and inwardly. We spend the last heat of summer in joy and thanks for the growing season, and look towards the quieter time, the still times of the year with a thought to what we would tend next, to what we would plant and eventually harvest…
‘Hail the great sun!’ she called. ‘Hail the great Oak King!’ She smiled across at Damien. ‘Hail the glorious strength of Ra – may he keep his face upon us even as he begins his journey to his winter wife.’

Selena, Follow The WInd, Ch.36

Athena Macmillan is a traditional witch from a Romani family who has been actively practicing witchcraft for 28 years. Athena is an outspoken advocate for inclusivity and intersectionality within the Craft and has postgraduate degrees in Anthropology and Health Law. She is a hedgewitch and medium with a strong focus in her personal magical practice on ancestral and spirit work, journeying, and divination. Athena created the online space ‘Kiwi Witch’ as a place for witches throughout Aotearoa to learn and support each other along their spiritual paths, which has been thriving since it was established in 2015.

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