Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Solsctice

Summer Solstice  - A Time to Celebrate

The sun is directly overhead at "high noon" on the latitude known as the Tropic of Cancer, according to NASA scientists. No exactly a call to "draw yer guns," but it does become an interesting notion if you've ever been lucky enough to travel down south. And I mean way down south, on the Baja peninsula, venturing past Mulege and Gonzaga Bay, over to see the artists in Todos Santos. 
This event heralds the advent of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Focusing our attention on the Northern Hemisphere, it is the longest day of the year. Although an argument can be made for other days spent waiting in anticipation or dread of upcoming events -- some of those days seem much longer than twenty four hours, but I digress. So, the longest day, meaning a lot of sunshine, right? But, and this makes sense when you think about it, the North Pole receives 30% more solar energy on that day than does the equator. Centered on June 21, the sun will rise and then not set for three months. Now that's a long day.

Al Ahram, Giza, Egypt
Interesting, but is it important? Well, it's not just NASA, but mankind has considered this even significant throughout the ages. J and L lives to do research and explore, so first the research.: The term solstice is derived from two Latin words. Sol meaning sun, and sister, meaning to stand still. The solstices and equinoxes are unique and predictable events which have created the changes in seasons which have given sustained life on this planet. So it stands to reason the Earth's journey around the sun would take on cultural and spiritual significance.
Sacsayhuaman, Cusco, Peru

Traditions, rituals, and events dates may vary slightly as you travel, but there is something special about Midsummer. In pre-Christian rites, most celebrations are held to ensure fertility and rich harvests. The night of midsummer was considered very potent for midsummer maidens who wished to conceive.Vikings, always big on burning things,  visited healing water wells and built huge bonfires in celebration.

Superstition would have you turn around clockwise three times upon waking from a night's sleep on the solstice! Worth a try....

Temple of Kulkulkan, Chichen Itza, Yucatan

The more you travel, the more you recognize the similarities in cultures across time and space. Pyramids and temples the world over have more in common than they have to differentiate them, and yet there's something unique in the design that defies modern understanding.

While admiring the craftsmanship and durability of  El Castille, I find myself wondering why at the Temple of Kulkulkan do a series of shadows form the shapes of serpents on the equinoxes and solstices? I wonder why during our summer solstice, their winter solstice, do the shaman of Peru celebrate Inti Raymi, the Incan sun god? Is that anything like the Egyptian sun god. Ra?
Well, no, of course not. But then again, hmmm. And Stonehenge? Half a world away, another structure aligned to the movements of the heavens. These ancient societies certainly knew more, were more observant of their world than perhaps we are.

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK

Why spend the mass effort and years to build these monuments?

And not just why, but how did these ancient people conceive such designs?

Saint John the Baptist

Perhaps I'm asking the wrong question. With the advent of Christianity, Midsummer celebrations took on a new meaning. As has often happened, the church took the pagan holiday and gave it in honor of Saint John the Baptist. The themes of Sun/Son and water seem to intermix in every culture. Perhaps it's natural the sun and bonfires and barbecues and beaches just go together along with Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Saint John and Vacation Bible School. I suppose it is enough that we tiny humans recognize and celebrate these cycles in our lives.

So whether you celebrate with family, friends, fireworks or in some other way, definitely take time to notice the passage of the sun, and time.

Ben Johnson: "not of an age, but for all time."

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