The Oracle’s Library reveals the tradition behind the summer solstice observance. The summer solstice also known as Midsummer’s Eve is an ancient tradition that dates back to the Neolithic Era.
Many observances of the summer solstice holiday include traditions involving bonfires, flower wreaths and fertility rites for young women depending upon where you are in the world. For anyone living in the Northern Hemisphere, this date marks the longest day of the year, when the Sun hovers just above the Tropic of Cancer to welcome the summer season. At this time, Cancer the Crab rises in the east at sunrise, and the sun finds itself at a cozy position nearest those who live in north.
Why Celebrate the Summer Solstice?
The summer solstice was once a date reserved for ritual observance and festivities practiced by many of the people throughout Europe—especially in the northern-most latitudes. That is because the summer solstice acted as an excellent astronomical marker to track time and keep in touch with the seasons, when accurate calendars were not yet invented. Summer solstice celebrations now take place between June 21st and June 25th to echo the festivities once held in the distant past. Some know the summer solstice as St. John’s Day derived from the nativity of John the Baptist. Early pagan tradition would call it Lith or the Fire Festival.
Stonehenge and Midsummer’s Eve
One of the most mysterious architectural sites of the Neolithic world is Stonehenge—the location of a summer solstice alignment. Stonehenge was once a happening place on the solstices, and it is speculated many would flock to this particular spot for a ritual of some sort. The avenue that leads from the river to the wooden circle aligns with the setting sun on the Summer Solstice. It is thought that the avenue was a link between both the stone circle and the wooden circle and acted as a procession route on the solstices between the land of the living and the dead.
The Heel Stone—also known as “Friar’s Heel” or “Sun-stone”—located north-east of the sarsen circle also tracks the sun’s position on the solstice. If a person stands within the stone circle on the summer solstice, the Heel Stone appears to hold the place of the sun as it ascends over the horizon at sunrise. It is thought that perhaps the word “Friar’s Heel” was actually once “Freyja’s He-ol”—the Germanic goddess Freyja and the Welsh word for “track”. The Summer Solstice is a fantastic time to visit Stonehenge, since the equinoxes and solstices are some of the only dates the site is open to ‘roaming’ visitors throughout the year. Keep in mind, the observance will be in full effect at sunset on Midsummer’s Eve. For more into the solstices, check out Winter Solstice Celebrations.