Today, 21st June, is the longest day of the year when the sun doesn't set until 9.21 pm, giving us here in Cornwall nearly 17 hours of daylight. I started my day with a beach yoga class and a dip in the sea, which felt pretty perfect. Wherever you are, this is an amazing day to get as much daylight near to dawn and dusk as you can.
People celebrate the solstice in many different ways, diverging from its roots as a pagan festival of the seasons. The day is described as the official first day of Summer, 'Midsummer' and 'Litha'. The word 'solstice' comes from the latin and means 'the sun standing still.'
I grew up living close to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, where people flock to the ancient stone circle at both the Summer and Winter solstices to watch the sun rise in line with the Heel stone and the Altar stone. The historic significance of the site indicates how long our civilisations have been honouring and celebrating the transits of the sun and the moon and the demarkation of the seasons.
Our ancestors would have lived much more in line with the seasons than we do today, and the solstice is all about celebrating the summer abundance of the earth through crops and growing food. Pagan rituals often include bonfires, performed to bring good luck and protect the anticipated Autumn harvest. The particular flora and fauna associated with Litha (another name for midsummer's day) are honeysuckle, roses, chamomile, lavender, butterflies, horses, fireflies, fennel, oak trees and St John’s wort. When I look at the gardens and hedgerows around me this week, I can see all of these plants growing plentifully here in Cornwall. I will have to keep my eyes peeled for horses and fireflies, although I have already noticed lots of butterflies circling in pairs and enjoying the wildflowers in the garden.
The longest day is said to be a good time for harvesting herbs for medicinal use, having a ritualistic bonfire, making flower crowns, and getting married or handfasted!
Each tradition is orientated around the celebration of the strong, powerful energy of the sun.
Below are a few journaling prompts I've put together for the occasion:
What feels abundant in your life at the moment? List or create a gratitude bubble for things that feel plentiful.
Write a thank-you letter to the sun. Try and use vivid sensory detail in describing your connection to the sun and the ways it nourishes you, both directly and indirectly.
How would it feel to take a moment in this busy season and just 'stand still'?
I hope you can find a moment in this longest day for a short journaling practice and moment of reflection. If you do, let me know over the linked Instagram post!
Happy Journaling, and Happy Solstice!