"What's the craziest thing you'd be willing to do to celebrate the summer solstice?"
It's a question I asked myself recently while doing research for a free summer solstice hike I hosted on June 21 at Aman Park (men, dogs & kids invited!). As we here in the Northern Hemisphere prepare to celebrate the longest day of 2013, I wanted to know what were some of the most out-there traditions surrounding the summer sostice? Turns out you can party with druids at Stonehenge, practice yoga with 8,000 others in Times Square, and a myriad of other activities designed to bring out the pagan in all of us.
What is the summer solstice?
The summer solstice commemorates the longest day of the year — when the Northern Hemisphere is angled most directly toward the sun. But it also happens to be when ancient spirituality enthusiasts, photographers, as well as global freaks & geeks head outside and honor the first day of summer (seems like as good a time as any to enjoy an Oberon). Here is just a sampling of celebrations from around the world:
Set a fire on top of Kokino
One of the richest Bronze Age archaeological sites in Macedonia, Kokino is an ancient observatory located in Macedonia. The site features stone markers that scientists believe ancient people used to track the sun and moon across the eastern horizon.
Scientists believe that Kokino was used more than 4,000 years ago to provide a logical framework around agricultural and livestock breeding — when tribal elders set a fire on top of the observatory, people for miles around knew it was time to start plowing the land, planting the seeds, harvesting to grain and bringing the livestock in from the fields. The site also was used for important religous ceremonies. These days, people mostly make the journey to the top of the mountain to see the sun rise first thing in the morning.
Mass yoga in Times Square
How about yoga with thousands of your best yogi friends? "You don’t come to Times Square for tranquility…unless you’re a yogi with something prove. At this epic, all-day event, nearly 8,000 yoga enthusiasts like you are challenged to find peace and transcendence amid the glare and din of our neighborhood." Not exactly crazy, but still pretty cool. The event offers four free mass yoga sessions, right in the middle of Manhattan.
Engage in a water fight on Kupala Night
Celebrate Kupala Night is also known as Ivan Kupala Day or the Feast of St. John the Baptist. Some scholars claim that the holiday was originally a pagan fertility rite, and young people from all over Eastern Europe still celebrate the holiday: the night before (Tvorila night) is reserved for pranks and "good humour" mischiefs (which often raises the concerns of local law enforcement). Then the next day (on Ivan Kupala day itself), kids have water fights and continue the pranks (which apparently mostly involves pouring water over someone).
Party at Stonehenge
Last year over 20,000 revelers celebrated summer's longest day at Stonehenge, including a "reincarnated king" who was hoisted on the shoulders of revelers. Scholars believe the ring of 20-ton stones was built between 3,000 and 1,600 BC as a sacred temple. Of the 20,000 people who showed up at Stonehenge on June 21, 2013, many came to seriously worship at the ring of stones, but a host of otherse simply came to party.
Throw a stylish cocktail party
For many pagans, this would be a crazy thing to do (napkins are SO bourgeoisie). Add lots of summer-themed decorations, and serve sparkling wine and serve Scandanavian-themed appetizers (those northern peoples are particularly happy on the longest day of the year). When the sun sets, give toast that wishes everyone a very amazing summer (New Year Eve-style).
What about you? Maybe just a good book on pagan celebrations (The Mists of Avalon, anyone)? How do you celebrate summer solstice?
Jill Hinton Wolfe