Known to Druids as Alban Hefin, the summer solstice is the longest day of the year. Celebrated in the northern hemisphere around 21 June, and around 21 December in the southern hemisphere, it is a time of light, life, and the splendour of nature.
The name Alban Hefin means the ‘light of the shore’ or the ‘light of summer’; terms that offer clues to the themes that are expressed in the rituals performed to mark the occasion.
What Is The Solstice?
Astronomically, the summer solstice is the moment at which one of the poles of the earth is tilted at its maximum toward the sun. In the northern hemisphere, the sun appears to reach the northernmost point of its journey across the sky.
After the solstice, the hours of daylight start growing shorter. The sun then appears to start journeying toward its southernmost point.
The solstices and the equinoxes have been celebrated by many cultures around the world for thousands of years. One of the most famous sites of such celebrations is Stonehenge on England’s Salisbury Plain. It is still a popular site for the solstice celebrations of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.
The stone circle at Callanish on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides is another famous site that is aligned to the solstices. What makes it really special is that its latitude means the sun does not actually set below the horizon at the time of the summer solstice. A similar phenomenon can be seen at the Ring of Brodgar on the island of Orkney. The site is sure to give you goose bumps as much as playing bingo games for money would.
Ideas For Solstice Celebrations
A Druidry-inspired summer solstice celebration does not need to be an elaborate ritual attended by hundreds of people. It can be as simple as spending some time outdoors, enjoying the sunshine, and appreciating its life-giving power.
While the sun is usually associated with masculine deities and their qualities, this is not always the case. Some cultures had myths of a sun goddess, but rather than focusing on myths and deities, it is better to simply get into nature and to soak up the sunlight. You can mark the sun’s rising and setting that day with prayers, meditations, or poems, and it may be even more impactful to do this at one of your favourite outdoor locations. If you cannot get to a stone circle, you could make a circle of pebbles or small rocks in your garden or a favourite location outdoors.
Fire is a traditional component of solstice rites, and the custom of lighting bonfires at Alban Hefin has been practised for millennia. If you want to light a candle, a small fire, or a bonfire on the day, try to time your ritual for midday, when the sun is at its full splendour. You could even try something a little different by using a magnifying glass or lens to light the fire by focusing the sun’s rays, instead of using matches or a lighter.