Midsummer Solstice – the Sun’s zenith

summer solstice, witch, pagan,

Of all archetypal symbols making a powerful impact on the human spirit, probably none remains more deeply ingrained in our subconscious realms than the circle or the wheel. The circle is an emblematic sign of the continuity of existence. It is a sign of the Lunar/Solar principles and it is a symbol of infinity because it has no beginning and no end.

As a representation of the Sun it is at its most potent during the Midsummer Solstice, a time when the solar orb is at its highest point in the Heavens. Now all natural growth is at the zenith of its potential.

The wheel of the year from this day on can only roll downhill towards autumn and the bleak death of midwinter. Whether we like it or not we are all an essential part of the organic universal plan of things. We do however possess free will and the ability to delay or enhance our destinies according to our own reckless or wise actions. The ancients knew this fact well, and yet they also realised that without fair chance or good luck, life could be poor, intolerable or ultimately fatal.

 The Roman Goddess of Fate and Luck was known as Fortuna, hence the other name for chance, i.e. fortune. This deity is often depicted with a ship’s rudder, sphere, cornucopia or wheel. Fortuna humbles even the most regal members in society; great emperors would often display images of her in their private chambers to remind them of her power over destiny. For without luck they too would be nothing. So great a reverence did Fortuna receive that the Romans built eight separate Temples to honour her in their city. Fortuna’s Temple at Antium in Latium was so popular with the Italians that numerous quantities of gifts, presents and offerings were sent in from all over the country by worshippers in the hope of attracting the Goddess’s favour.

Fortuna had a feast day shortly after the Midsummer Solstice in June when slaves too would be welcomed into the celebrations for the Goddess could even smile kindly on the most downtrodden folk in the melting pot of the class system. Who does not even now in modern times, protest or rejoice over one’s good luck or misfortune in life?

The wheel of Fortuna is still evident today on the tenth card of the Major Arcana in the Tarot pack. Anxious gamblers still watch with bated breath as the casino roulette wheel spins for or against them and people who randomly open books to seek answers to their questions owe much to Fortuna. 

An individual called Numerius Sufficius who was native of Latium was troubled by a recurring dream that led him to a rock where he discovered wooden lots. These small pieces of oak wood had ancient characters inscribed on them to formulate predictions from the Goddess, the answers for these were then considered divinely inspired. The final act of trusting one’s destiny to the Goddess by ‘drawing lots’ is a custom that’s survived through thousands of years to the present day. The wheel / circle and its association with Midsummer Pagan Fire Festivals are very ancient indeed. Long before Christianity invaded our shores, the Neolithic Peoples worshipped their gods and buried their dead at many sites of stone circles.

The day of the ‘Longest Sun’ was a sacred time, a time to propitiate the Old Gods to ensure a successful harvest and future growth. Midsummer Eve Fires would be lit high on hills and other prominences.

The connection with solar continuity is of course self-explanatory. It is no coincidence that the early Church decided to hold the feast day of St. John the Baptist at Midsummer. Our ancient forefathers needed rain as well as sun to achieve satisfactory crops and many old customs give us a strong clue to this fact.

One old tradition involved a large straw bound wheel being ignited then rolled down a hillside into a river. This event was magically symbolic of the Sun’s energy intermingling with the element of water to produce good growth in vegetation etc.

The Church, ever eager to manipulate old native traditions for its own ends, naturally saw this indigenous Pagan festival as an excellent event to convert into one of its own, hence the ‘water’ associations with a ‘Baptising’ Saint.

Much of our ancient Pagan heritage has been insidiously hijacked in this fashion initially by the iron fist of monotheistic theocracy and also by many plastic pretenders, who just happen to like the Pagan style.  However, more and more people are now rediscovering the old truths once again.

New Age gurus, with their sanitised white light metaphysical notions, may come and go along with the tide of life, yet the wondrous changing cycles of Mother Nature remain constant.


Pat Regan © 2012

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