Here Comes the Sun
A ritual to celebrate summer and the power of the sun
Reprinted from "The Joy of Family Rituals: Recipes for Everyday Living" with permission of St. Martin's Press
Summer is a time of celebration, of prosperity and abundance. How eagerly we all look forward to our summer vacations. With its long days and short nights, summer is synonymous with love and romance. It's no wonder that June is still the most popular bridal month. Interestingly, this harks back to ancient times, when ceremonies were performed to represent symbolic marriages between mortals and gods.
Traditionally, cultures around the world have seen summer as a celebration of the strength and fertility of Mother Earth and of other goddesses who represent the Divine Feminine. The Romans dedicated the summer solstice to Vesta, goddess of the hearth, and the Greeks to Hestia, who served the same purpose in their culture. Because this is a time when the sun begins to wane (it waxes after the winter solstice), ancient cultures in Denmark, Norway, Austria, Germany, Britain, and Spain, as well as native peoples in North Africa and South America, lit bonfires to guarantee the sun's return the following year. Often, as part of these rituals, celebrants picked prized summer flowers and herbs-mugwort, chamomile, geranium, St. John's wort, thyme, and pennyroyal-to throw on their festival bonfires. They believed these fires would banish sickness from their livestock and their families. For good luck, they jumped across the fire and even walked on hot coals, a precursor to the fire-walking ceremonies practiced today.
Traveling around the globe nowadays, one can find other summer rituals that echo these ancient beliefs. In Swaziland, the most important festival of the year, Incwala, which honors kinship, is always held on the summer solstice. Part of the ceremony involves a burning of ceremonial objects that represent the death of the king-the sun-followed by purification and a ceremonial rebirth.
Here in America, we tend to define the beginning, middle, and end of summer by our civil holidays--Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. However, the following ritual will remind us of the real marker of summer, the sun.