The Sierra Nevada World
Music Festival is dedicated
to nurturing a world family
peacefully united in
celebration of the universal
spirit of music.
Photo by Marsha Alexander of
Big Eyes Snap
21st, we celebrate the summer solstice. In ancient history,
the summer solstice was known as “the midsummer day.” We
know it as the first day of summer, and the longest day of
In the Hopi native American culture, the traditional
procession of the Kachinas with their various teachings on
human characteristics begins in the villages at the winter
solstice and concludes at the summer solstice.
In Ancient Egypt, summer solstice was the most important day
of the year. The sun was at its highest and the Nile River
was beginning to rise. Special ceremonies were held to honor
the Goddess Isis. Egyptians believed that Isis was mourning
for her dead husband, Osiris, and that her tears made the
Nile rise and well over.
Accurately predicting the floods (and the start of the
growing season) was of such vital importance that the
appearance of Sirius, which occurs around the time of the
summer solstice, was recognized as the beginning of the
Egyptian New Year.
In ancient Egyptian mythology, the solar deity Horus
defeated his uncle, Set, the Egyptian Lord of darkness and
evil at this time of the year. With this victory, divine
order and fertility were restored in Egypt and it was
thought that this event allowed the Nile floods to come,
bringing life back to the Nile valley.
It was the hope of every Pharaoh of Egypt that upon his
death he would travel safely through the Duat, the Egyptian
afterworld, and "come into the light of day" in the kingdom
of Ra, the Sun god, and join with that great god in his
solar boat to become one of the imperishable stars. Ra is
one of the gods honored at the time of the Summer Solstice
along with Horus.
The Portuguese Midsummer Day (St John's Day) brought to
Brazil during colonial times has become a very important
popular event that is celebrated during a period that starts
one week before St John's Day and ends one week after. As
this nationwide festival, called "Festa Junina" (Saint John
Festival), happens during the European midsummer, it takes
place in the Brazilian midwinter. With its origins in the
northeastern Brazil, which is largely arid or semi-arid,
these popular festivals not only coincide with the rainy
seasons of most states in the northeast but they also
provide the people with an opportunity to give thanks to
Saint John for the rain. They also celebrate rural life and
feature typical clothing, food, dance (particularly
quadrilha, which is similar to square dancing). Like
Midsummer and Saint John's Day in Portugal and Scandinavian
countries, Sao Joao celebrates marital union. The quadrilha
features couple formations around a mock wedding whose bride
and groom are the central attraction of the dancing.
In Chinese culture the yin-yang symbol represents the summer
solstice as part of the entire celestial phenomenon. The yin
is born or begins at the summer solstice representing less
sunlight and more moonlight and the and the yang is born or
begins at the winter solstice which represents more
For the European ancients, this day was a day of grand
celebrations and fire festivals.
History tells us the people ran through the land with
burning torches, and lit huge bonfires in clearings and on
roads to give strength to the sun and keep evil spirits at
bay. People watched the flames through garlands of
wildflowers and herbs as others leaped through the fires to
be purified and protected. Hope and prayers were given that
the year’s crops would rise as high as the flames would
Great sacred oak trees were decorated with colored cloths as
people danced around them. People wore amulets of herbs to
protect themselves and to honor the sun. Wheels of straw
were set ablaze and rolled down hills to simulate the
burning sun. It was a time that pagan faeries gave their
blessings and bestowed good luck upon the people. William
Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is a tale of faeries
and mankind on such a midsummer eve.
Early humans watched the skies of the summer sun. The
ancient Stonehenge, built between 3100 and 1550 BC, near
Salisbury, England, is an awesome array of megaliths
arranged precisely in alignment to the sun on an ancient
summer solstice. The people of Salisbury today assemble at
the stones every midsummer eve to watch the sun rise over
the heel stone. And watching with them, dressed in their
robes, are the current members of the “Ancient Order of the
Druids,” an ancient fraternity of priests who appeared in
Welsh and Irish legends as prophets.
At this time of the year, as the earth revolves around the
sun and rotates on its axis, the northern hemisphere is
tipped to the sun. It is this exposure that gives us our
summer, and our summer solstice.
And the sun, whose position has been apparently moving down
the horizon on a northern journey, will now seemingly begin
to move south again. The days will begin to grow shorter,
the skies will darken earlier, and winter will come.
The change of seasons brings reflection on the beauty of the
earth, on time, and on ourselves.
Our summer season is a short one. Life is short. Take some
time on this glorious summer solstice to quietly reflect,
and revel in the sun.
World Peace Day - June 21, 2014