June 21 at 1:04 AM EDT is the Summer Solstice this year. This is an astronomical fact to be sure but it also carries a psychological meaning for us as the seasons shift again, constantly expressing the Great Round of the solar year and reminding us that life is a cyclic process; an interplay of light and dark.
The Summer Solstice is the day of longest light. The Sun in its apparent journey northward arrives at it northernmost point, the amount of daylight climaxes, and from this moment on, the Sun begins its long trip southward trailing diminishing sums of daylight. The Sun’s gift to us then is leaving the northern hemisphere warm and luxuriant in the full bloom and beauty of the natural world.
Light has traditionally been associated with consciousness, differentiation, spirit, and focal awareness. Most recently in the western tradition, it’s been reflected upon Christ as the Light of the World, and before that Mithra, solar deity of the Roman Empire. In classical Greece, Apollo was associated with the human longing for beauty, youth, order, beauty, music, and harmony. Clarity, discipline, and reason were given to Apollo. He is the quality of rational consciousness. He is with us when we see better in the light of day and matters by the light of reason.
When I was small I recall how much time I spent outdoors and how wonderful the Sun was to me. I welcomed summer. I’d get up early, go out and stay until day’s end, playing, lazing, and exploring the world around me. It seemed our entire culture worshipped those sunny days.
Today I’m struck by how attitudes have shifted 180 degrees regarding Sol. Rather than healthy and life-giving, we issue cautions about the Sun as if he were an enemy. We are told to limit the amount of time in his presence, screen ourselves from direct contact with his power. Have we in the end spent too much time at his altar, become too relaxed in his presence, so secular that we have forgotten his divinity?
We are seeing now how we have dishonored his visitations with our excesses; the inevitable result, the increasing rates of skin problems and cancers found in sun worshipers and non-worshipers alike. In our excesses, have we become an inflated solar culture placing too much reliance upon Apollonian rationality at the expense of other styles of being in the world? Do we now worship the god of reason and order while neglecting the gods of Chaos, Night, and Imagination?
Summer brings culmination and full bloom. The world is in bright display, everything is in its moment, brilliant and shining. Light is a wonderful blessing in its proper proportion. Despite this as we all know, light can also be overbearing, glaring, flaring, searing, burning, sparking, and blinding. Icarus and Bellerophon in coming too close to the Sun vividly remind us in their plummeting that humans are not destined to be gods. It is important to remember that making observance from the proper distance keeps humility close at hand and helps avoid hubris.
The Sun is a great blessing and without it we would not be here. The Summer Solstice is Light’s yearly triumph before giving way to its seasonal decline and eventual submission to the power of Night. The Solstice is our day in the Sun, our moment in the spotlight. Let us celebrate Sol’s climax and celebrate ourselves as the season of warmth and heat blossoms and then recognize and accept his eventual decline. Other divinities have their claims upon us throughout the day and throughout the turning of the year and they also require honoring. “To everything there is a season…” Have a nice Solstice.