What does the summer solstice mean to you? The basic representation is simple – a celebration to mark the longest day of the year, and the official start of summer. Yet reaching back across centuries the solstice has weaved a much deeper significance into the heart of many ancient civilisations and religions, from Pagans, to the Mayans, to the Ancient Egyptians.
The sun represents the gift of life for all organisms on earth, and people have long felt that this day when it is at its strongest offers the ideal opportunity to properly celebrate this. Honouring the solstice offers the further opportunity to celebrate the triumph and power of light over darkness, and revel in life itself. And yet, the longest day of sunlight must also inevitably mark the beginning of its decline for the remainder of the year – a bittersweet twist acknowledged during celebrations, and one which infers a deeper connection within the ritual to the broader life cycles connected to the movement of the sun.
Participating in Solstice celebrations helps to gently remind us just how precious each day, and each season, is to the sustainability of all life– and just how precious life is in itself. It can also remind us of how interconnected our lives are with everything else in the universe, and allow us to see beyond ourselves to realise that we are not set apart from nature – for nature is as much within us as it is around us. This can be a strengthening and freeing realisation, especially if we think about how nature finds ways to continue to thrive despite its surrounding environment constantly changing.
On a spiritual level, we can view the sun as an energetic opening and as a chance to accept high energy, warmth and light into our lives. If we accept the symbolism of enlightenment, awakening and the triumph of light over darkness, then the solstice is an opportunity for us to heal, to re-align and to look forward to a new season filled with abundance. The more literal representation of the changing season, and the acknowledgement of passing time, encourages us to celebrate forward movement and remember that each season – and corresponding periods of our lives – offers us different gifts, and that each of these gifts are no less relevant or beneficial than those gone before, or those still to come. The rituals are intended to remind us of the importance of feeling gratitude for these gifts, and not to take anything for granted. It is also simply a wonderful opportunity to bask in being outside, and to rejoice in connecting with nature and honouring the light within yourself – we too often forget to feel thankful simply for being alive.
At Harmonizing, our magazines are released to coincide with the seasonal solstices and equinoxes because seasonal living sits at the heart of the Harmonizing philosophy. We believe that living in sync with the seasonal cycles creates the most natural and sustainable model for balancing our own energy cycles, and to sustaining balanced and healthy lifestyles which place our own shining wellbeing as top priority. By observing the ways in which nature reacts to each season, we can look to it for guidance in learning to thrive in harmony with life’s ebbs and flows. Through respecting our most natural instincts, and allowing for ‘winter’ periods of rest and recharge, we can boost our mental and physical wellbeing to a deeply fulfilling level, as well as increase our long-term productivity and success.
Living seasonally may be considered a lifestyle choice these days, but it used to be a deeply ingrained way of living for all; especially when the only way to survive was to grow and harvest your own food within a community, and nature had to be respected in order for year-round sustenance to exist. As society has developed we have slowly forgotten the deep-rooted relevance of living in sync with the seasons in this way; one of the most important lessons that nature offers us is that life is cyclical. Modern developments in heating and lighting, and the easy import of food from around the globe, have meant we now effectively block out any seasonal impact – acting as though each is the same. In doing so, we no longer adjustments to our working schedules or lifestyle choices based on the time of year, and this has harvested a relentless pace to contemporary living; which puts pressure on us to live at a rate which is simply not sustainable, and which breeds stress, depression and anxiety. By dismissing nature’s hints that sometimes we need to slow down, rest and recharge, we humans are beginning to wilt en masse. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It is only our minds that have forgotten how to live cyclically -, our body’s still carry the instinctual knowledge to regulate our own sustainable pace. By taking a step back from what we think we know, in our minds, and instead listening to what our bodies are craving, we can begin re-align with our natural needs and impulses, and draw from the natural influence of this planet which we were born to thrive upon.
What is modern paganism? And how can it relate to you?
While living seasonally might seem a sound concept, what are the practicalities of putting it into practice? A place to start to researching ideas might be taking a look at the theories behind modern paganism. The term paganism is often misconstrued; in a world so disconnected from natural living, many dismiss it as outdated, or too ‘hippy’ to be taken seriously. Yet, paganism at its core is simply about looking at natural models of sustainability for us to learn how to live most efficiently and how best to look after ourselves in order to survive. Survival was a much more literal concept in the early days of paganism; we take survival for granted within society now – and so modern paganism has evolved this concept, focusing instead on means to thrive rather than to simply survive.
There is a shifting feeling towards such ideas within society now, with organic food rising in demand as many decide they would prefer to know their food is wholesome, healthy and real; not covered in pesticides and unnaturally modified. And it’s not just food – there is a definite movement towards seeking natural products to help us establish radiance without chemicals; eschewing the plastic creation of beauty and youth that we have been sold for years now. Looking for natural solutions for a less artificial lifestyle ties in with the pagan outlook on life – it is not nearly as extreme, hippy and all-or-nothing as people imagine. In fact, many people are beginning to embrace pagan values without realising.
The real allure of modern paganism is the chance it offers to connect with something that’s lost through urban living. It is a belief system, as opposed to a religion – celebrating plants and animals, as well as the natural elements and the earth itself, rather than worshipping a god. Rituals exist to help deepen a connection with our ancestors, seeking to remember ancient wisdom as an antidote to our too-busy modern lives. For many, it is simply a way to remind yourself that there is more to life than the modern bubble alludes to; and offers ways to keep reminding yourself of this, as you negotiate a freer path for yourself which allows you to keep up with your responsibilities without them overwhelming you.
This brings us full circle back to the solstice, as a great representative of the pagan outlook and their values in life. Pagans place great respect in the incredible strength of the sun, and are deeply aware of the continual shifting of the seasons, using this to view the world with balance and realism. It is possible to not consider yourself a pagan, yet to take some of their values into your daily routines. In our next blog, we will share with you some tips on how modern pagan values which can enhance your living experience, to help you begin to view life with a different mindset.