The Summer Solstice, the time of the longest day, will occur in the northern hemisphere on June 21 at 7:26 am EST (according to the US Naval Observatory) when the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky. By current convention, the Summer Solstice marks the first day of summer in many parts of the world, particularly the US, but this was not always true. In the US, the first day of summer was celebrated on June 7 for many years, and parts of Ireland still celebrate the first day of summer at May Day. The summer solstice in many ancient cultures was celebrated as “Midsummer” instead.
In any event, the Summer and Winter Solstices mark magical points in the turn of the wheel of the year for many cultures. Religious Tolerance.org gives us a listing of midsummer celebrations in various cultures:
- The Druids celebrated midsummer as the “Apex of Light,” where the rule of the Oak King gave way to the darker Holly King who ruled until the Winter Solstice.
- In ancient China, the summer solstice celebrated the yin aspects: earth and the feminine. The winter solstice was for the yang: the heavens and the masculine.
- Ancient Celtic peoples across Europe celebrated the Summer Solstice with bonfires to give a boost to the sun’s energy and promise healthy crops for the rest of the season. Lovers jumped through the flames to add passion to their lives and health to the crops.
- In early Christianity the feast of John the Baptist was held near the Summer Solstice on June 24, supposedly the date of his birth unlike most Saint’s days which are held on the date of their death. This is peculiar to me since the birth of Jesus is celebrated on December 25 near the Winter Solstice. The opposition of these two birthdays must have some secret significance.
This year, the Summer Solstice is accompanied by some interesting planetary events (see earlier article). Some astrologers are writing about the effects of the shift of the Moon’s North Node (the point where the Moon crosses the ecliptic of the path of the Sun around the zodiac) from Aries into Pisces (a 19-year cycle) and the fact that it occurs on the date of the Solstice. This creates a square (90 degree) configuration between the Sun in Cancer and the Nodes of the Moon in Aries and Libra. Some astrologers are calling this a “Grand Cross” because Pluto is also widely opposing the Sun at that time but I do not agree (because Pluto is out of sign and retrograde and therefore moving even farther from the configuration, I would not read Pluto as participating in this system.)
In the chart of an individual, the nodes of the Moon represent our evolutionary direction; the South Node shows that which is familiar and may hold us back, while the North Node shows the untapped potential that offers us a path to succeed in our highest aspirations (usually identified by the Midheaven). I have not spent much time observing the effect of Node shifts between signs, but I did notice that the shift of the nodal axis from North Node Taurus/South Node Scorpio into Aries/Libra marked the Tsunami in Indonesia. Interesting, the tsunami brought the world together in unprecedented numbers to help the people in Indonesia. Aries represents the individual and Libra the partnership, and the Tsunami event certainly brought many people out of their comfortable individual (Aries) lives and into partnership with others to bring aid.
The last shift of the North Node from Aries into Pisces occurred in early December of 1987, shortly following the crash of the stock market and the Iran Contra scandal. You may remember the film “Wall Street” which highlighted the greed and desire for acquisition that marked the 1980s. We could say that the past two years, with its low interest rates and booming real estate market, has mirrored the booming stock market of the 1980s when the Node was last in Aries. The 1987 crash moved us as a global society from the self-oriented Aries Node into the Pisces need to find something of meaning beyond the material world. All signs are pointing to a downturn in the stock market, and there are multiple scandals going on in our government that mirror the period before the Nodes last shifted to Pisces/Virgo.
It’s the nature of the human condition that we do not readily make needed changes without some force being applied from outside of us. When we learn to move with the flow of the planets, change and transformation comes more easily and with exhilaration instead of fear. The beauty of astrology is that it helps to give us a framework within which we can observe the ebb and flow of the tides and understand their meaning, so that we can work with those tides and reach our destination.