The Suitcase Lady


June 16, 2009, 11:12 pm

When our son was in high school, he was asked to fill in his religion on a school information form. He listed himself as “Druid”. We are definitely not a family of Druids; however, I admit that my thoughts do stray to ancient cultures as the summer solstice approaches.

Druids, Celts, Chinese, Incas and many others marked the summer solstice with great gusto. They erected monolithic rock structures, pyramids  or temples. Bonfires were lighted, ostensibly to add to the sun’s energy. Dancing was rife, and magic was thought to be afoot.

The summer solstice, also known as Midsummer or St. John’s Day, is the first day of summer with the longest day and shortest night of the year.

The Druids created Stonehenge, that immense rock garden whose main axis is aligned on the Midsummer sunrise. They viewed the day as “the wedding of Heaven and Earth”. We can thank the ancients for our present penchant for June weddings and the word “honeymoon”. The Midsummer moon was called a “Honey Moon” for the mead made from fermented honey that was consumed at solstice wedding bashes.

Steeped in semi-gloom or darkness for most of the year, Nordic people regarded Midsummer as a paramount event. To this day Midsummer poles decorated with flowers and greens are a common sight in Scandinavian countries. Sweden, especially, is awash with weddings and feasting. An old custom advises that young girls should collect seven flowers and put them under their pillows to dream about future bridegrooms.

In the Americas, the Inca people regarded themselves as “children of the sun”. It’s been over 500 years since the conquest, but Quechua-speaking people of Cuzco still gather to witness the arrival of the sun’s first rays on the solstice. A trapezoidal doorway set into huge stones directly frames the first light on summer solstice morning.

Americans rarely note the passing solstices and equinoxes. But it might be helpful to pause for a moment on June 21 (12:45AM, CDT) and consider what would happen if the sun, or our little blue marble, stopped acting in predictable ways. Then, break open the wine bottles and toast yet another on-schedule return of summer.

2 Comments for this entry

  • Barb Ward

    Mary, your blog never fails to elicit a smile and a head nodding, uh-huh!

    Miss seeing you this summer. Regards to you, Russ and the ‘menagerie’.

  • Mary


    I hope you are taking good care of the UP. I miss seeing you each summer as well,
    so why don’t we see each other without a library involved? We would love to drive up in fall when your trees are putting on their great show.