Just a few words about the Summer
It's the longest day of the
year in the northern hemisphere. It results from the
apparent journeying of the sun from North to South; when it seems
to reach its northernmost point (over the Tropic of Cancer, at
23-1/2 degrees north), it appears to reverse its direction and
travel south again.
(Living in Shenzhen, I have
experienced a new phenomenon. We are at about 22 degrees
north, which edges us barely over into the tropics. As a
result, at this time of year, the sun just peeks into the
windows on the north side of my house. That never
happened in Rosemead!)
Why do I say
"seems," "appears," etc.? Because in
fact it is the earth that moves, not the sun. (Or is
it? I am reminded of what Hui Neng said in the Platform
Sutra (Amazon): "It happened that one day, when a pennant was blown about by the wind, two Bhikkhus entered into a dispute as to what it was that was in motion, the wind or the pennant. As they could not settle their difference I submitted to them that it was neither, and that what actually moved was their own mind.")
Anyway, you can read the
cause of the apparent motion here,
The mythic significance is a
whole other matter.
Winter solstice gets more
attention in the northern hemisphere; traditions around summer are
weak. Last night (the solstice) I was with a group of
Chinese university professors, and asked them if the knew of any
Chinese summer solstice traditions. They concluded that
there weren't any. I asked them why winter had several
(mostly associated with food), and summer had none.
"Winter is scarier," the suggested; "You need to
worry more about your health." (Everything's relative: I
usually get sick from summer weather here; winter is
China aside, there are
summer solstice traditions. This is the "Midsummer's
Night" mentioned in the title of Shakespeare's play.
And this brings up another point: In modern times, we call this
the "start of summer." In fact it is not. If
summer is the time of the longest days, then summer started about
six weeks ago--around May Day--and will continue for another six
weeks, until about August 1st. So this is indeed mid-summer,
not the start.
The traditions of mid-summer
are spread all across the northern hemisphere. A good
starting place to learn more would be at the amazing Mything
Links site. (Kathleen's usually-fine essay is in this case
quite pessimistic. Don't be discouraged! Scroll down
to the links starting at the words "Summer
links"!) You can also turn off the music at the bottom
of the page.
Here are a few highlights
from the links:
Tolerance has everything from folklore to science,
including a list of world-wide "Midsummer celebrations in ancient and modern times."
of the Seasons, a great article summarizing European
Wiccan wise man Mike
in China) gives the Pagan insider's view (including
some fascinating alternate traditions about John the Baptist!)
(C) 2006 James Baquet.