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Image: Jan ShepherdThe Summer Solstice

Here are Graham's thoughts:
The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, and usually happens around the 21st of June. If you record the position of the sunrise or sunset over the year, you will see it track first one way, then the other. (See the Vernal Equinox for a more detailed explanation.) The solstices occur at the end of this progression, when the Sun turns around. At this point, the sun rises (or sets) in the same place on the horizon for five days, centred around the day of the solstice. The name comes from the Latin – sol meaning Sun and either “stare” or “sto” meaning to stand. In astrology this is when the sun moves into the sign of Cancer.

The nearest Christian festival is the Feast Day of St John, placed on the 24th of June. (This is usually the day that the Sun starts moving again after the Solstice.) It is an unusual day as it celebrates the birth of a saint, rather than the day they died, which is the case with most other saints. This fact provides us with a key to unlock a mythical cycle, that of the Oak and Holly King.

The Holly and Oak Kings are seen as two brothers who compete for the hand of a fair maiden – the Goddess.  There is an archetype of the God having two sides, both bright and outgoing and dark and inward looking and together these work with the Goddess to provide fertility and to ensure life continues. The Oak King rules over the rising year, when the days are getting longer, from Winter Solstice to Summer Solstice. And the Holly King rules over the waning year, when the days are getting progressively shorter.

This cycle has been preserved and protected from Christianity by being hidden within other myths, such as those of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, or in Mummers' Plays. Summer Solstice marks both the height of the Oak King's powers, and the end of his reign. It also marks the beginning of the waning year, the time of the Holly King.       [More...]

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