As the Summer Solstice Approaches
Exhausted. You wouldn’t think that the summer solstice would cause me to become exhausted, but the reality is there’s too much to do now that summer is striding towards us. I can feel its touch, even though the relentless rains are turning everything into a lush, green carpet.
Heralding the Winter
Summer solstice is the longest day of the year, and the daylight will give into night bit by bit after the solstice passes. The days will shorten again, but the hottest days are still to come. Sometime around July 1st, the rains will stop and the land will dry out. We won’t see much rain until September.
It is a time when I must plan for the upcoming fall. Hunting season is just around the corner, relatively speaking. Planning comes during this time because the temperatures are too hot to do much else. I hope we have a typical summer, and not a global warming summer. I can handle the 80s–not so much temperatures in the 90s and 100s. At this point, I’m imploring Skadi to make it an early winter.
Using the Summer to Prepare
One pagan whose blog I’ve read said that summer solstice is a time to pause, because the crops have already been sown and the harvest isn’t until fall. Ah, but that is only part of the summer. Work isn’t done especially during summer. It’s a preparation for the cold nights ahead. Berries and edibles need foraging. Dairy animals need milking. Cheese needs to be made. Young animals need caring for.
The sun’s return heralds the shift in daylight. Sunna says, you’re already late getting things done for winter. Hurry up! Sure, there were idle hands, which meant families sent their restless sons and daughters to go Viking during that time. But being a Viking didn’t always mean raids. It meant trading as well. Some Vikings traded for goods from the south and east, using the waterways as highways.
Fall Meant Harvest
Our Northern ancestors only recognized two seasons: Summer and Winter. Everything else was just shades of those two seasons. Summer was a time for planting and harvest; winter was a time of slaughtering animals and putting up the food for the long nights. It was vitally important to work now so you could survive the winter.
Which was More Important: Summer or Winter Solstice?
I’m sure our Northern ancestors celebrated the summer solstice, but the winter solstice was probably more important. The winter solstice was the return of the sun; the sunlight’s return was vitally important. And given that the sun’s warmth wasn’t always a given, (as witnessed from two volcanic eruptions in the 6th century), our ancestors naturally celebrated when the sun came back. The two volcanic eruptions in the 6th century caused widespread crop failures, famine, and probably contributed to the plague pandemic at the time. The sun had been noticably dim and there was widespread drought throughout the world. The winters and summers were colder and millions of people died due to the brutal conditions.
These two volcanic eruptions began the Late Antique Little Ice Age (LALIA). The loss of sun, crop failures, and relentless cold must’ve made it feel like fimbulvetr had indeed arrived. So, the return of the sun’s light was vitally important to our ancestors.
Summer Solstice and the Death of Baldr
I have pointed out quite a bit how the story of Baldr’s death is actually a metaphor for the summer solstice and the upcoming winter. Baldr is the god of the summer sun; Hodr symbolizes winter and cold. On the summer solstice, Hodr slays Baldr, but Baldr rises again on winter solstice. An excellent tale.
Have a bit of mead this summer solstice! Be safe!
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