Summer is synonymous with love, romance, and joy. It is a time of celebration, which dates back to ancient days, when ceremonies were performed to represent symbolic marriages between mortals and gods.
Traditionally, cultures around the world have seen summer as a celebration of the strength and fertility of Mother Earth and of other goddesses and gods. The Romans dedicated the summer solstice (the longest day of the year) to Vesta, goddess of the hearth and the Greeks to Hestia, who served the same purpose in their culture. Since this is a time when the sun begins to wane, Ancient cultures around the world lit bonfires to guarantee the suns return next year. Often, as part of these rituals, celebrants picked prized summer flowers and herbs-mugwort chamomile, geranium, St. John’s wort, thyme, and pennyroyal- to throw on their festive bonfires. They believed these fires would banish sickness from their livestock and their families. For good luck, they jumped across the fire and even walked on hot coals, precursor to the fire-walking ceremonies practiced today.
Today summer rituals are practiced around the world, which echo these ancient beliefs. In Swaziland, the most important festival of the year, Incwala, which honors kinship, is always held on the summer solstice. The ceremony involves burning objects , which represent the death of the king- the sun-followed by a ritual purification and rebirth. The Swahilis believe that this practice ensures good leadership and a prosperous year.
In North America, Native Americans celebrate with a Sun Dance: offering a healing prayer to the Great Spirit and one of thanksgiving for the gift of the buffalo and for life itself. It begins with a period of fasting and purification. The ritual can last four days, as the participants dance to unify with Spirit and harmonize with all life.
Summer is a glorious time to celebrate the sacredness of fire. Bring dancing, music and laughter into your life. Pay attention to the flowers around you. Delight in the colors. Let yourself smile and express joy. The more you practice feeling joyful, the more joy you will experience.