In Santa Monica, the Solstice Sunset will be marked and celebrated at 8:08 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. In Santa Barbara, they’re having a big celebration, but the Mardi-Gras like parade etc. will not be until this Friday-Saturday June 24-25, traditionally called “Midsummers’ Day” and “Midsummers’ Night” (Johannistag in Germany/Austria). (http://www.solsticeparade.com/index.php/festival_schedule).
On June 21, 2011, the actual solstice, Santa Barbara will only be celebrating Bollywood and Indian cuisine….I don’t know why so don’t ask me….
There is nothing but the “Brave New World” of Multiculturalism in Bollywood celebrations or anything connected with the Santa Barbara celebrations, so far as I can tell. In Kalispell, Montana, April Gaede is hosting a very different kind of Solstitial Celebration on the Western Flanks of Glacier National Park…. In Jolly Old England, thousands gather around Stonehenge as they might have done thousands of years ago (we’re not really sure, but they probably didn’t have cameras or weed back then….weeds growing around Stonehenge yes, weed no…)
What does all this mean? I think it means that everywhere people search for meaning…. and even on the day of the longest day and shortest night…. I think it means that, even on the longest day and shortest night:
“So there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living. We look for light but find only darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom. We grope like the blind along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead. We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.” Isaiah 59:9-11.
My mother always taught me that Isaiah is the key book of prophecy in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament—this it the book that looks most clearly towards the coming of the Messiah with his message of love and peace….and justice.
For the Ancient Sumerians and Babylonians (into whose cultural matrix Israel was born), the Sun God Utu (Sumerian) and Shamash (Akkadian) was the God of Justice—Greek Apollo and even the Hebrew God of the Psalms make direct allegorical, metaphoric, poetic, symbolic connections between the Sun and Justice—among the Indo-Germanische Mythen recorded by one of my great-great-grandfathers, Dr. Hugo Meyer, the proper time for trial-by-combat was “High Noon”. There is a movie by that name with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelley from the Hollywood of 1952. Sometimes called the greatest of all Hollywood Westerns, High Noon is an amazing movie, simultaneously idealistic and dark—presque cine noir…. all the greater in tension and suspense because it is shot in “real time”—no ellipses, just one and a half hour for Gary Cooper to “shoot Frank Miller dead” for the greater good and interests of civilized society and the benefit of all others—
Among the disappointments of life “Shooting” (or otherwise eliminating) another violent bully named Frank Miller dead (or at least removing him as Chief of Police) was something I never achieved in Lago Vista, Texas in 1996-98, sadly enough—but then I was only using paper bullets and judicial guns….and they were then turned against me—“what will I do if you leave me?“—I got really depressed when she left me, that’s what I did….but Elena was no Grace Kelley—and unlike Grace Kelley’s character in the movie—she only stood by me after the shooting was over, and the bad guys had already won…. in 1999-2000). But “High Noon” is indeed a great tradition for dueling and fighting—the time of day when the sun, straight overhead is least likely to be in either combatant’s eyes… so the trial-by-battle/trial-by-combat will be most justly and fairly decided by “God” or the Fates….
In Lohengrin one of Richard Wagner’s early but “mature” (gesammtkunstwerk) operas, the Eponymous White Night (son and knight of Parsifal, King of Montsalvat and the temple and palace of the Holy Grail) takes on Friedrich Graf von Telramund at High Noon—and wins…. It was a just victory….but almost a pyrrhic one…. the Legal Procedure outlined in Lohengrin is historically accurate and so entirely “just” as to be a guide to legal reform in this country: in particular, I like the part where even the Holy Roman Emperor (King of all Germany), Heinrich der Voegler, does not presume to have jurisdiction to try noble Elsa von Brabant based on charges of murdering her younger brother pressed by Friederich von Telramund (invented and “fixed” as it happens by Telramund’s pagan wife Ortrud Radbod, Friesian princess of Antwerp & Belgium). Rather, the Heilige Romische Koenig asks timid Elsa: Erkennst du mich als deinen Richter an? (Do you accept me as your Judge?) EVERY Judge should exercise jurisdiction only by the consent of the parties…. When it becomes apparent that Elsa is suffering from what we moderns can only call “Post-Traumatic Stress” or perhaps it’s hypothetical second subtype: “Litigation Abuse Syndrome”, King Heinrich gives her EVERY possible opportunity to obtain adequate representation, lending the King’s Herald to call three times for anyone willing to appear on behalf of the Brabantian heiress. If real modern judges behaved this way, the complaints about modern justice would be much less, possibly nil….. But in fact….Justice and Salvation both remain highly elusive to modern Homo Sapiens…
Even though we growl like bears and moan like doves, even though we look for the light of justice and grope along the walls like blind men, and find that if we turn away from evil, we make ourselves a prey, targets for that very evil, it remains true that the Summer Solstice is the day in a year when the Sun reaches its northernmost point in the planet Earth’s sky. The vertical rays of sun never reach much farther north than Tampico in Mexico—they do not touch any of the co-terminous 48 United States, although Hawaii is tropical…. just like Kenya… and Puerto Rico…. and Yucatan and Cuba, Jamaica, and Indonesia….
The summer solstice occurs exactly when the Earth’s and the moon’s axial tilt is most inclined towards the sun, at its maximum of 23° 26′ North Latitude….aka the Tropic of Cancer:
- in the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice begins onJun 21 2011 at 1:16 P.M. EDT
- in the UK June 21, 2011 at 17:16 UTC
June 21, 2011 – the date this year traditionally marks a change of seasons – from spring to summer in Earth’s Northern Hemisphere and from fall to winter in Earth’s Southern Hemisphere.
Summer solstice occurs on (well, actually, it is defined as) the longest day and the shortest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. But there is no more hope of Justice on June 21, 2011, than any other day….as a matter of fact, it seems every day that justice is FARTHER off, and that we who fight the evils of injustice are MORE of a target or prey, every day, than we were before—plus que hier, moins que demain….
Winter solstice occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year. December 22 was the date for Winter solstice last year 2010. In John Donne’s time it was December 13, Santa Lucia’s Day in Palermo. Unlike Saint Lucy’s Day—there are no great poems by Renaissance, Early Stuart, or Cavalier Poets to celebrate the Summer Solstice… But there are the memories of the Pagan Celebrations and what James G. Frazer called the Summer Fires…. six weeks after Walpurgisnacht or Beltane—we have surprisingly few direct celebrations of the Summer Solstice—although I’ve always thought that July 1, July 4 and July 14 (the National Days of Canada, the United States, and France, respectively) were almost certainly the direct historical and structural heirs and continuations of Frazer’s Summer Fires…. Johannisnacht and Johannistag in Germany are the days to be celebrated in Santa Barbara—perhaps unwittingly—the “midsummers day” and “midsummers night” fires—celebrated in another of Richard Wagner’s operas—Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.
Thousands of people gather at sunrise at the ancient Stonehenge monument to see the sun rise through the 4,000 year old solar monument on Salisbury plain in southern England.
According to NASA, the Sun continues to rise over Stonehenge in an “astronomically significant way.”
NASA explains: Standing within Stonehenge, facing north-east through the entrance towards the heel stone, one can sees the sun rise above the stone at summer solstice.
Travellers watch as the sunrises over the Stonehenge monument near Salisbury at a summer solstice on June 21.REUTERS/Paul Hackett
On of my favorite European soft drinks is “Johannisbeersaft” whose onomastics are almost as confused between John the Baptist and the pagan solstitial fires as the name Johannistag itself….
Johannistag is the name given Midsummer’s day in Germany. Johannistag follows the Summer Solstice in June of each year. June 24 is the traditional Feast Day of John the Baptist, but whether this day were connected to John the Baptist crying in the Wilderness and Baptising by the Jordan or being beheaded at the behest of Salomé is unknown to me. During the time of the Summer Solstice and four-days-two weeks after (compare Christmas, four days-two weeks after the Winter Solstice), the Ancient Teutons and their descendants as recently as early modern times that the midsummer plants had healing and miraculous powers.
Johannistag celebrations, like the Midsummer Fires all over Europe described by Sir James George Frazer, begin with a lit bonfire to rid the local community of evil spirits who were thought to be on the loose when the sun turned to the south, i.e., just after the Solstice which was when the midsummer began. Again, the comparison to be made is Midsummer’sday June 24-25, to Christmas December 24-25.
In Germany, supposedly, the Nuremberg town council decreed (or affirmed a tradition, perhaps?) on June 20th 1653, allowing the people of the Electoral Town and adjacent Bavaria the right to celebrate by burning bonfires—fires are everywhere known in myth and superstition to chase evil spirits away….it’s why the Native Americans all smoked, for example…. fire (kak) was used to purify community and defeat the “bad winds” (kakas iikob) among the Maya of Yucatan as recently as the 1980s….
The Germans, like the Maya, plan their bonfire ceremonies to cast out all spirits that want to come in and harm them. Some of these spirits were thought to be from the witches in the area that called them out during their celebration of the Midsummer Day, or that may have lingered since Walpurgisnacht on April 30/May 1 “Beltane”…
NOTFEUER: The Summer solstice link to Midsummer Day began in ancient times. During this time, “need-fires,” is one of the German practices that exemplify the Midsummer Day. Notfeuer rites were in effect a practical-magic/religious practice to heal the domestic animals. The animals were driven between two fires that were started by rubbing wood together.
To prevent disease in pigs, they also passed through the fires. In the mountain areas, the folks extinguish all fires from their homes and walk to a specific location with their farm animals. As recorded in Frazer’s The Golden Bough (3rd edition) and elsewhere, the country folk light a fire and let the animals pass through it to prevent any type of plague in their villages. It is quite amazing, in reading Frazer’s work—to realize how traditional was European society right up until the beginning of August, 1914—and how “the Great War” served effectively to eradicate tradition from large parts of France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia—and how whatever was left was surely exterminated in the conflicts and dislocations of 1939-1968 (Invasion of Poland through the most brutal years of the Cold War, including the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 and the “Prague Spring” of 1968)…..
Traditional German, Slavic, and Scandinavian Notfeueren (need-fires) take place in different regions of Germany (but not all) on Johannisnacht/Midsummer Night and serve to precent against any disease that may occur later. Those rites survived the 19th century intact, to be celebrated in many places for the very last time during the summer of 1914— after which what Frazer had called “the traditional Aryan Folkways” of Europe were all but eradicated, wiped out, and forgotten except to Anthropology and sentimental revivalists….who perform as much in ignorance and of dreamy nostalgia as those who celebrate something (they’re not quite sure what) at Stonehenge—because even on this longest day, we still grope along the walls like the blind in darkness…..seeking truth, justice, and salvation (even health for our animals….) but they are all far off…..so far off…