This year’s summer solstice is a special one. First and famously, as it’s all over the media, this year’s longest day coincides with a full moon. This is rare: it last happened in 1967, and won’t happen again until 2062, by which time I’ll almost certainly be stardust.
I like that there’s a growing custom, deriving from Native American tradition, of giving full moons their seasonal names. So the June full moon is the Strawberry Moon, to mark the beginning of the strawberry season.
I also rather like how here in Britain, we use the summer solstice as a yet another reason to grumble about the climate we live in, pointing out that the longest day marks the moment at which the days begin to shorten on their inevitable march towards winter. It’s downhill from here on, we like to remark, momentarily forgetting that some traditions consider mid-late June as the start of summer.
Yet I suspect this particular version of British pessimism is a way of relating to the climatic quirks of the natural world which we inhabit. And since recently I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about the British way of relating to nature, this year’s summer solstice seems the right time to release The New British Druids, a piece of longform reportage on contemporary Druidry. Anyone who’s read The Secret Life of God will find most of the material there, so this standalone short ebook is aimed at those who would appreciate a shorter read specifically about neopaganism.
I loved summer solstice long before I discovered the rich rituals and lore of our native nature faiths. Years ago of a solstice in London I used to drag any friends willing enough up Primrose Hill, and for the last couple of years I’ve held a suburban solstice fire party in my back garden in Crystal Palace. See those flames leap!
This solstice is different as, having moved from London to Wiltshire, I find myself for the first time within easy driving distance of the Great Henge. Will I join the heaving crowds for the night of the 20th/21st?
I don’t think so. As Amy Willis points out in this article, there are plenty of other places to mark the first high point of the British summer. I may tootle over to the stone circle she doesn’t
mention at Avebury, and see whether it’s possible to see the dawn in amid all the parking and health and safety restrictions.
If not, I think I’ll be happy to see this year’s summer sun stand still amid my own strawberry patch, inherited from the
previous owner of my new-to-me garden. Or perhaps I can just hold my own micro-solstice by looking at the small stones standing on the wall behind the kitchen window. For stone worship, as no one ever actually said, begins at home …
The New British Druids is available on Amazon.