The Summer Solstice takes place when the Sun moves into the astrological sign of Cancer, marking the peak of solar energy when the Sun reaches it’s most southerly point on the horizon in the northern hemisphere. It marks a deep shift, half way through the solar cycle and from now on, the days begin to get shorter as the wheel turns towards the dark side of the year. The sign of cardinal water, Cancer is the sign of the mother, bringing a flow of connection to our emotional energy, our imagination and our intuition. In the cycle of the year, Cancer marks the beginning of the inner journey, as we turn our energy back inwards after the peak of the Summer Solstice. After the busy seasons of spring and summer, Cancer calls us to rest a little, to nourish our inner selves before the rush and energy of harvest arrive. Its a time to go with the flow, to allow nature and ourselves time to ripen and grow, nurturing our projects and giving them space to take on their true form. This is a time for gradual growth and stabilisation after the rush of spring and early summer energy. The dawn chorus has quieted, young birds have fledged and fruit is ripening on the trees.
The sign of Cancer calls us to turn inwards, beginning a process of reflection and inner work, of reflecting on how we are feeling and what we are dreaming. Cancer also symbolises the safe space where we can do this work, our home territory, the place where we can root ourselves in the people and places we love the most. Cancer is a sign deeply connected with the past, associated with memory and tradition and needing the sense of inner security those connections bring. Symbolised by the crab, those with strong Cancerian energy often prefer to approach a problem sideways on rather than engaging with it directly. Under the sign of Cancer, we tune into our instinctive knowledge and the patterns of response and feeling which are laid down early in our lives. Just like its ruler the Moon, Cancerian energy ebbs and flows, carrying us along on the flow of its tides and currents.
The Sun’s ingress into Cancer at the peak of its power can bring feelings of vulnerability as well as of confidence and illumination. We may be more sensitive than we expect around this time, tuning into our inner selves as well as our outer celebrations. Summer Solstice can be a bittersweet time as we acknowledge that the season of growth is coming to an end and that from now on, the energies of release are getting stronger. The solar consciousness is strong at Summer Solstice but Cancer allows us to acknowledge the power of our subconscious and our shadowy selves at this time too, balancing out the long bright days with an awareness of the power of night.
In some ways, the symbolism may seem at odds here – as the Sun reaches the peak of its energy, we move into a sign ruled by the watery Moon. In the west the Moon is generally seen as feminine whilst the Sun is masculine but this distinction is not as clear or “obvious” as it may seen. All around the world, there are many goddesses of the Sun and gods of the Moon and the insistence on a feminine Moon and a masculine Sun can be seen as having its roots in Victorian patriarchal interpretations of Greek and Roman mythology. In Celtic (Greine), Norse (Sunna), Baltic (Saule) and Slavic (Solnitse) mythology, the sun is female, the Mother goddess who warms the land and allows the crops to grow. In Brittany and Gaul, a number of goddess figurines have been found which have sun wheels carved on their breasts, belly and thighs, as if to emphasise the link between fertility and the sun. The goddess Sulis, associated with the hot springs at Bath, is a goddess of healing, whose name has its roots in the Celtic word for Sun. The warm waters of the springs were used for healing from very early times, bringing together water and solar imagery. In many mythologies, the Sun Goddess is said to descend into the waters of the sea at sunset, so that the warm Solstice sun rests in the waters of Cancer. Folk traditions of bathing in the early morning dew also bring together the fire energy of the sunrise and the water energy of the night time dew.
Astrological Magic for the Summer Solstice
The salt and water of the sea is a powerful combination for cleansing and this is a lovely meditation to allow you to relax and let go of any stagnant or negative energy. Coming into your sacred space, sit or lie down comfortably and allow your body to come into stillness. Imagine that you are on a beach, at the very edge of the sea, so that the waves lap around you (to a level you are comfortable with). As you focus your attention on the flow of your breathing, visualise the waves around you flowing in and out just as your breath flows in and out. Take a few minutes to find the rhythm and relax into it. As the water flows over your body and you breathe in, visualise the waves bringing light and clarity. As you breathe out and the water ebbs away, visualise it carrying away any tense or stuck energy, cleansing any parts of your body, mind or soul where energy might feel stagnant. When you feel ready, allow your awareness of the sea to ebb away and return to your everyday reality.
Immersing yourself in water is a powerful practice, bringing energies of cleansing as in the meditation above. You might be lucky enough to live close to the sea or a body of water (wild or otherwise) where you can paddle or swim, or you can simply enjoy relaxing in a ritual bath. Taking a ritual bath or shower allows you to use herbs associated with the sign of Cancer, such as jasmine, lemon balm and rose. Either way, be mindful as you immerse yourself into the water and if you’re able, move through it. Keep your mind clear and allow yourself to experience the sensation of water on your skin, what it feels like to be in a different element. Being in water takes us into a liminal space, between water and the air we breathe, between water and the earth we walk. Allow this liminal space to be a space for transformation, for releasing the past and making space for something new.
Creating a flower essence
Creating a flower essence brings together the bright, vivid energies of the Solstice and the more subtle energies of the sign of Cancer. Choose your flowers for their symbolism, whether you’re seeking to bring about an emotional shift or simply tune more deeply into your imagination and intuition. Elderflowers, vervain, yarrow, rose and comfrey are all in flower around the Summer Solstice and all carry energies of healing. Make your essence outside in the sunshine if you can, sitting in meditation with your chosen plant to help you attune to it’s energies. Then fill a small bowl, preferably glass, with spring water, and place it close to the plant. You can put some of the petals into the water if you like. When you sense that the essence is ready, thank the plant, remove the petals and pour the infused water into a dark bottle which is already half filled with alcohol or vinegar (which acts as a preservative). This is your Mother essence. Label the bottle clearly, including the name of the plant, the place the essence was made and the date. To use the flower essence, dilute 7 drops of the Mother essence in another half alcohol or vinegar / half spring water mixture. Take 3-4 drops at a time on the tongue for healing and inner balance.
Lys is a pagan astrologer and tarot reader based in London, you can find her on Instagram @wildstarlys or on her website