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Practical Techie: Plenty of info on the web about the summer solstice

The summer solstice has arrived in 2021 and it reflects amply on the World Wide Web with plenty of data and details about the astronomical phenomena.

Solstice is “solstitium” in Latin and it means: “the sun is stopping.” The ancients described it as such because it seemed to them the point where the sun appears to rise and set, stops, and reverses direction from the 20th to the 21st of June, in our hemisphere. Since the days of yore, the first day of spring, summer, fall, and winter can either be defined using astronomical events like solstices and equinoxes.

Over the centuries, the solstice has inspired countless works of art, legends, festivals, midsummer celebrations, and religious holidays.

STONEHENGE  —  One of the world’s oldest pieces of evidence of the summer solstice observance is Stonehenge, a megalithic structure that marks the moment of the June solstice in England. Each June 21, the first day of summer in southwest England provides 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight. Stonehenge was built around 4,500 by farmers and herders. These were country folk with astronomical savvy due to sowing and harvesting time. To them, the solstice was a significant occasion.

The solstice likely had both spiritual and practical significance and the layout of the monument was specifically designed to align with the movements of the sun. As the sun rises, a great shadow from the Heel Stone — a stone that lies outside the circle — is projected towards the same direction from within the rock ring. This site offers a solstice live stream of sunrise and sunset at the monument.

MYSTICS – On a more mystical note, many new-age followers see the summer solstice as the shortest night of the year. It is the time when the Sun halts over the Tropic of Cancer (23°N26′) on its tropical journey north, then after some three days, it “turns” in its tracks and begins its journey south, towards the equator.  

The event in the heavens is the focus of religious and social festivities in all cultures. Christian society marks the event with the Midsummer festival known as St John the Baptist’s Day (June 24) during which people in Puerto Rico go to the beaches until midnight. In other places, traditional hilltop bonfires are lit to revive the power of the Sun.

There is dancing around the fire as a ritual for a good harvest. Magical powers are invoked from the sun, and it is considered an ideal time for gathering herbs before dawn.  Golden solar flowers such as moonwort and mistletoe, the golden bough, are worn as garlands.

ASTROLOGY — The June solstice marks the entry of the Sun into the Water Sign of Cancer, to the actual degree of latitude that is as far north as it is going to go each year. Cancer is ruled by the moon and midsummer when the elemental powers of fire and water are celebrated. Even in our 21st century, people come together and surf the cosmic waves of energy that astrologers believe are released at the solstice, either by the waterside or with bonfires. Visit this page for an astrological tour of the solstice.

GOOGLE — As it is a digital custom, Google Doodle celebrated the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere with a thematic design to its homepage logo. The search engine indicates in its Arts and Culture link that solstices are opposite on either side of the equator, so the summer solstice in the north is the winter solstice, and vice versa.

In San Juan, Puerto Rico the solstice occurred exactly at 11:32, on Father’s Day.

Author Details
Author Rafael Matos is a veteran journalist, a professor of digital narratives and university mentor. He may be contacted at cccrafael@gmail.com.

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