Summer Solstice - A Time For Rituals to Celebrate Abundance, Fertility, And The Beauty of Nature

Chiff.com has some background on the Summer Solstice:

Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning "sun" + "to stand still." As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.

As a major celestial event, the Summer Solstice results in the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The Northern Hemisphere celebrates in June, but the people on the Southern half of the earth have their longest summer day in December.

Early Celebrations

Awed by the great power of the sun, civilizations have for centuries celebrated the first day of summer otherwise known as the Summer Solstice, Midsummer (see Shakespeare), St. John's Day, or the Wiccan Litha.

The Celts & Slavs celebrated the first day of summer with dancing & bonfires to help increase the sun's energy. The Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light.

ShamanicCircles.org takes a shamanic look at the Summer Solstice:

Generally speaking, shamanic Summer Solstice Ceremonies focus on the themes of fulfillment, enlightenment, abundance, sharing, and the joy of living on this beautiful EarthHome.

The article then outlines 6 ceremonial options. Here's 3 of them:

2) Doing a Fire ceremony that honors the gift of Fire. Fire partakes of the Sun and is considered the Sun within the Earth.

4) Making a Prayer Stick or Prayer Tree upon which you place specific prayers for those who need healing, for the return to peace where there is no peace, for abundance in areas of the world where there is now poverty and scarcity.

6) Creating a Circle that sends healing love to others round the Earth. Circling together, find a way consciously to send your blessings and your love in such a way that you see "what you are sending" as encircling the globe of Earth.

LaurelAlexander.co.uk has a great article outlining the history of the solstice around the world and also has some suggestions for personal rituals. Here's three of them from her list:

Make a small sun wheel garden, either indoors or out using the flowering herbs of vervain and St John’s Wort and Sun herbs such as frankincense, juniper, rosemary and saffron and all yellow or golden flowers. Arrange them in the form of a wheel and fill in the centre with tiny golden crystals or glass nuggets. You can breathe in the golden light from your living sun wheel.

Light sun oils, frankincense, juniper, rosemary, orange or benzoin or burn them as incense to bring the sun power into your home or workplace.

Cast golden flowers or herbs into the air from a hill, a handful at a time, making empowerments for courage and achievement to the winds. Where they land and take root represents in the old traditions places of buried treasure or in this case symbolizes new or buried talents you can develop to realize your hidden potential.

Litha is the name in the Pagan Wheel of the Year for the Summer Solstice. Here's some background:

Humanity has been celebrating Litha and the triumph of light since ancient times. On the Wheel of the Year Litha lies directly across from Yule, the shortest day of the calendar year, that cold and dark winter turning when days begin to lengthen and humanity looks wistfully toward warmth, sunlight and growing things. Although Litha and Yule are low holidays or lesser sabats in the ancient parlance, they are celebrated with more revel and merriment than any other day on the wheel except perhaps Samhain (my own favourite). The joyous rituals of Litha celebrate the verdant Earth in high summer, abundance, fertility, and all the riches of Nature in full bloom. This is a madcap time of strong magic and empowerment, traditionally the time for handfasting or weddings and for communication with the spirits of Nature. At Litha, the veils between the worlds are thin; the portals between "the fields we know" and the worlds beyond stand open. This is an excellent time for rites of divination.

Those who celebrated Litha did so wearing garlands or crowns of flowers, and of course, their millinery always included the yellow blossoms of St. John's Wort. The Litha rites of the ancients were boisterous communal festivities with Morris dancing, singing, storytelling, pageantry and feasting taking place by the village bonfire and torch lit processions through the villages after dark.

TheWhiteGoddess outlines some of the traditional Litha rituals:

Since this sabbat revolves around the sun, a candle should be lit for the entire day, especially if it is cloudy or raining. The fire represents the sun and is a constant daily reminder of the power of the God. Rituals should be performed at noon, when the sun is highest in the sky. The best rituals to perform on Midsummer are those dealing with masculine issues, masculine energies, or issues dealing with solar influence.

Many pagans choose to make protective amulets, in the week before the Sabbat, which are later empowered over the Midsummer balefire. Some witches choose to bury their protective amulets each Midsummer’s eve and construct new ones. Rue, rowan and basil, tied together in a white or gold cloth, is a good protective trio that can be carried in your pocket year round.

Midsummer is the time to formalize any relationship and couples that have been together a year and a day since the previous Beltane can make their marriage final. This Sabbat is also an excellent time to re-new wedding vows.

There are many traditional ways to celeberate the solstice around the world. Here are a few examples:

Sweden

On the weekend closest to June 24, the Swedes celebrate one of their biggest – and arguably the most important – holidays: Midsommardagen. The celebration, which honors the summer solstice and Saint John, generally lasts from June 19-25. Midsommardagen is thought to originate from the Vikings and holds many traditions. For instance, single Swedish ladies often place up to nine different flowers beneath her pillow to dream of her future love. Additionally, maypoles are decorated and danced around, while new potatoes of the season are picked to create traditional Swedish dishes.

Poland

The night of merrymaking - also known as St. John’s Night or “Noc Świętojańska - is still observed in parts of Poland and some Polish communities in the United States. It has its roots in magical pagan rituals that honored two important elements: Fire and Water. It is also a feast celebrating the Sun as a source of light and warmth on the longest day of the year, usually June 23. 

The name Sobótka was not common all over Poland. In Central Poland’s Mazowsze region and in Eastern Poland - as well as in Ukraine - midsummer was known under a name of “Kupałnocka” or “Kupala.”

The ancient tradition is to burn bonfires, bathe in open waters at sunset, and sing and dance until midnight.

Russia 

In Russian and Ukrainian mythology, the evening before the solstice is the only time that ferns bloom. Because finding a fern flower is supposed be a sign of future wealth, many people will be out in the forests and gardens looking for this lucky sign. Young girls also toss flower garlands into the river, and the movement of the garland is supposed to tell them about their romantic prospects.

England 

Revellers typically gather at Stonehenge, the ancient stone circle in Wiltshire, to see the sun rise. The Heel Stone and Slaughter Stone, set outside the main circle, align with the rising sun. In addition to the large events at major sites such as Stonehenge, many more Pagans hold small ceremonies in open spaces, everywhere from gardens to woodlands.

Image from tarotasic on Flickr