Happy Summer Solstice!
To the calendar, it's the first day of summer. Kids are free from school, vacations
are planned and long, lazy, days at the beach are enjoyed.
Astronomers see it as an astronomical event caused by the earth's tilt on its axis
and its motion in orbit around the sun.
Long before calendars and astronomers, the Summer Solstice was a festival celebrated by those who are now referred to as pagans. They lived and survived by the seasons and became experts at reading
and understanding the sky, the stars and their movements.
I've wanted to write a post about the origin of the word pagan and how it's evolved from it's initial meaning to the way it's viewed in recent times for a long time, and today is your lucky day!
The original Latin pagus means from the country district. It changed to paganus, or rustic villager. Today we would say hillbilly or country bumpkin. At the height of Roman and Greek mythology, those who still lived isolated in the woods and worshipped their "old" gods, rejecting Zeus, Apollo, Diana, & Artemis were considered Paganus. Far from a derogatory term, the Greeks and Romans thought them a bit silly for holding on to less powerful gods than their own.
As Christianity grew, the tables turned & the Greeks and Romans became the pagans, and were ridiculed for again holding on to old, outdated gods. Diana (Artemis), a beloved and powerful goddess, became one of the Christian leaders fiercest rivals. Worshippers (especially the Ephesians) were loathe to give Diana (Artemis) up for a new god. You can read ACTS 19:28 in the Bible for a full account. But still, pagan, wasn't considered an "evil" term.
During the Roman Empire, some historians believe paganus also meant civilian, the opposite of military. Christians referred to themselves as Soldiers of Christ or miles Christi. Non-Christians became known as pagani, or non-soldiers. There was still no implication of denigration.
Sometime in the fifth century, BC, the term pagan became equated with all non-Christians, or 'heathens' and those who were self-indulgent, had loose sexual practices and worshipped satan (which translates to not worshipping the Christian god.)
My timeline is simple and I'm sure the evolution of the term "Pagan" and the practices that went along with it, were more involved and have some missing pieces to it. But I thought it interesting. I love history and especially how words, traditions and celebrations come to be.
To celebrate the first day of summer I thought I'd share some
Fun Facts About the Solstice:
1) "Solstice" is the Latin word for 'sun stands still.' For days before and after the Solstice, the sun appears to stand still in the sky.
2) On the summer solstice, thousands of people flock to Stonehenge, the ancient stone site in England. When the sun rises, it creates the illusion that the sun is balancing on one the main stones.
3) Pagans would celebrate the longest day with bonfires and feasts. It's also referred to as 'Midsummer.'
3) Mar's solstice occurs a few days later in June than Earth's.
4) Uranus' (giggles, yes, I'm still 12 years old sometimes) solstice lasts a whopping 42 years! They also have 42 years of winter. I suppose we should stop complaining about our winters.
5) Venus and Jupiter barely experience a solstice due to the of the their poles.
Summer Solstice Blessings and...
"Always be kinder than necessary." ~ J.M. Barry