What and When is the Summer Solstice in the UK?

Everything you need to know about this magickal solar event

An infographic of the Wheel of the Year - with the focus on the Summer Solstice on the 21st June 2023 in the UK.

Table of Contents

When does the Summer Solstice take place in the UK this year?

The Summer Solstice takes place on Wednesday the 21st June 2023.

For many, this is a favourite time of year. The most well-known spoke on the wheel. This festival (or ‘sabbat’) goes by many names: Midsummer, Litha, Festival of Attainment, Summer Solstice. Whatever the name; the cause is the same. The nights are at their shortest; the days at their longest. This is a celebration of light; of everything that has come to life; of the dreamlike endless stream of balmy days and warm weather that seems to lift the soul and unearth desires.

Two handmade flower wreaths sit on a garden table - a way to mark the summer solstice/midsummer

What is the Summer Solstice?

The summer solstice has been marked by people of folkloric traditions for centuries. Across the UK, ancient stone circles are evidence of this festivity. Stonehenge is built in exact alignment with the sun at the solstice, demonstrating the ritual of watching the sunrise on this important date.

The Solstice is a funny blend, a shiny two-sided coin of duality. The word ‘Summer’ is in its name – it appears on first look as a festival of sunshine, the pivotal signpost for summer, a celebration of light. It is these things. But it is also the other. The sweet subtext to the Summer Solstice is that whilst we celebrate the longest day, we also recognise that from this date, we are slowly slipping back into slumber again. The build-up to daylight has climaxed, and the soft crawl back into the womb of winter has begun. After the summer solstice, night will draw in again, and the Oak King or Green Man (they are variations of the same archetype) is defeated in battle for the Holly King to reign over the land once more.

a beautiful sunset coming up at bournemouth beach. watch the sunset or sunrise to celebrate the summer solstice.

What does the Summer Solstice represent?

If the winter months symbolically represent lunar or ‘feminine’ energy – creativity, intuition, reflection, empathy – the summer months embody solar or ‘masculine’ energy – productivity, ‘fighting the good fight’, courage, adventuring. If lunar energy encourages us to be introspective and wise, solar energy encourages us to create material change on earth. This could be perhaps crudely defined as spiritual vs material or being vs doing.

The Summer Solstice is frothing with energy and all the wonder that has manifested into the physical world. As the wheel has turned in recent months, we have planted seeds, watched them grow. Now our dreams and desires are fizzing at our fingertips, bursting to life. This can be seen in the natural world – trees are full and leafy, flowers are aplenty, fruits are ripe and sweet. Take a moment to feel proud of all you have achieved – this could be anything – big or small (and often it is the small stuff which is also the big stuff). This explains the alternative name for the Summer Solstice: The Festival of Attainment. Now is the time to celebrate all of your wins. Think of it as one giant birthday for all kind – rejoicing in all of the amazing things we have brought to life.

a garden in full bloom!

Notice which desires seem to be materialising – and if they’re not yet – take this opportunity to reflect on why. Is there something you could do to help your dream along its way? Or maybe, upon further reflection, does your heart desire something different now? Was this dream never meant to be yours in the first place? Perhaps there is something even more wonderful on its way to you.

How did pagans used to celebrate the Summer Solstice?

Ancient pagans would have marked this time by lighting ritual fires. These were thought to be protective, bringing fertility and good luck, and warding off any negative energies. The ash from these fires was often then made into protective amulets to be carried – or sewn into the garden to encourage healthy plant growth. Torchlit procession was also common, as were ‘sun-wheels’. These were barrels or straw-covered wheels that were set alight and rolled down a hill (and hopefully into a trickling stream below!). The barrel was representative of the sun – the rolling down the hill symbolic of the sliding towards winter.

Today, we know this isn’t a great idea! Not only is it unsafe, it causes all manner of harm to our animal kin who live beneath the grasses and moss. Sun-wheels can however be recreated as a craft activity  (just be careful if burning sage around any animals that share your home as it could be harmful – maybe wait until they are outside, open lots of windows and keep a good eye on them – or choose an alternative to cleanse energy such as using sound vibrations).

On midsummer eves, candlelit processions also saw giant effigies of dragons and the Earth Mother being burnt on the flames. People would honour the Corn-Mother-Goddess (bringer of crop and abundance) – and dancing and merriment would have accompanied these rituals.

Who are the figures associated with the Summer Solstice?

Áine is a summer goddess of Celtic Mythology; the Irish queen of the fairies; her name literally translates (from Irish) to radiance

She embodies warmth and light; her presence wraps you in loving abundance and empowers you to feel your very best. She is still honoured today by flame-lit procession. It is thought that the faeries make their own candlelit procession too, led by their queen Áine.

An essential oil natural candle on a magical outdoor tablescape. A candle in a handmade repurposed green glass tumbler sits next to a pot of matches, other lit sustainable candles and a handmade green glass of flowers. This creates a warm and cosy ambience.

Other folkloric figures of Summer in the British Isles include Gréine, goddess of the Sun; Sulis, solar goddess associated with the thermal springs of Bath (and later combined with wise Minerva from Roman influence to make Sulis Minerva – overseer of sacred springs in Bath) and Lugh: a Celtic God who helps the harvest along and is highly skilled.

In terms of storytelling texts, our friend the Bard makes plenty of references to the magick of the Summer Solstice. Plays which make mention of Midsummer include The Tempest, Macbeth and of course – Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. His nods to the witchery reflect the mystic connotations of this time.

How Can I Celebrate the Summer Solstice?

In the home

Make Elderflower Cordial

Responsibly forage some elderflower (wondering how to forage responsibly? Check out this guide by The Woodland Trust) & make a cordial. Remember to help any insects off the flowers before using so they’re not harmed in the process!

two fresh roses displayed in a glass jar upon an old windowsill.

Decorate with roses

Or create a wreath for your candle to sit inside. Roses are symbolic at this time; they were once used to adorn groves and dancers on midsummer’s eve. The five petals of many variations of rose also reflect the 5 points of the pentacle star – a symbol of many spiritual traditions and wicca.

Self Care

a woman drinks a glass of water by a window overlooking a green garden

Solar Water

Leave a glass of water in a sunny patch to charge with the light and energy of the sun. You can then drink, bake or bathe with this water.

Colourful Clothes

Wear colours of green, gold, orange, yellow, red – anything that feels warm, sun-like, powerful.

A woman writes in her notebook. A cup of tea and slice of cake sit on the table.

Journal

Prompts could include: What do you feel proud of since the last Summer Solstice? What gives you energy, and what drains it? What sparks a fire in you? What lessons have you learnt – or what sunshine have you stored – to keep in your pocket to warm you on cooler days?

Outdoor Activities

purple lavender against a blue sky

Pick flowers (responsibly!)

– symbolic flowers of the Summer Solstice are elderflower (thought by the Celts to be of the faeries), lavender and St John’s Wort.

woman hand ties a macrame plant/candle hanger

Tug of War

Have a tug of war! The two opposing sides or teams represent the ongoing battle between winter and summer, the Holly King vs The Oak King.

durdle door - an archway of rock stands in a blue ocean against a sandy beach

Wild Swimming

or visit a sacred well or spring.

 

the sun rises between the stone formations at Stone Henge

Watch the Sunrise

This could be at a special spiritual site (such as Stonehenge) – or just anywhere that feels good or works for you. Watch from your window, the garden, your favourite spot in the park. Watch and give thanks for the sunlight.

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The Oak Tree at Midsummer

Spend time with an Oak tree. These trees are sacred to druids and seen as a doorway – symbolic of the doorway into the second, darker half of the year. Moisture found in the tree was once used to cleanse at the Solstice. The Oak Tree also refers to The Oak King of this time – the Green Man figure adorned in bright leaves with rosy cheeks who has ruled the lighter half of the year (and is to be defeated at the Summer Solstice).

When overwhelmed by a difficult decision or troubling situation, my sister was once given advice to find and sit with a ‘counsel of trees’. I think this is absolutely wonderful. Trees are such ancient, wise beings. They have been here for so much longer than we have. They have seen so much and know so much. Imagining a group of trees as a group of wise elders, willing to hold space for you and calm your anxieties, is so soothing. Find a tree, or group of trees near you, and sit with them a while. The oak represents courage, inner peace and perseverance. Spending time with an Oak tree is thought to help you access your inner pool of endless love and self-belief.

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Candle magick

Light a candle at the Summer Solstice. The flames were thought to enhance the energy or strength of the sun at this time. This ritual also honours those who lit fires at this time all those years and gives thanks to the sun and all the wonder and good that has come to life/is manifest.

Browse our sustainable, soulful candle collection here

old green founder stands amongst handmade glassware, natural candles and flowers in dorset

There is something deeply enchanting about this time. The heat of the sun lulls us into lethargic sleep – yearning to sprawl in the sunny patch by the window like our feline friends. But the sun is also energising; it reminds us of our power to shine upon the kernels of our dreams and bring them to life. It symbolises our sovereignty and our achievements – we have got this far – and we have so much to feel proud of. Whether you feel called to the fae, the goddesses and stories of old – or whether you just really appreciate the warmth of the sun on your face – take this time to embrace all that is good. 

Spend time outdoors, walk barefoot on the grass, dance, swim, make merry. Drink long thirsty sips from the pool of light – savour the taste, stay in the moment. Soak up all of the solstice magick and recognise that whilst we mark the longest day, we are also stepping towards the night. There is beauty in both, the yin and the yang of the seasons and of life. Take a bow to the Oak King; he has watched over you these many months. Go forwards with sunshine bottled in the cellars of your heart – it will see you through.

MOVE WITH THE SEASONS

For a simple way to honour the cadence of nature, we have a candle for each of the four seasons, reflecting the natural aromas at each turn of the year. These help us to tune into the changing rhythms of nature and bring the outside in.

fresh & citral

notes of bergamot & mint

sweet & exotic

notes of citrus & patchouli

spicy & herbal

notes of cedarwood & thyme

sweet & woody

notes of orange & fir needle

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