Column / June 1999 / Summer Solstice

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The Column:
June 1999, Summer Solstice

Hello and Welcome!

There certainly is a good deal of events going on in June. If you don't believe me just check out the Bulletin page for all the upcoming solstice events.

The solstice however is always a busy time. People are kicking off their summer and getting ready to change from an indoor framework to an outdoor one. Of course energetically the change from spring to summer is important. It signals the energies of growth, sustaining power, and of renewal from the winter.

In more scientific terms, the Summer Solstice occurs around June 21 and is the time of year in the northern hemisphere when the noon sun appears to be farthest north, marking the beginning of the summer season.

Ancient cultures had a definite religious and life sustaining need for the marking of this date. Many of these cultures were agricultural in nature. Their life depended on a long growing season. Without a sure marker of when the season had begun, they could miss days or even weeks in the growing cycle. Hence many of these ancient cultures built devices to clearly demonstrate when this time was upon them. Stonehenge is one such example of a solstice marker, as are some other very different and similar devices scattered over the globe (see side bar).

So whatever way you decide to celebrate this year's solstice, be it at the mall or in some ceremony with friends, remember that this practice is something that goes back a long way and something that will be carried forward just as far....

Till next month...


Stonehenge (above), the circular arrangement of large stones near Salisbury, England, was probably built in three stages between about 3000 and 1000 BC. The function of the monument remains unknown: once believed to be a temple for Druids or Romans, Stonehenge is now often thought to have been either a temple for sun worshippers or a type of astronomical clock or calendar. s ago.

According to Gerald S. Hawkins the Stonehenge complex could have been used to predict the summer and winter solstices, the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, and eclipses of both the sun and moon. Moreover, a variety of other information pertaining to the sun and moon could also be predicted with remarkable accuracy.

As Stonehenge contains the only natural building stones within 21 km (13 mi), it has been decimated through the centuries by builders and by normal climatic forces.

Other Solstice Devices

The American Indian Sun Dagger. Anasazi Indians of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico constructed a spiral rock carving on Fajada Butte. At noon on the summer solstice, a dagger of sun penetrates the center of the spiral.

Cahokia Mounds in southern Illinois near East St. Louis has a circle of postholes as an astronomical indicator of summer solstice sunrise, winter solstice sunrise, and equinox sunrise. The mound-building dates back about 3000 years.

Big Horn Medicine Wheel in the Big Horn Mountains near Sheriden, Wyoming is an indicator of summer solstice sunrise and sunset, with other alignments for the rising of certain stars (Aldebaran, Rigel, and Sirius). Built about 1050 AD. Has 28 spokes, and is about 90 ft in diameter. About 50 similar circles exist. The oldest is in Canada(built about 2500 BC.

Caracol Tower Located at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, the Caracol Tower was built about 1000 AD. It has some solstice and equinox alignments, and also some star alignments.

Aztec ruins Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan, (Temple of the Moon and Temple of the Sun). Festivals occurred at the equinoxes when the sun shown between the two temples.

Temple at Karnak Egypt Certain alignments correspond to summer solstice sunset and winter solstice sunrise.

Pyramid of Khufu at Giza Shafts from the King's chamber point to: Location of Polaris 5000 years ago Former position of Orion's belt The significance of these things is in their mythology. The pyramid is also aligned perfectly N-S and E-W.

Chinese alignments A Chinese tower was built in 1270 AD to measure the sun's shadow. The shadow of the tower was shortest at noon, and the very shortest at the summer solstice. (Markers on the ground locate shadow positions.)