In Pagan times the Sabbats (from the Greek ‘sabatu’ meaning ‘to rest’.) were festivals honoring the growth cycle of crops – planting, tending, harvesting and allowing the land to rest. They celebrated the path of the Sun from high in the sky and warm to low in the sky and cool – the seasons. Many Pagans saw time as one eternal whole. The god is born of the eternal goddess, dies, and is reborn. A life well lived was lived in harmony and rhythm with these cycles.
It is thought the Sabbats have been celebrated in many places and in various forms for at least 12,000 years. Some estimate much, much longer. In modern times there are still those who follow the old Pagan ways.
With the advent of Christianity and the brutal persecution of any non-Christians, the pagans went into hiding which preserved the old ways. Even many Christian holy-days
are based on these ancient pagan rites.
Solstice, or Litha, means a stopping or standing still of the sun. It is the longest day of the year and the time when the sun is at its maximum elevation.
This date has had spiritual significance for thousands of years as humans have been amazed by the great power of the sun. The Celts celebrated with bonfires that would add to the sun’s energy, Christians placed the feast of St. John the Baptist towards the end of June and it is also the festival of Li, the Chinese Goddess of light.
This is a time to celebrate growth and life. For Pagans, who see balance in the world and are deeply aware of the ongoing shifting of the seasons, it is also a time to acknowledge that the sun will now begin to decline once more towards winter.
Midsummer day is marked around the time of the summer solstice but should not be confused with it. European celebrations of Midsummer take place on a day between June 21 and June 24, depending on regional traditions. In the United Kingdom Midsummer day takes place on June 24, the feast of St. John the Baptist.