Sol Invictus

Perhaps for abject fear of paganism, western civilization has avoided holidays associated with the summer solstice. Being the lightest day of the year in a frequently dark northern hemisphere, it was naturally a time to celebrate the victory of light over darkness. While the winter solstice insinuated itself into the complex of Christmas holidays and Easter became intricately intertwined with the vernal equinox, the summer and autumn holidays were rejected.

This neglect of the powers of light coincides to some extent with the orthodox Christian rejection of Gnosticism. The Gnostics, able dualists like their Zoroastrian predecessors, celebrated the victory of light over darkness. Remnants of their theological outlook survived in the canonical Gospel of John and the always questionable Revelation. Ancient societies throughout the world recognized the summer solstice because, regardless of its name, the sun was acknowledged as a powerful deity. On this day the sun is at its height of strength, banishing darkness for longer than any other day of the year. It is a day not to waste.

Christianity has preserved some minor holidays for the summer season, but with the advent of a leisure-based society where summer is a time to take it easy, if not cease work altogether, the solstice lost its grip. Perhaps because light is so abundant already in the longer days as winter wends its way into spring and summer and lingers pleasantly until the vernal equinox, summer itself is simply holiday enough. Those adhering to the ancient religions nevertheless gather at sites like Stonehenge and Maeshowe, or even Egypt’s famous pyramids to consider the unending influence that our special star holds for its most imaginative planet.

The stones of summer

4 thoughts on “Sol Invictus

    • Steve Wiggins

      I heard a street preacher quoting from the Gospel according to John as I left class last night. I think it must be John rather than Ted.

      Like

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