IN THIS ISSUE: JUNE 2021Jun 02, 2021 05:17PM ● By Terry Chriswell
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Renee Ellis, MA LPC RMT
June 2021 Publishers' Letter:
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Collectively, we share another milestone in June: the Summer Solstice on Sunday the 20th.
"...while the day is, technically speaking, an astronomical occasion, its historical and cultural significance extends far beyond the relative length of the daylight. The word solstice itself comes from the Latin, from sol (sun) and stare or sistere (to stand or stop), and its celebration dates back to ancient pre-Christian tradition. For the Greeks, it would, according to some calendars, mark the start of the new year—and the month-long countdown toward the Olympics. It was, too, often the annual occasion for the festival of Kronia, to honor the god Cronus, the patron of agriculture. The day was marked not only by the typical feasts and games, but by an even more remarkable occurrence: for once, slaves could participate in the festivities along with the freemen, joined in equality for a single day.
For the Romans, the solstice was the occasion for another unique exception to everyday life: on the first day of the festival of Vestalia, married women could, for one day only, enter the temples of the vestal virgins. There, they would be allowed to make offerings to Vesta, the goddess of hearth and home.
Many Native American tribes celebrated the longest day of the year with a Sun Dance, while the Mayas and Aztecs used the day as a marker by which to build many of their central structures, so that the buildings would align perfectly with the shadows of the two solstices, summer and winter. In many European pagan traditions, the solstice was called Litha, a day to balance the elements of fire and water, while for the druids, it was, simply, midsummer, a night and day with properties like no other. According to tradition, certain plants—St. John’s wort, roses, rue, verbena, and the like—acquired properties on the year’s shortest night that they wouldn’t have if picked at any other time. And on this evening, if you were very lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of faeries, who favored midsummer to reveal themselves to the common folk. (Rub fern seeds on your eyelids at midnight’s stroke if you want to spy one—but if you do, be sure to come equipped with rue, lest the pixies lead you astray). It’s only too clear why Shakespeare set his famous comedy during the magic of midsummer’s evening….
There are myriad traditions, myriad histories, myriad reasons to choose from when you celebrate the sun’s longest daytime path. But at the end, we may not need any of them. Maybe, the reason we want to commemorate the day is much more prosaic—and fundamental—than any story or legend will ever be. On this day, we may, quite simply, be the happiest we’ve been in a long time.
Psychologists have long suspected a link between our level of happiness and the amount of sunlight in the day…
Enter social media. In 2011, a group of researchers decided to look at the tweets of some 2.4 million people from all over the world, for a period that ranged from February 2008 to January 2010, selecting 400 tweets at random for each individual. They wanted to see if emotional content varied as a function of the time of day, the day of the week, and the amount of actual daylight (i.e., the season). They found meaningful differences on all fronts—but most significantly for this discussion, they discovered that what mattered most when it came to the time of the year was not the absolute amount of daylight but the relative change in that daylight. That is, was the day, relatively speaking, longer or shorter than the day that came before? When the change in daylight was positive (i.e., in the approach to the summer solstice), people expressed significantly higher positive affect than they did when that change was negative (i.e., approaching the winter solstice).
By the time the solstice rolls around, then, we’ve been on a happiness up-slope for half the year—a build up of positivity if ever there were. No wonder the urge to celebrate runs high.”
Excerpted from "Why we celebrate the summer solstice" by Maria Konnikova on June 21, 2013 published on https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/literally-psyched/why-we-celebrate-the-summer-solstice/
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