Mirren Kessling: Solar Sigh for the Summer Solstice

Summer solstice is the solar festival also known as Litha, or Midsummer, a time when the sun stands still, a more literal translation of the word ‘solstice’. Last month’s Hawthorn Moon was a chance to set short intentions to realise in time for this solstice. This month, as the sun reaches its full power in the northern hemisphere, some beings will feel energised by the extra hours of light and the solstice will be a time to seek a moment of stillness as the light reaches its peak. For others, the extra light can mean disturbed sleep and chaos. It’s an ideal moment to stay up into the night (or rise very early) and celebrate outdoors. 

There are many ways to connect to the sun on the summer solstice, such as gathering through the night at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to watch the sunrise from the Heel Stone; congregating at Newgrange in Ireland, where people gather to watch the light enter through the roof of its Stone Age passage tomb; and uniting with kindred revellers in the dance at midsummer raves. For those in the northern hemisphere, summer solstice signals a time to gather together, illuminated by sunlight, to celebrate a time of great work and winter intentions reaching fruition.

My personal practice is walking with the sun on the winter and summer solstices, bookending each half of the year with a solar pilgrimage. In summer, this involves waking up early to meet the sun at sunrise just before 5am, walking with it through much of the longest day before eventually watching it set late into the evening at around 9:30pm. This time spent walking is a chance to connect to the landscape, at sunrise forage Mugwort, a herbal aid for lucid dreaming, reflect on the first half of the year and set brave intentions for the next.

Other plant lore associated with the summer solstice includes adorning doors with birch and fennel, powerful materials for protection and warding off bad spirits. This new moon is associated with the gathering of herbs and of oak trees, with oak being the tree of the Druids. ‘Duir’ literally means ‘oak’. A visit to an oak grove is an opportunity to form and strengthen bonds, giving thanks for your strength as well as that of the trees. My friend Dragon Walks informed me recently that Epping Forest in West Essex is a place where, unusually, mistletoe can be found to grow in oak trees. Mistletoe is believed by the druids to be the plant of the heavens, as it never touches the ground. Meditating underneath these trees would be a powerful way to both connect to the time of year and to transcend in thought up towards the firmament.

Astronomers generally agree that the sun’s total luminosity (output of energy as light) has increased during the past four billion years. They infer from this that the mean temperature of the surface of the Earth ought to have risen correspondingly. But there is evidence from the fossil record that the Earth’s temperature has remained relatively stable. The Gaia hypothesis recognises this stability as property of life on the Earth’s surface.

Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, Gaia and Philosophy.

The theory of regulation within Gaian philosophy attributes atmospheric regulation to the activities of organisms and microbes. This idea is the starting point for today’s offering, as well as the interconnectedness between ourselves and the celestial bodies, and the immense strength of the sun’s luminosity.

I have designed a ‘solar sigh’, available here for Ignota members. This is a breathwork exercise to help you connect to and regulate the radiance of the sun on summer solstice and throughout the month ahead, with the intention that it helps you find some stillness in the heat. You can settle your gaze on the solar votive I have drawn as you practice your solar sigh. 

For those of you who would like to explore writing down your intentions, particularly around powerful emotions and strong desires that may come up on this solstice, I welcome you to print out this hand-drawn votive and write your intentions around it.


Mirren Kessling is an artist, curator, designer and priestess (in training). She is the co-founder of Just Druid, a creative collective and open source druid grove which collaborates monthly with meditation and wellness teacher Yusef Sanei to run meditation walks in natural spaces and sacred sites in and around London.

Text edited by Henry Bruce-Jones.