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Summer Solstice Celebration

av Nauð Vanarot

We have, since the Moder Jord community was founded, celebrated the winter solstice and for a long time also the spring and autumn equinox. We have also celebrated the four lunar holy days, but it was not until last summer (2016) that we celebrated the summer solstice. Now all holy days are included, the circle is completed and from now on we will celebrate summer solstice on the first Saturday in July.

Image: Gurli Gath

A long time ago, before we started having a maypole in Sweden, we took down a birch tree that we danced around. We don’t know how the ritual itself was conducted, what was done and how this has changed over time. Therefore, we in the Moder Jord community chose to turn our eyes to the Native American sun dance.
The Lakota take down a fully grown poplar which, without touching the ground, is carried to the ritual site. At the ritual site, there is a prepared pit decorated with sage, tobacco, sweet-grass and cedar as well as, for example, cornmeal or other plants important to the people who perform the ritual.
There are two basic symbols you work with – the circle represented by the pit and the line represented by the tree. The circle is the whole, it’s female and Mother Earth’s living womb while the line is male and that which connects below with the above, the World Tree itself. When female and male merge, new life is created.
The week before the ritual, I had found a suitable small birch (we can’t carry a several meter high birch) that was willing to sacrifice itself to participate in the ritual. When I stood leaning against the trunk with my forehead against the bark and asked if it wanted to participate in the summer solstice ritual, it not only said ‘yes’ but the tree also gave me the melody and the first three stanzas of the ritual song for the summer solstice celebration that I had prayed to receive. Now, as the ritual had begun to mature, the beginning of the song came. When the ritual is fully set we’ll get the last stanza, until then we have to settle for an ‘invent’ stanza.
The sacrifice of the tree is an important part of the ritual because it is at the summer solstice that we begin the journey towards Hel, towards death. This form of built-in opposites is found in most rituals just as it is found on the globe itself. When we celebrate summer solstice, it is winter solstice in the southern half, when we have dawn in the eastern hemisphere, it is dusk in the western and death is always a part of life that is part of death.

The Ritual

We were about 10 children and adults who gathered in Lönnsätter. We went through the basics of the ritual and checked if there were personal things the participants wanted to include. Then we agreed on who would get the honorary assignment of felling the tree and who would carry the tree. Then we set off, with a saw and some sage. Arriving where the birch grew we performed a small ritual where we thanked the tree for its sacrifice and gave sage to the birch and the place. On the way back we helped keep branches and shrubs away so the tree-bearers could go forth without the tree touching the ground.

Photos: Hannah Gruffman

Since the ritual site is a few kilometers away, we attached the birch to my roof rack and left. Once at the ritual site, we created the circle by calling in the powers and then charged it with ritual songs. Then we dug a pit, sacrificed herbs and decorated with flowers, blueberries and other things that grew nearby.

Then the tree bearers placed the tree in the pit, female and male merged and new life was created.

To reinforce that merging and also charge ourselves with the life creating power, we danced around the tree singing the summer solstice song -
We dance in honor of Mother Earth,
we dance to the power of the World Tree,
we dance for Freya and the power of life …
Then we sang power songs and danced a little more, participants prayed to the tree of life or did whatever else they needed to do. The ritual ended with a drum-journey into the other worlds before we went back to Lönnsätter for the ritual meal.


When we left the ritual site, Anna said “Now the park administration will throw the tree on a rice mound”. At that moment, none of us understood the meaning of what she said. Only afterwards did we realize that the tree we had honored was left to become garbage. That of course, did not feel good at all, so we have continued to work on how to do it in the future.
On July 1 (2017), we‘ll celebrate summer solstice again. This time we will take the tree with us and place it in a pit on private land where it will stand until the next summer solstice. In the physical world, the tree is taken out of its pit and put into another. In the spiritual worlds we have the opportunity to move with the whole pit so the covenant that has been created remains unbroken.
This summers birch will remain in its pit until it is replaced in July 2018. It will be sawed in small pieces to become firewood for the next winter solstice ritual fire where it will light up the darkness to entreat the light to return. Life and death are woven together, the ritual has matured so the last stanza of the song has come.

We dance in honor of Mother Earth,
we dance to the power of the World Tree,
for Freya and the power of life we dance
in the inspiring splendor of summer

To have the opportunity to shape and in some sense recreate ancient rituals is the most genuine way to walk in beauty.

Allan Gunnarsson Trädet och människan Raben&Sjögren 1988
Elisabet Lindén Helande cirkel – Textsamling kring shamanism Athanor förlag 1999

Translated and adapted by Nauð Vanarot