Sirius and the Solstice

My Regular Pagan Holiday Post

Summer solstice 2022

Dear Friends,

I think of summer solstice as the start of the dry season here in NoCal, but in ancient Egypt it presaged the start of the wet season when the Nile River began to flood.

Nile Valley civilizations acknowledged and celebrated the solstice, when the sun reached its highest point in the Northern Hemisphere, as the most important day of the year marking the African new year.

Celebrations commemorated the longest day of Ra, the sun god, as well as the rising of the star Sirius, which heralded the Nile flooding and divine blessings on the land of Egypt.

The ancient Egyptians recognized the importance of Sirius (one of the stars of the constellation Canis Major) as the brightest star in the sky, as well as the birthplace of the goddess Isis. They called this star Sopdet. The celebrations for new year’s day began at dawn when Sirius appeared on the horizon as the shining morning star emerging from the darkness of the underworld.

Goddesses were involved too. The great triad of goddesses, Isis, Hathor and Nut, was intimately connected with this “divine rebirthing” of Egypt each year, as depicted in detail on the walls of Dendera Temple in upper Egypt, built by Cleopatra. Traditional beliefs held that Isis was mourning her dead husband, Asar (Osiris), and that her tears made the Nile rise.

This festival is one of the oldest in Egyptian history, celebrated from archaic times all the way through to the Roman occupation of Egypt. Ancient Egyptians aligned the Great Pyramids so that the sun, when viewed from the Sphinx, sets precisely between two of the pyramids on the summer solstice. Here on my block we stand out in the street to watch the sun set over the Coast Mountain range.

How will I be celebrating the solstice? Well, my weather app says it’s forecast to be 102 degrees here in Santa Rosa today June 21, so I took my daily walk at 6am. After the longest day of summer solstice, the days will gradually get shorter until the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year. Some part of me is looking forward to shorter, cooler days, longer nights and the coming of winter. Now we just have to get through fire season.

Wishing you all a fire and flood-free solstice.

Love, Molly (and Holly)

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