The summer solstice festival is the oldest European festival, the ancestral tradition is that we make a
fire, image of the sun, which will burn all night until the next sunrise of the divine star, fire is thus
the substitute of the Sun at night, making us spend a sleepless night, like during the nights of the
polar circle at the summer solstice : Sleepless with the undefeated sunlight that does not sleep at
night : this tradition manifests the memory of the polar origin. It is also the day when we exchange
the medicinal plants picked while fasting during the morning. For other meanings of the traditions
associated with this holiday, please refer to the special video solstice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtBY-OPBgBw
The Godes in the spotlight :
The solar gods are obviously in the spotlight for this celebration dedicated to the divine star:
Bélénos Apollon :Balder :
The Jupiterian god* Taranis with his Solar wheel is also in the spotlight, especially in Gaul (*Jupiter
is considered a small sun in astrology)
You must prepare your pyre several hours before dusk. It must be placed in a large space, a meadow
or a field, large enough to accommodate the entire clan or village. There must be enough space
around the fire for sports games and other activities.
Architecture of the pyre, pyramid type with square base:
Always make sure that people do not get too close to the fire when it is windy, beware of accidents!
Construction of a summer solstice pyre
There are different forms of summer solstice pyres throughout Europe. Most of the time they
depend on the wood that can be found locally. For example, the proximity of coniferous forests
provides long straight poles that facilitate cone mounting. The regions that do not have it use shorter
sections of wood, which allow pyramid assembling.
Here are the basic steps of both models :
1. Plant the central mast, surmounted by its crown (which can be done with oak branches adorned
with flowers and colored ribbons, to refer to the section dealing with the Advent wreath).
2. Build the pyramidal box around the mast, orienting it according to the cardinal points. Decrease
the length of the logs as you go up. Logs of larger diameter should be placed at the bottom. For the
stability of the pyramid, it is necessary to cut notches 10-20 cm from the logs endpoints, above and
below (that is 4 per log, with 5-10 cm deep) which allow to embed the logs. A good pyre builder
does not need nails to stabilize the complex – nails are contraindicated because they make it difficult
to clean after the pyre burns down. Instead of a square base, it is also possible to adopt an hexagonal
or octagonal base. This is particularly appropriate when you want to get a large pyre and you do not
have enough long logs to make a square-based assembling.
3. As you mount the pyramid, compact fagots inside, alternating with short logs of medium length;
stuff straw between the logs forming the pyramid (do not stuff to much, because it suffocates the
- 4. If you have long straight poles, you can complete by plating over a conical “cap”. It has the
advantage of making the fire more spectacular, with a flame rising straight and high.
5. Finalize by hanging on the walls of the pyre, halfway up, 4 crowns – wheat or oak foliage,
shaped like a sun wheel for example -to the 4 cardinal points.
Arnvald from Normandy.
At 8 pm people from each neighborhood meet around the country buffet and start eating.
Around 9 pm it is the departure for the torchlight retreat, each one of the people present carrying a
candle, a lantern, a torch or a burning sun wheel, pass through each of the neighborhood streets
before heading to the place where the sacred fire will burn.
Arriving at the pyre just a moment before dusk
The different processions arrive 10 minutes before sunset by entering the meadow and facing the
pyre North’s face.
Four people chosen before will stand around the pyre, in a circle, each one face to one of the 4
cardinal points, as if to represent (seen from the sky) a sun wheel:
The person standing in the North will have the honor to light the fire when the luminous disc of the
sovereign star begin passing under the horizon line.
Once the fire is well lit, all participants must put out their torch or candle, except the four people
still standing around the fire. These four people will then turn counterclockwise until making a
complete circle around the fire. They mimic the movement of a planet around the sun over a year,
this represents the time which did go by since the previous solstice. It is also to remind that the Sun
is the axis of our system around which everything turns, as the glyph below represents it
(astrological glyph of the sun):
For the winter solstice it is the sacred tree that represents the axis of the world, the pole around
which our planet turns.
We will sing and dance around the fire all night long. We will eat and drink there. The most
dynamic will participate to sports games, the wisest will tell their poems, their stories, we will burn
the herbs of last year in the sacred fire, herbalist will change the herbs picked in the morning while
Songs & poems
Oleg de Normandie with the gracious participation of Arnvald.