Celebrating summer solstice and Día de San Juan Bautista

By David Fernández de Taos
For The Taos News
Posted 6/21/18

The sun will stand still on the summer solstice, June 21. The great blazing star that is our sun will stand for the longest time over our small unique world and spread its burning, illuminating and …

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Celebrating summer solstice and Día de San Juan Bautista

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The sun will stand still on the summer solstice, June 21. The great blazing star that is our sun will stand for the longest time over our small unique world and spread its burning, illuminating and life-giving heat over the earth and upon all living things, including humankind, all creatures and all seed that is planted for the mutual sustenance of life.

The sun is obviously the ultimate physical and natural blessing power of our existence as we know it as it has been ever since the beginning and throughout the millions of years that have passed. Odds are that it will continue as such for millions of years after we are gone.

And it is legitimate to postulate that the sun is also a metaphysical and supernatural blessing power,and part of an as yet ultimate mystery that is our existence as we know it. The summer solstice ignites the deepest appreciation of its spiritual and religious aspects as well in every tradition that has ever been known to humankind.

To cite one example, the solstice and the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, also known in our part of the country as El Día de San Juan Bautista, are observed at almost the same time. John the Baptist's feast day is observed on June 24.

Here is a relevant note: San Juan Bautista Catholic Church in Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo near Española will celebrate the 420th year anniversary of its establishment on June 24, 2018, and the present San Juan Church will celebrate its 105th anniversary. The existing church is the third that has been rebuilt on the original site.

The San Juan Church was founded by Don Juan de Oñate and Spanish settlers in the year 1598, and as in many other pueblos, the liturgies combine Roman Catholic rituals with Pueblo religious traditions.

St. John the Baptist is known as the patron saint of waters, and an ancient and preColumbian tradition is shared there as well of ritual bathing in the local streams and waters of the area. Religious elders and clergy also bless the rivers and the acequia systems during the San Juan Feast Day June 24 in an annual traditional blessing ceremony.

St. John the Baptist is also known for baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River, and prayers like this one are said on his day: "O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son, baptized by John, to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near. Pour out your spirit on all nations and on all flesh, that the peace which passes all understanding will reign in the world. Amen."

At Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo as in many of the Pueblos, and around the world, the summer solstice and St. John's Day "go together" by now. And the solstice marks the time when the people should exert all due diligence to "work for the sun," to help the sun and the earth have a good harvest, because from here on the sun's strength will begin to wane. Special dances and prayers and songs to work for and to help the sun and earth and harvest begin at this time and continue until the harvest is brought in.

The spiritual powers of nature herself, from the seeds, the pollen and crops, such as corn or maize, are invoked in a special way to call forth and celebrate the coming of the summer rains, or "monsoon season." Oftentimes, ritual planting of certain plants is done to encourage rain and good harvest.

Almost all world religions, including so-called "pagan" traditions, spiritually respond to the summer solstice. There is also an apt Wiccan blessing for summer:

"As the sun spirals its longest dance, cleanse us. As nature shows bounty and fertility, bless us. Let all things live with loving intent, and to fulfill their truest destiny."

And this from the Blessing Way: "May the mighty effulgence of our great star, the sun, and the grand blessing of John who baptized the Christ, see all our planting to complete and needed harvest for our physical life and well-being and for the life and well-being of the spirit of humankind."

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