The day of the sun

The summer solstice will occur on June 21st at 4.57pm and the sun will illuminate the day for 15 hours!

The astronomical summer will officially begin, while the meteorological summer has already begun on June 1st… despite the daily rains confusing our ideas!

A rainy spring and still low temperatures make us welcome the Day of the Sun with even greater enthusiasm, hoping that the long-awaited summer truly begins!

It’s a special day, the Summer Solstice, when the day prevails over the night, and the night over darkness. It seems like the sun pauses in the sky, delaying sunset to give us an extra moment of light. The Sun, at its zenith, reaches the maximum distance from the equator, and the Earth receives the maximum amount of daylight hours: it’s the longest day of the year, and from then on, until the winter solstice, the days become progressively shorter.

In school, we learned that the transition from one season to another occurs on the 21st of March, June, September, and December. In reality, the start date of summer varies and can fall between the 19th and 21st of June. We owe this variation to the Gregorian calendar adopted in 1282, which codified the duration of years as 365 days, although the Earth takes a bit longer to complete its revolution around the sun. To address the problem of the gap between the length of a year and the actual duration of the Earth’s revolution, leap years were introduced, and voila, the mystery of the varying start date of the solstice was uncovered, changing from year to year!

The name ‘solstice’ comes from the Latin ‘solstitium,’ a word composed of ‘sol,’ meaning sun, and ‘stitium,’ from ‘sistere,’ meaning to stop: ‘the sun stops’ in the apparent motion of our star in the sky. Indeed, on the longest day of the year and until June 24, the day of St. John, we have the sensation that the sun is standing still, delaying the moment of sunset.

It is an important moment of transition where spring passes the baton to summer, and for this reason, since ancient times, it takes on the symbolic meaning of change. It marks the beginning of a new process for nature and is celebrated in various ways in every corner of the world with festivals and rituals. The warmer sun and longer days bring fertility and abundance to the earth that has rested during winter and started to awaken in spring.

It is the time to harvest what has been sown in winter.

Fruits are harvested, mature wheat is gathered, and buckwheat is sown. Hay and forage for animals are collected in anticipation of the cold season.

With the advent of the first agricultural civilizations, solstice festivals are born in every corner of the world.

The ancient Greeks celebrated it, considering the summer solstice ‘the door of men’ and the winter solstice ‘the door of the gods.’

Pre-Columbian populations dedicated the day to the sun. The Romans, for the occasion, honored Janus Bifrons, who protected moments of transition.

The Celts lit auspicious bonfires. At Stonehenge and Avebury, the phenomenon of the sun illuminating the heel stone, the central altar, is still observed.

Ancient Chinese paid homage to yang, the positive energy that reached its maximum splendor during the solstice.

In Scandinavian countries, fires are still lit to dispel darkness, and people dance around a flower-adorned tree.

With the arrival of Christianity, pagan rites related to this crucial moment were replaced with celebrations of two saints with the same name: St. John the Baptist for the summer solstice and St. John the Evangelist for the winter one.

Even today, St. John is celebrated with rituals that blend the sacred and the profane.

In Sardinia, on the night of June 24th, magical herbs are collected and hung at house entrances to protect them from negative energies; St. John’s water is prepared, and bonfires are leaped over for the rituals of ‘comparatico.’

We imagine that for the Nuragic people, diligent farmers, it must have been an important moment, as confirmed by studies on the astronomical orientation of Nuraghe Losa, perfectly aligned along the solstice axes.

In the past, the sky was the only known calendar. The nightly scene constantly changed, marking the rhythm of the seasons that have always dictated the pace of nature, awakening and resting throughout the solar year.

We quote the words of archaeologist Ilaria Montis (who will be with us for the sunset on Tuesday, June 20, and the dawn of Wednesday, June 21) regarding the importance of the solstice for ancient peoples and especially for the Nuragic:

‘With the advent of agricultural civilizations, the connection between star observation, seasonal cycles, and agricultural cycles becomes stronger and involves different social, productive, and religious spheres. The calendar was a sacred calendar, marked by religious festivals that signified important moments in seasonal cycles, linked to the stars, and important meeting times for the community and neighboring communities.

The two solstices, as moments marking the main points of the solar cycle, corresponding to the stopping points of the Sun along the ecliptic, and especially sunrises and sunsets, are both temporal reference points and moments filled with intense religious significance as epiphanies, or manifestations of the Sacred, which different cultures have interpreted differently but analogously in their mythologies and religions.

That’s why we can be sure that the Nuragic people were no exception.

But there’s more.

Nuraghi, like many architectural monuments from prehistory to today, were designed and built to indicate and express, through their orientations, directions that indicate moments linked to precise astronomical events. Nuraghe Losa, for example, was built by orienting the walls of its bastions to coincide with the intersection of the solstice axes, indicating the sunrises and sunsets of both solstices. Such a design and construction effort indicates the importance attributed to these moments from a symbolic point of view and the need to link the meaning of the nuraghe precisely to these moments. This, of course, does not preclude that the nuraghe itself had multiple meanings and was the center of multiple community activities, but it certainly authorizes us to hypothesize moments of collective celebration and festivity on the occasion of the two solstices.

We wish you a good solstice and a good awakening, and we wait for you at Nuraghe Losa to experience the sunrise and sunset of these special days in all their beauty and magic!

Our appointments with the summer solstice.