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Witnessing the Greater Self at Solstice: This week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

The summer solstice occurs at 4:50 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 20. That same evening, the nearly full moon will rise in the east at 8:30 p.m., facing off with the sun as it sets in the west just after 9 p.m. (Image from Sky&Telescope)
The summer solstice occurs at 4:50 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 20. That same evening, the nearly full moon will rise in the east at 8:30 p.m., facing off with the sun as it sets in the west just after 9 p.m. (Image from Sky&Telescope)

This week, it’s all about the sun and its solstice, but it’s also about the moon, which comes to full phase the day after solstice, placing an accent mark on what happens with the standing still of the sun that marks the beginning of summer.

At summer solstice, the sun is furthest north above the celestial equator and it seems to rest there for about three days before it appears to resume a southward direction in its rising and setting along the horizon. When the sun is highest, we’re given an opportunity to witness ourselves as though from the heights of the stars.

This year, the day after solstice, the moon waxes full. The moon is like a mighty cosmic mirror, reflecting all available celestial light toward us. Every full moon is on the other side of Earth from the sun, so this year it’s like the moon is there witnessing us as we witness ourselves, a true guardian, beautifully revealing that, though we may think we know ourselves, there is always some greater self yet to be discovered.

Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke described it like this:

…like the moon, life surely has a side that is perpetually turned away from us and which is not its opposite but adds to its perfection and completeness, to the truly intact and full sphere of being. 

In former traditions, it was believed this as-yet-unknown part of ourselves is activated at summer solstice in sleep and dream, so though the day is long, it’s wise to prepare for good sleep this week.

Catch the sun and moon straddling opposite horizons Thursday evening after solstice, and contemplate the greater self that seeks to make its way into the world.

Mary Stewart Adams is a Star Lore Historian and host of “The Storyteller’s Night Sky.” As a global advocate for starry skies, Mary led the team that established the 9th International Dark Sky Park in the world in 2011, which later led to her home state of Michigan protecting 35,000 acres of state land for its natural darkness.