June marks the middle of the year…
June is the month of the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Perhaps we should call it ‘the June solstice’?
‘Solstice’ comes from the Latin, ‘solstitium’ meaning ‘sun-stopping’ from ‘sol’ (sun) and ‘sistere’ (to make stand).
The precise point in time of the June solstice varies between 20 and 22 June. From now on the time of daylight will shorten in the northern hemisphere and lengthen in the southern hemisphere.
June marks the end of the spring season, the start of the summer season and also Midsummer.
Meteorological summer in the northern hemisphere begins on June 1st and ends on 31 August, according to the Met Office (I suppose the Met Office should know). This way of defining the seasons fits summer, autumn, winter and spring into a neat four by three-month pattern in the Gregorian calendar.
Astronomical summer begins on the June solstice in the northern hemisphere. This ‘start of summer’ is closely followed by the cultural celebration of Midsummer. The traditional date seems to be June 24, the Feast of St John the Baptist. Some midsummer rituals are associated with the Eve of St John.
June is the sixth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar.
In the Julian calendar, June has sometimes been counted as the sixth month of the year and sometimes as the fourth: in those periods when the year was deemed to begin in March – the cusp of winter and spring in the northern hemisphere.
Once June is over, so are most of the native flowers.
In June, the light greens of spring deepen and darken. Grass goes to seed. Elderflower sugars the hedgerows. Great creamy white plates of it on the wild elder and smaller pink ones in the garden.
The fragrance lures thoughts of making elderflower cordial or fizz: white or pink.
The moment the elder flower starts to lose its freshness feels like the turning point of the year.
Blackberry blossoms appear – some of the latest of all native blooms in Britain. It’s time to harvest the garlic in your garden.
The origin of the name of the month is not clear.
Ovid, writing over two thousand years ago, gives three possibilities for the naming of the month of June (this will come as no great surprise if you read my blog post on May). Here they are from Book 6 of the Fasti, in the translation by James G. Fraser:
1. The month is named for Juno (wife and sister of Jupiter), who complains that her husband/brother has already given his mistress Maia a month of her own.
2. Hebe, the wife of Hercules, disputes Juno’s claim, saying that the month is named for the young (iuvenes) where May was named for the elders (maiores).
3. An argument threatens to break out, until Concord comes with a third explanation, which is that after Tatius and Romulus merged their kingdoms the month was named for this union (iunctus).
Ovid does not say which he thinks is true: ‘Goddesses, forgive me; it’s not for me to decide.’
I find that lack of certainty refreshing. Possibly it also reflects his unwillingness not to offend any further, since he was already in exile from Rome. June is also the last month in which Ovid gives so much detail about the calendar. Perhaps he decided he was wasting his time.
June is a month when many birds raise chicks
It was a delight to find that my garden is now messy enough to have enclosed the bird box with protective branches and that for the first time blue tits decided to make their nest there. and raise a brood of six. The parents worked all the hours of daylight bringing what looked mostly like grubs. Farmers don’t cut their hedges at this time of year – for a good reason. I wish that gardeners would leave theirs alone too.
June is a special month for birthdays, including mine.
I feel that a birthday is well placed in June, at the centre of the year between mid-winter festivals. Other people with June birthdays are: Marilyn Monroe; my neighbour, June (a pre-WW2 baby); and (oh dear) Donald Trump – I can only hope that last bit isn’t true. I did get a hilarious card with a gorilla in a Trump wig, promising when opened to make my birthday great again. Thanks. It was.
Question 1: What midsummer rituals do you know?
Question 2: With whom do you share your birthday month (or even the day)? Someone you admire? Someone you would rather avoid?
Question 3: What’s the month of June like where you are?