Rare Summer Solstice Marked by “Strawberry Moon”

“Then spoke Yehoshua to Hashem in the day when Hashem delivered up the Amorites before Bnei Yisrael; and he said in the sight of Israel: ‘Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.’” Joshua 10:12 (The Israel Bible™)

A rare confluence of a solar and lunar event which occurs only twice a century took place on the evening of Monday, June 21 when a Strawberry Moon rose in the sky during the summer solstice. An event with deep mystical significance, the solstice means very different things for different people, but it is rooted deeply in Biblical sources.

The summer solstice, the longest day of the year, marks the middle of the summer. Derived from the Latin word ‘solstitium’, the term ‘solstice’ means ‘sun standing still’.  Caused by the revolution of the tilted axis of the Earth, it causes the changes of the seasons. The solstice generally falls between June 20 and 22 in the Northern Hemisphere.

This year, the summer solstice was accompanied by a rare occurrence, called a Strawberry Moon, when the solstice coincides with a full moon. This astrological event only occurs about once every 50 years, with the last Strawberry Moon in 1967 and the next scheduled to arrive in 2062. The term was invented by Algonquin tribes of North America who believed June’s full moon signalled the beginning of the strawberry picking season.

For those who still adhere to pagan rituals, the highlight of the solstice is at the ancient site of Stonehenge in Avebury, England. The festival on Monday night drew 12,000 participants. On the solstice, or “Litha” as pagans call it, the central Altar stone at Stonehenge aligns with the Heel stone, the Slaughter stone and the rising sun to the north east in a beautiful arc.

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Also called Midsummer’s eve, pagans believed the solstice was when the division between this world and the next was at its thinnest, and fairies were at their most powerful. Pagans and druids performed a fire ritual on the summer solstice, gathering in a circle around a large central candle and lighting individual candles from it, one at a time.

In Biblical Israel, the passage of time related to the agricultural cycles and are divided into four tekufot (seasons). Each tekufah, according to Samuel Yarhinai, a Babylonian Talmudic sage from the second century, divided the year into four equal periods of 91 days and 7½ hours. Teḳufat Tammuz, the summer solstice, begins  “Et Ha-Katzir” (harvest-time).

The summer solstice was also associated with Moses striking the rock, instead of speaking to it, and causing drops of blood to flow from it. In punishment for this act, Moses and Aaron were not allowed to enter the Land of Israel.

And Moshe lifted up his hand, and smote the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly, Numbers 20:11

Seder Olam, a second-century Hebrew language chronology detailing the dates of biblical events, stated that the battle in which Joshua stops the sun in the sky also occurred on the summer solstice.

And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Joshua 10:13