I visited the Sacred Valley and the Temple of the Sun in Peru for my 40th Birthday, and these lands are a sight to behold. At the time of the Summer Solstice each year, the rising sun reflects off a certain point of a mountain in the Ollantaytambo archaeological site, and bounces off the altar atop the temple, where the Incans strategically placed it some 500 years ago. The fact that these laid by hand granite stones still stood now– with no cement holding them together– untouched– was truly spiritual. My mother, who had accompanied me, was moved to tears, taking it all in. Each year, not unlike their British counterparts at Stonehenge, local Peruvians reenact the Incan Summer Solstice ritual. I am sure it is a spectacle to appreciate, based on what I have seen and the commemorative photos marking the event.
Litha, or the Summer Solstice, is many a Pagan and Wiccan's favorite festival of the year. If you'd like to make yours truly special, here are some suggestions for a simple ritual, in tribute to Inti Raymi, not unlike our Incan ancestors held.
Buy some brightly-colored flowers and throw them festively around the ground of your firepit. Encourage participants to wear silver and gold jewelry, and have everyone bring a small carved wooden sun symbol or figure to place in a backyard bonfire. Since I'm sure you wouldn't want to sacrifice any white llamas, burn some white sage instead. Smudge everyone first, and then offer it to your fire as a sacrifice to the Sun God. Make a procession of building your fire where each guest contributes by adding to it. Build it first, and wait to light it at sunset, adding some straw and dancing around it to raise energy clockwise. Give a nod to each of the four wind directions as you do.
Give thanks to Suyos, representing the snake for the world below, the puma for life on earth and the condor, who presides over the upper world of the gods. These three animals were very honored and seen repeatedly in architecture and artwork throughout Cusco and the surrounding areas.
Celebrate and feast with some Pisco Sours (the national cocktail), ceviche, Peruvian roasted potatoes (see recipe below) and Inca Kola – if you can get your hands on it! When the fire dies down a bit, those who feel able-bodied should take a running jump over the pit for good luck. Revel in the sunset.
ROASTED PERUVIAN POTATOES
Start to finish: 1 hour
Servings: 4 to 6
2 pounds Peruvian purple potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cilantro
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Halve the potatoes and place them in a bowl. Cover them with water if you cut them ahead of time.
In another bowl, mix olive oil, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Drain potatoes well and add them to the oil mixture. Toss with olive oil mixture. Spread the potatoes on a sheet pan. Roast for 30 minutes until potatoes are tender. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve
(Recipe from Aaron Sanchez, foodnetwork.com)