INTI RAYMI in Cusco, Peru; The Inti Raymi (“Festival of the Sun”) was a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire in honor of the god Inti. It also marked the winter solstice and a new year in the Andes of the Southern Hemisphere. Since 1944, a theatrical representation of the Inti Raymi has been taking place at Sacsayhuaman (two km. from Cusco) on June 24 of each year, attracting thousands of tourists and local visitors.

During the Inca Empire, the Inti Raymi was the most important of four ceremonies celebrated in Cusco, as related by Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. The ceremony was also said to indicate the mythical origin of the Incas, lasting nine days of colorful dances and processions, as well as animal sacrifices to ensure a good cropping season. The last Inti Raymi with the Inca Emperor’s presence was carried out in 1538, after which the Spanish conquest and the Catholic church suppressed it.

Some natives participated in similar ceremonies in the years after, but it was completely prohibited in 1572 by the Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, who claimed it was a pagan ceremony opposed to the Catholic faith. In 1944, a historical reconstruction of the Inti Raymi was directed by Faustino Espinoza Navarro and indigenous actors. The first reconstruction was largely based on the chronicles of Garcilaso de la Vega and only referred to the religious ceremony.

This writer was in Cusco for the celebration in 2000. Check out these images of this colorful celebration in a city whose flag is the rainbow.

Midsummer Day in England refers to specific European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice, or that take place June 24 and the preceding evening, related to the birthday of St. John the Baptist European midsummer-related holidays, traditions and celebrations, many of which are pre-Christian in origin and have been Christianized as celebrating the Nativity of St. John the Baptist as “Saint John’s Day” festivals, are particularly important in Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Estonia, but also found in Ireland, parts of Britain (Cornwall especially), France, Italy Malta, Portugal, Spain and in other parts of Europe and elsewhere, such as Canada, the United States, and even in the Southern Hemisphere (Brazil) where this European celebration would be more appropriately called Midwinter..

Midsummer is also sometimes referred to by neo-pagans and some others as Litha, stemming from Bede’s De temporarum ratione in which he gave the Anglo-Saxon names for the months roughly corresponding to June and July as “se Ærra Liþa” and “se Æfterra Liþa” (the “early Litha month” and the “later Litha month”) with an intercalary month of “Liþa” appearing after se Æfterra Liþa on leap years. Solstitial celebrations still center on June 24th, which is no longer the longest day of the year.

The difference between the Julian calendar year (365.2500 days) and the tropical year (365.2422 days) moved the day associated with the actual astronomical solstice forward approximately three days every four centuries, until Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar bringing the solstice to around June 21st. In the Gregorian calendar, the solstice moves around a bit, but in the long term it moves only about one day in 3000 years.