Giantís Churches
by Kirsti Melto

The Summer Solstice

The Sun reaches its most northern position around June 21 each year. This is the day of the summer solstice in the Northern hemisphere, the longest day of the year, and the shortest in the Southern hemisphere. The Sun enters Cancer.

The first degree of Cancer is one of the Cardinal Points. They are sensitive points in the chart, which tend to connect us to big events of the world. Solstice charts can give astrologers clues for the cosmic climate of the next few months. Solstices are also natural turning points in our personal lives.

A solstice occurs twice each year, when the Sun reaches its northernmost or southernmost extreme. At these points the Sun appears to stand still.

Astrology originated from astronomical observation. Our ancestors had a conscious relationship with solar and lunar cycles. They built enduring stone monuments related to astronomical alignments. Stonehenge in England is probably the most famous of the prehistoric monuments in the world.

Stonehenge is said to be planned and deliberately oriented so that the summer solstice Sun rose directly over the so-called Heel Stone and the first rays shone into the center of the monument. However, there is evidence indicating that ancestors did not visit the site at all in the summer, but rather during the winter solstice. Current theories suggest that Stonehenge was simultaneously used for astronomical observation and for ritual function.

Kastelli "Giant's Church"
Kastelli "Giant's Church" is a large Stone Age ruin at Linnankangas, Raahe, Finland.

The Finnish Stonehenge

In May, 2009, the Internet publication of Ursa Astronomical Association, Tähdet ja Avaruus, was reporting of the greatest archaeastronomical finding in Finland; the so-called Giantís Churches were used for observing the Sun.

The Giantís Churches are Neolithic stone structures, unique to Ostrobothnia in the western Finland. A recent study by astronomer Marianna Ridderstad from University of Helsinki and archaeologist Jari Okkonen from University of Oulu shows that many of these mysterious constructions are found to have orientations to the risings and settings of the Sun on the main solar dates of the year.

The Giantís Churches were built 2500 - 2000 BCE, and there are about 40 of them. They were originally built on the seashore or on islands, but are now situated as far as 30 kilometers inland because of the post-glacial rebound. Their shape varies from oval to rectangular. The largest of them are 50 - 60 meters long. The walls are relatively low and they are usually constructed from rather small stones. Most of the structures have from two to four gates.

It is not quite clear why the Giantís Churches were built. Their function has been a matter of debate more than a hundred years. There are no signs of permanent inhabitation inside the structures. Probably they were used as ritual sites, and they may have had other functions, too. The study which was carried out in 2008 - 2009 and published in May, 2009, shows that their orientations may be significant in relation to important solar dates.

The solar events considered in this study were the solstices, the equinoxes and the so-called Mid-Quarter Days. In Finland, the most important festivals coinciding with these events have traditionally been Vappu (St. Valborgís Day) in May and Kekri, which was the ancient festival of the dead predating historical times, celebrated in November.

The purpose of the Giantís Churches is still partly unknown and further research on the sites will be carried out.