On a sweltering day here in Bucks County, PA, as I am sitting in air conditioned comfort, while my Jeep is getting pampered (well, at least serviced), an annual planetary phenom is taking place. Summer Solstice 2012 is bounding forward in color and vibrance, heralding the longest day of the year. For many, it is considered the first day of summer, bring with it lazy, hazy, crazy days…. but for those of the Pagan tradition, it is an important holy day. Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning “sun” + “to stand still”. It seems as if, when the sun is at its highest point, that it is standing still.
According to George Thomson, priest of the Wiccan Church of Canada’s (WCC) Temple in Hamilton, Ont., today’s Wiccans celebrate in similar ways to their ancient counterparts, in some respects.
“The festivals go back to agrarian times when people were dependent on the land to sustain all their needs,” he says. “So they would feast on the newly harvested grains and meat from first cows slaughtered.”
Likewise, at celebrations Thomson will attend on the solstice this year — which begin June 20 at 7:09 p.m. in Hamilton, 4:09 p.m. in British Columbia, 5:09 p.m. in Alberta, 6:09 p.m. in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and 8:39 p.m. in Newfoundland — there will be a circle, a ritual and feasting on foods appropriate to the season, such as berries, bread, grilled meat and fruit wine.
Wicca — and many forms of paganism — revere two deities, a god and a goddess, and give both many personalities and names. Part of both ancient and current solstice celebrations, according to Thomson, is the presentation of a mystery play, wherein the Sun King and the Winter King battle each other for dominance and the hand of the goddess. They win in turn when seasons change at both solstices (winter and summer) and both equinoxes (the first day of spring and the first day of fall). These observances would have been very important to people who depended on the land for sustenance and today, serve to remind us of our agrarian roots, though we are deeply rooted in the technological age.
“The change of season reminds people that there are limited resources and that we must care for the planet,” says Thomson.
If the ritual is outside, Thomson and the other WCC members will light a balefire, as Celts would have in times of old.
“All the fires in the house would be put out and relit with torches dipped in this balefire, considered holy, to purify and celebrate the sun.
“They would also light two fires and the livestock would be driven between them to purify them with the holy fires. This ritual also had a practical purpose because ticks and other bugs would fall off from the heat,” he explains.
He goes on to say that the fires would burn through the night — from solstice eve and all through the day — until they went out and the ashes would be scattered on the fields to bless them and ensure fertility of the crops.
I love ritual and symbolism and for me, Summer Solstice offers the opportunity to immerse in fire and passion, dancing with new energy. Letting go of Winter darkness, shadow thoughts that I had allowed to freeze me over into near emotional paralyis at times. Now, I am basking, head back, all chakras generating, absorbing and transmitting.
On Saturday, I will be attending a gathering at the home of my friends Stephen and Kathy Redding as I have for the past few years. They live on the gorgeous grounds of Happy Tree Farm and I think of Stephen as being like The Lorax who ‘speaks for the trees’. Every time I set foot on the property, I feel as if I am transported to wonderland. The theme this year is :
Our Place in Creation :Celebrating the goodness and satisfying the challenges life places before us
Friday June 22-Sunday June 24
Music, potluck meals, dancing, drumming, swimming in the lake that has magical, healing properties, communing with kindred spirits, a roaring bonfire at night.
And then on Saturday night, I will be enjoying the music of my dear friends Faerie Elaine Silver and Deva Troy as they combine their beautiful voices at Pebble Hill Church which is an interfaith community in which I have been involved since 1984.
Welcoming the rays of illumation into all areas of life. Blessed Be.
A Summer Solstice Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. and “Honoring the Light” concert at 7:30 p.m. with Faerie Elaine Silver and Deva Troy at Pebble Hill Interfaith Church on Saturday, June 23rd.