Summer Solstice: A Nod to My Pagan Roots

Once upon a time, I dabbled in a a lot of things. One of the things I dabbled in was the earth religions with a fascination in paganism and the occult. Don’t freak out- it’s not a big deal- and there is, like in any religion, good things to be mined. I learned a lot from my time drawing circles in the backyard and paying attention to the seasonal cycles. I have long since given away most of my tools, but still retain my cast iron cauldron and athame (a ceremonial knife), packed carefully in a box in the garage. This stuff doesn’t freak me out one bit- and people who equate paganism with the Christian devil are simply uninformed.

The solstice is one of four cardinal holidays in paganism. The two solstices, winter and summer, when daylight is at it’s greatest, and least, respectively. And the two equinoxes, when the daylight and the night are balance in perfect equilibrium. There are four minor holidays equally spread between the four cardinal: Imbolc, Beltaine, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. All holidays are calibrated to the grand cycles of the Earth orbiting the sun, and the procession of the season. All symbols used in these faiths are tied to the symbols of the season and the cycles of birth and death as seen in the procession of the seasons. It’s actually quite beautiful.

On this day each year I used to have a giant party in my backyard in California, where we would light a bonfire and play music and basically celebrate the glory of the sun, who at its zenith, begins now to the dying and fallow part of the year. Here the season tips, and we are no longer in a waxing year, but begin waning. From this day forward, the influence of the sun will flux and decrease. The days will shorten, the fields will turn gold with bounty, and the harvest will be taken in. This is a day of great celebration, and there are specific, and beautiful, ceremonies tied to this day.

While I no longer celebrate these rites, I do notice the day and make small personal prayers for the moving of the seasons over and within our lives. I did welcome the sunlight until nearly 10 pm, and let my children laugh and play in the yard until well past their normal bedtime, chasing ants, swinging on their swings, and watching ladybugs mate. I took quiet joy from sitting on my front stoop in the fading light and watching my oldest push the lawnmower in crazy patterns over our emerald lawn, while Bean used his sinewy arms to pull himself high into the maple tree and toss helicopter seeds down to Abby, when she wasn’t busy feeding a trail of ants with drips from her popsicle. It felt almost perfect. As close to heaven as we can get here in the fallen world, perhaps.

Who’s to say what’s if there is a right way to note the passing of time. I think what’s most important is that we stop long enough to notice, that we give thanks, and that gratitude has a home our hearts. Feeding ants grape popsicle drips on a warm summer evening is just the cherry on top.

Comments

  1. I like to mark time through food. Every winter, I long for spring, when asparagus is in season. Then tomatoes mark the beginning of summer. Come late fall/winter, we have bitter greens and Brussels sprouts. Yes, I realize that, technically, I can buy asparagus and tomatoes in the middle of winter, but there’s something nice about their becoming new every year.

  2. “I think what’s most important is that we stop long enough to notice, that we give thanks, and that gratitude has a home our hearts.”

    What a great post. I think the best way to commemorate any event is to stop, enjoy, and give thanks.

  3. Beautiful, Tracy. Your last paragraph – and the picture you paint of your kids in the yard – is priceless.

  4. It is indeed all about gratitude — the earth, the seasons, the bounty. Pagan worshipers were/are full of gratitude and this quality we should all share. Thank you.

  5. Major events occurring on solstices and equinoxes are not unfamiliar to Mormonism. Fun stuff.

  6. Great post, Tracy. Some of my best memories from my mission in Finland were the ward celebrations of the summer solstice (so it doesn’t HAVE to be pagan!)

  7. Oh, and our youngest daughter was born on June 21st, so great things still happen on that date.

    We like to think her birthday is a direct reflection of her personality and internal energy – that she needed to be born on the day when “daylight is at its greatest”.

  8. I think there’s a lot of good stuff in Paganism; the appreication of the earth, seasons and elements as you mentioned. Where it’s blended and fused with Christianity make up some of my most favorite holidays!

    To your other point, it’s interesting all the baggage Christianity has heaped onto the word “occult.” Sure, there’s stuff to be wary of, but the mere mention of the word seems to make people bristle and assume the darkest and worst.

  9. I dated a Wiccan briefly and dated an LDS girl who converted to Wiccan later. Based on what I could tell of it, it seemed mostly harmless.

    (I avoided the Samhain parties, though, mostly because of the liquor.)

  10. Interesting, FHL. Most of the Wiccans I knew avoided drugs and alcohol and tried to live very clean lives. It was one of the things I liked, actually. I wonder if that varies widely?

  11. I’ve never technically been a pagan, but I love marking the solstices and equinoxes. I work in downtown Salt Lake City and ride the bus in. As I go past the Temple view from the east on State Street, I watch the changing light and direction of the morning sun over the year. The Temple is a good marker of time, the universe, and eternities.

  12. Jim Donaldson says:

    Best not forget that all of the visitations of Moroni to Joseph Smith were on the Autumnal equinox. And all those suns, moons, and stars all over the exterior of the SL Temple. I recall that Brigham Young and Truman Angel were very serious about them and worked hard to get those all in the right places.

    I’m not sure what it is, but there is something important there.

  13. Fairchild says:

    I loved this post. Reading “Mists of Avalon” fascinated me and made me fall in love with paganism. My husband knows that if the celestial kingdom is as sexist as this life, then I’ll be hanging out with the Wiccans (thankyouverymuch)!

  14. @ Fairchild – awesome!

    Learning to observe the sabbats has been a really interesting experience for me, and Mother Wheel blog has been really helpful – http://motherwheel.blogspot.com/ I’m looking forward to Lughnasa; I studied Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel in college for my Irish Studies minor – Irish myth has definitely informed my experience of paganism.

  15. mellifera says:

    We could stand to learn a few things from the pagans. We’re the only Christian church I know of to give any significance to the navel as a symbol of sacred ties and nourishment, for instance. We can’t exactly look to our Christian heritage for meditations on that symbol.

    (Ok, here’s an example. Once upon a time in school I was doing some research work in agriculture in Polynesia. The old religions there were into belly buttons. One time we were talking about a big infestation of dodder- a parasitic weed whose seeds sprout right on the leaves and branches of other plants, sprout little sap-sucking tendrils, and grow all over the host plant. These plants don’t need a trunk or roots- they’re just all vine with no connection to the ground. The islanders considered plants’ stems and trunks to be analogous to the human umbilical cord… fairly accurately. Someone said “When this weed arrived [it's not native to the islands], we knew it was evil because it doesn’t have a pito!” It was awesome. : )

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