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.