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For me, Litha is about balance and light. For others—as I found out when I gathered with a fiery group of ladies at our Midsummer Celebration here on Martha’s Vineyard—it’s about the color yellow, fire, beauty, happiness, joy, and potential. That last one interests me in particular, because I’ve been studying quite a bit about potential lately; specifically, the possibilities that lie dormant in our minds and hearts that surface when we are ready for them.
We connect with these possibilities through the rhythms of our lives, and I’m especially called to the rhythms of descent and rising, such as what Kore experienced when she descended and arose new and fresh as Persephone. We all know her story—she goes down as an innocent virgin and arises a woman, Queen of the Dead. She now knows about sex and maturity and life and death; she’s tasted of the pomegranate, or like Eve, of the apple. In other words, she’s tapped in to her potential, opened it up like a fruit to see the shape of the seeds inside. She’s pulled from the depths and the dark and has brought the juicy knowledge of her own being out into the light.
The swirls and eddies of the rising tide pull us ever closer into the dizzying dance that is summer. Here in the British Isles, summer is when everything happens: festivals appear from May to September, weekend events and week-long retreats. It’s a busy time of year, when we ride the solar energies to the point of highest light. We feel our spirits rising with the sun, and let its rays illuminate our paths and nourish us body and soul.
It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy. My schedule is packed until October, with pagan events, priestly duties and more. By the end of May I can already begin to feel a little burned out, and summer hasn’t even really gotten into its stride yet. What I have to do is look to nature for inspiration.
The growing tides of light can entice us to do more than we should, to overbook or overcommit ourselves. What we don’t want to happen is to have the summer solstice upon us and be too tired to celebrate it. We need to harness our energies, to pool our resources so that we can access those lush depths when the time is right.
Our agricultural ancestors welcomed this time of year: it was warm, and if they were lucky the crops were planted and growing well. Vigilance was still needed, yes, but at this point what will happen will happen. The hardest work was yet to come, during harvest season. So too do we need to see that at this time near the highest light we need to remember not to burn too brightly, or we will have nothing left when it is time to reap what we have sown.
Take some time out, time to regroup, time for stillness and reflection. Enjoy the present moment. Spend time alone with yourself to check in on how you are feeling, emotionally, physically, mentally. Have you over-committed? Are you doing too much? Really feel how you are in this present moment, and use that knowledge to help you find that balance point between motion and stillness. Ride the energies up to the solstice, yes, but ride them with care. Riding headlong and reckless can lead to you being unseated, and you might never get where you wish to go in such a manner.
The earth hums with the tides and times of life. At this time of year she is reaching upward, and so too can we reach upward to find our heavenly bliss. But we must keep our feet rooted in the ground, in order to feed our roots with that wonderful light and warmth streaming across the land. We can’t run on an open circuit; we need to be grounded. Deep relationship nourishes both parties.
Blessings of the summer to you all!
Continuing my story of my personal journey on my heathen path, when I was 30 I was finally mentally and physically healthy. When the goddess Freya had claimed me for her Priestess when I was 20, she had appeared in her solar aspect. In my mind's eye, she always appeared as the white-hot light of the sun. That Light is all-love and all-life. Until I became healthy enough to reach it again, I had only experienced that Light once, during my initiation in 1989. Ten years later, I was ready to bring it inside myself.
Through writing fiction, I came up with the idea of picturing the Light and bringing that Light into my heart. After a character in my story did it, I did it, too. I pictured my hand, reached into the Light, and pushed it into my heart.
The last quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts:
“I mentally reached out a hand into that shining consciousness of life-fire. I reached. I pulled. The light was within me.
A grin spread over my face and I laughed out loud. It worked! The Light of my initiation all those years ago had been there all along. I only needed a whole mind to reach it."
That Light has been with me ever since. It is ecstatic. It's always there, pouring from my heart. Anytime I wish, I can temporarily fill my body with that light and experience the sun body, a state of religious ecstasy. Then I let the light go again, and Freya's Light radiates out to the world through me.
That’s the end of the story in my memoir; it ends with becoming healthy and whole and a vehicle for the light of my Goddess. But as with all stories that don’t end with death, life went on after the happily-ever-after. I've lived 16 more years since then, and I'll continue to share the story of my journey here in Gnosis Diary.
Freya is the Light in my heart.
Anyone who has ever lived in the North can tell you about it: snowlight. Waking from an afternoon nap I knew immediately, by the light alone, that snow was falling. Snowlight.
What's most surprising is just how bright it is. Some years back at a Midwinter's Eve bonfire down at Coldwater Spring, the ritualists went on and on about how this night, being the solstice, was the darkest night. Unconscious irony is my favorite kind. While they talked darkness, we all stood there in a night striking for its brightness. We'd had so much snow that year that one could practically have read a newspaper by the ambient light from the drifts and sky. Snowlight.
In quality and color it more nearly resembles moonlight than anything else: like the Moon's, snow's light is reflected light. But moonlight comes from a source, and snowlight is ambient. In snowlight, one immerses.
Snowlight has a certain thickness, a nearly tangible quality to it. One thinks of snow as silent, unlike rain. But the Northern ear knows that you can indeed hear snow. It's a high, crystalline ringing, all those snowflakes chiming together as they fall, in which even familiar sounds echo strangely. The same is true of the light, as it bounces wildly back and forth from flake to falling flake. Snowlight.
Winter Solstice is a perfect excuse to wind down for the year. It is happily emphasized since I am on Winter Break for school– hibernating more and going out less. For the last seven years and counting, I have held some sort of Winter Solstice gathering for friends and sometimes family. I have hosted sit-down traditional dinners and the more informal drinks and appetizers only fiesta. We have mulled spiced-wine together, played an old parlor game entitled, "The Minister's Cat," and lit candles. One of my favorite theme ideas was putting a spotlight on the sun: I served spicy Indian food for snacks and the soundtrack featured all songs mentioning the sun. There are a seemingly endless supply of these to choose from.
This year, I am taking some advice from an Indianapolis food blogger, featured in the current issue of Midwest Living. Her article, "Holiday Party Tips From Annie Marshall: Eat Drink and Be Merry," is a great approach to a more relaxed get-together. From hanging treats on an "edible cookie tree," to her insistence on serving a signature drink for the event that you can make a nice big batch of in advance, Marshall knows her stuff. Here is her recipe for Cranberry Margaritas:...