PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
The solstice season is upon us, and it’s only a couple of weeks before the longest night of the year here in the northern hemisphere. It’s a season of darkness and cold, where we are given the opportunity to find the gifts that darkness brings. It can be hard, when the rest of the world seems to be doing their best to stave off their fear with bright lights, noise and extended shopping hours, but if we are able to push beyond that we can see the sacredness of this holy time, and the exquisite power that it brings.
I am mostly a diurnal creature myself. I prefer to go to bed early and rise early, rather than staying up late. However, at this time of year the darkness catches up with me, and by 4pm it is pitch black out there. My usual sunshine nature turns inwards, and time for reflection and contemplation kick in. But that is not all there is to the darkness that pervades my life at this time of year. The sweet relief of darkness beckons me to release into its embrace, when edges are abandoned and we are allowed to float free in space and time.
Solar festivals are definite fixed points in the wheel of the year. Shortest day and longest day, and the two days when light and dark are equal. It all seems very straightforward, until you start trying to make sense of the details or work out what you, personally, want to do in response to all of this.
When do we celebrate? Is it the dawn, or the setting sun, or the sun at the height of its power at midday? When is the midpoint of true balance at an equinox? And in practice, Pagan groups are only sometimes able to gather and celebrate the day. Normal work patterns mean that we’re more likely celebrating the nearest weekend to a solar event. At which point it’s more about celebrating the idea than an immediate experience of connecting with the occurring solar festival....
There is a cultural stereotype that Ireland is a Catholic country, harrassed by clergy and neurotically pious. The literary canon tends to reinforce this view; contemporary writers are less concerned with overturning this and getting on with fresh material. Ireland may be a majority Catholic country, but as Catholic friends from other countries point out - not as they know it! While the Catholic Church may be a social institution still, especially in rural areas, it does not hold sway spiritually anymore. (The resounding 'Yes' vote to gay marriage on 22nd May 2015 in the Republic of Ireland displayed little heed to Bishop's sermons to the contrary.) The popularity of ancient sacred sites at Summer Solstice is one piece of evidence that Ireland has never really divested itself of her pagan roots.
Remember when New Age discovered the Winter Solstice? Christmas Lite, without the baggage.
As a pagan, I grew to resent this. Not that the sunsteads—solstices—belong to us; they're a common inheritance. But don't be telling me about solstices, now. Some of us have been keeping them since, oh, the end of the last Ice Age or so, thank you very much. If not longer.
Somewhere around the third self-satisfied little sermon, I'd had enough, and started turning people into toads.
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!