The Shadow of the Mordor
Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and the apogee of the light. In the Neo-Pagan tradition, the summer solstice is called Litha. Litha mirrors the winter solstice, Yule. It is the time when the Oak King comes to the climax of his power, which is both the time of his greatest strength and the beginning of his decline. Like Yule, Litha is an ambivalent time. The sun at its zenith and the fires which are lit to celebrate it cast shadows which will lengthen in the following months.
In spite of all the fire and light imagery of the date, the Jungian in me inevitably turns to thinking about the shadows cast by those fires. I imagine the Goddess and her consort, the Oak King, consummating their union, which becomes a conflagration which will eventually consume the Oak King. This fire casts a shadow across the land, foreshadowing the decline of the Oak King and signaling the escape of the Dark God from his imprisonment.
Fire and shadows.
The one nearly universal way of celebrating the summer solstice is by lighting fires. In the light of the recent publication of the Pope’s environmental encyclical and “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment”, these fires call to my mind the warming of our climate. Climate change is the Jungian shadow of our industrial culture. It is that part of our way of life in the United States that we don’t want to look at, don’t want to acknowledge. And so it continues to work its destruction below the level of our collective national consciousness, in far away places like the the Arctic and Greenland, Subsaharan Africa and Pacific islands. And occasionally it bursts into our collective national consciousness during events like Hurricane Sandy and the California drought, only to be quickly repressed again. Meanwhile, it insidiously works its destruction in our lives through fracking and the sprawl of tar sands pipelines.
A Hobbit Calendar
According to the Venerable Bede, the name “Litha” is 1 Anglo-Saxon name for the summer solstice, which for the Anglo-Saxons was an intercalendary time between June and July. June was called “Ærra Līþa” (“before Litha”) and July was called “Æftera Līþa” (“after Litha”). [The same goes for Yule: Ærra Gēola (“before Yule”) and Æfterra Gēola (“after Yule”).] But the reason “Litha” was adopted by Neo-Pagans may have had less to do with the 8th century monk, Bede, and more to do with Hobbits. …
As Oberon Zell recently explained in a Facebook discussion on the origin of the names for the Wheel of the Year:
Merry was right. It will mean fighting. We won’t rescue our friends and family just by being shocked and sad. There is no place to find cover from this fire. Many people don’t understand what’s really going one, and they’ve been so comfortable for so long, they don’t know what to do.
So this summer solstice, let’s raise the Shire. Let’s light that match, wake all the people, and lead the revolution!