My relationship with the Summer Solstice is complicated.
As a Druid, I feel like the Summer Solstice should be a big deal – even though the Druid tradition of celebrating the Summer Solstice is tenuous. Much of it is tied to the astronomical alignment of Stonehenge. The 19th century revival Druids grabbed ahold of that connection, even though Stonehenge was built, rebuilt, and abandoned long before the first Druids appeared in Britain… and even though it is more likely Stonehenge’s intended alignment was with sunset at the Winter Solstice.
For the past 14 years, my local group celebration has consisted of an Egyptian Temple Ritual. These have been deep and meaningful, but they’re not really about celebrating the Summer Solstice. Rather, they’re about celebrating the Gods of Egypt at the Summer Solstice.
And there is no secular connection to the Summer Solstice. Culturally, the beginning of Summer is Memorial Day weekend. Weather-wise, the beginning of Summer is early June and Midsummer is sometime in late July.
Here in Texas, Summer is dreaded more than celebrated, knowing that steady highs in the low 100s (around 40 C) will be with us in just a couple weeks.
And this year, to say I’m busy would be a gross understatement.
But a Wheel of the Year with only seven spokes is unbalanced and won’t last long. The longest day and the northernmost sunrise are worth marking. There are traditions worth observing or re-creating. And given the difficult and uncertain environment in which we work, it seems reasonable and helpful to observe the Summer Solstice in a quasi-traditional way.
Think about what Midsummer meant in an agricultural society. Plowing and planting were done in the Spring. The harvest won’t be ready till late Summer or early Fall. You’ll need to do a bit of weeding, and depending on the weather, perhaps some watering. But for the most part, this is a slow time.
You’re not in the clear. Insects and plant disease can kill your crops. Hail can shred them. Drought can stunt their growth, and floods can wash them away.
You’ve done what you can do – now your fate is in the hands of the Gods. Now is the time to sharpen your tools, to pray and make offerings for a good harvest, and to rest. You’ll need all your strength for the harvest.
Does this agricultural metaphor tie in with something in your life right now? Is there something you started that needs to be allowed to grow on its own? There’s a reason why the fourth element of the witch’s pyramid is To Keep Silence. Stop opening the oven to check on the cake.
I like big plans as much as the next engineer. I preach the value of resilience and perseverance. I try to spot the Grand Games and figure out my place in them. My Paganism is an active religion – it’s something I do, not something I receive… or at least, not only something I receive.
But if there is a lesson in the Summer Solstice, it’s that nothing worthwhile is entirely under my control… or yours. I have to do my part and then trust that Nature and the Gods will do theirs. And then get ready to do my next part when the harvest begins.
So this Summer Solstice, get up before dawn and greet the rising sun. Or go outside at noon and honor the sun at its zenith. Bonus points if you go out at local noon where you are (“sun transit”) instead of at clock noon for your time zone. Or salute the sun as it sets, knowing that for the next six months the days will be getting shorter, even though the worst of the Summer heat is yet to come.
And as you do, think about the work you’ve done plowing and planting, whether literally or metaphorically. Think about the plans you have for the future. Then think about all the things that have to happen that are outside of your control. You’ve done your part – give thanks for those who are doing their part. Make offerings and say prayers, that the growing season may be productive, even though it’s completely out of our control.
Then sit down and have a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Relax. Rest.
The work of the harvest will be here before you know it.