I have always felt more like a Pagan in the Summer and less like a Witch. Perhaps that’s because Witchcraft often feels like it works better in the darkness than in the light of day. Some of it’s because I traditionally spend a lot of time on the road during the Summer, very often at Pagan festivals. Outdoor festivals, which are often not about one specific tradition, are a melting pot of Paganism, full of Witches, Druids, Ceremonial Magicians, Heathens, and Cultural Pagans-those who really like us without practicing any certain spiritual tradition.
Outdoor festivals also connect me to the earth in a way that my Wiccan practice sometimes does not. As I write this at Circle’s Pagan Spirit Gathering, my feet are muddy (and have been for days) and I’ve got an itchy mosquito bite on my ankle. Some Pagans don’t seem like to nature very much, especially when She’s wet, but rain and mud are a part of the human experience at most festivals, and they constantly remind me that I’m a just another strand of a very large web.
My life as a Witch is sometimes spent outdoors, but more often it feels most alive when creating magick on an altar or lighting candles in a dark room. My Summer Solstice celebrations have nearly all been outdoors, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. There’s been unintentionally public love making under the night sky (“all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals”), visitations by the fey, and quiet evenings spent watching the setting sun.
The joys I experience at Yule, the hope I feel at Ostara and Beltane, and the sorrows I’ve sometimes felt at Samhain have never truly been replicated at Midsummer. For whatever reason it’s a sabbat that has never truly resonated the way others have; the Solstice has always suggested more to me than it has actually delivered.
Growing up in a college Pagan group the Autumn Equinox through Beltane were public celebrations the way Midsummer never was. Eventually my life evolved to the point where I was doing public Midsummer celebrations, but with the exception of one memorable battle between the Oak and Holly Kings, Midsummer was never really about anything. It was something we celebrated because we were expected to celebrate something, and that’s just not the best way to build a sabbat ritual.
Part of the disconnect most certainly comes from living in the United States. For whatever reason (probably because we have the most holiday averse federal government in the Western World), St. John’s Eve (or Day), a continuation of truly ancient Midsummer practices, has never gained any traction in the United States. Culturally we are simply not tuned into a Summer Celebration, with the exception of our Independence Day, which is just far enough beyond St. John’s Day to have developed its own separate traditions and modes of celebration. (In typical American fashion, the Fourth of July is mostly reserved for excessive drinking and blowing things up.) St. John’s Eve has maintained a large role in traditions such as New Orleans Voodoo, but sadly, that hasn’t been truly picked up by the rest of us.
A person much smarter than I am has just pointed out to me that we are both probably at the Midsummer of our lives. We are both doing the magickal work we’ve always dreamed of, and have gotten to visit many of the Pagan places we’ve imagined in our dreams. (If I live to 92, then I’m at the midpoint of my life.) As she’s said, right now we are “making the hay,” though I’m not sure if hay is actually made near the solstice (she says “it’s at least growing”). Midpoints are something to be celebrated I suppose, to look fondly upon what we’ve accomplished, and to to think about what it is we still have left to do. Moments of reflection are often useful, and perhaps this will become a new tradition for me near the solstice going forward. (But most likely I will forget about it.)
But because the Solstice still holds so much promise to me, I continue to yearn for it going forward. I will never stop doing the rituals that don’t seem to matter much to me, and I’ll pay lip-service to the Sun even though I like longer nights more than longer days. When outdoors I will cast off my Witch’s cloak for the Pagan freedom that only comes with when being clad by the sky and pushed forward by the drums.