Fully unfurled, the green growing world is in motion now that the long days of summer are here. Traditionally celebrated with bonfires and outdoor festivities, the summer solstice, or Midsummer, as it is known in northern Europe, is an ancient holiday honoring the power of the sun. In the United States, bonfires are replaced by backyard barbeques and 4th of July fireworks, but spending time outdoors is still key.
While Newgrange and other megalithic passage tombs are well known for being aligned with the winter solstice sunrise, others such as Sess Kilgreen in County Tyrone, No. Ireland reveal their mysteries when with the beams of the rising summer solstice sun enter the passage and illuminate a large stone carved with concentric circles and cupmarks, which are symbols of regeneration and the waters of life (Gimbutas, Language of the Goddess, 54).
At Midsummer people in Lithuania and other Baltic countries celebrate Mother Sun (Saulė Motul), a powerful life-giving deity, associated with fertility, warmth, and health. Her daughters are the stars and her husband the Moon. To honor her bonfires are lit on top of poles which are erected in high places. Mother Sun’s most beloved animal is the garden snake (Zaltys) who protects houses and sacred sites. With its spiraling, coiling movements, plus its abilities to shed its skin and hibernate, the snake symbolizes the cycle of life, death, and renewal.
The snake is honored in another summer solstice celebration in Penzance in Cornwall in southwest England. There the week-long midsummer celebration, Golowan, replete with rolling burning wheels down hills, dressing up in costumes, and naming a Lord and Lady of Misrule, culminates in a wild “Serpent Dance” to celebrate the life force at its height (Matthews, Summer Solstice, 99).
We are one earth and our tilting sphere see-saws between the north and south. While we above the Tropic of Cancer are experiencing the heady up-swing of summer, flying high and squealing with delight, those of us below the Tropic of Capricorn are brought low to earth and must ready ourselves for a strong push off. Praise the glory of the sun! Praise the pregnant dark! Each maximum pole carries its opposite within.
Spending time outdoors, I find myself mesmerized by sunlight dancing on stubby-fingered red oak leaves stretched above a translucent brown pond as it quivers in the taunting wind. The flight of a red-winged blackbird draws me along a shady path on the side of a hill where the boom of the waves breaking onto the shore below surprises me. The sound reminds me of frolicking in the cold, salty push and pull of the ocean. Summer feels innocent, the year still in the process of growing up. Images from summers past flood my mind—the joy of chasing fireflies, the ecstasy of fireworks bursting into the night sky like exploding kaleidoscopes, and the sweet pleasure of eating homemade ice cream after the grownups did the hard work of turning the crank.
Now that we are crones, how can our memories of youth sweeten our lives? What do we long for that will bring us balance and renewal? Whatever challenges and triumphs, losses and joys have been ours, we are still here to warm our hearts in the life-giving sun.
Katherine Anne Porter in her novella, Pale Horse, Pale Rider, writes of coming down with the flu in 1918 and the life force within her that helped her survive: “She lay like a stone at the farthest bottom of life …. There remained of her only a minute fiercely burning particle of being … itself composed entirely of one single motive, the stubborn will to live” (Collected Stories, 310-11).
How does this season of light resonate for us now? Do we feel depleted from too much doing, or too much Zoom time or too much isolation during this past year of pandemic precautions? Summer is a time to refill our reservoirs with idle days of relaxation and play. Sitting motionless we can tune into the creative hum of nature until the moment is right, and out pops our tongue to scoop up a fly or feel an upswell of energy in our hearts that propels us into action again.
To live is to grow and change. What new challenges are knocking at our door? What if retirement is giving you time to focus on dreams long deferred? Or what if you are being called to sacrifice personal needs to care for a parent, spouse, child or grandchild, social cause, or to earn a living? Each path requires us to sound the deep reverberations of spirit in our lives. Each demands courage to follow our inner truth and serve where we are called. What does the summer light brings into sharper focus for you now?
The wheel of life is ever turning. Rejoice with friends and family in the beauty of summer. Find time alone to drink your fill of silence and to rest in the moment with gratitude for your one amazing human life. Let us be grateful for the fullness of now, life decked out in its summer furbelows.
May the long time sun shine upon you,
Call to Action
The solstices are times of extremes, which in this time of climate change, means extreme fires, storms, and floods. Crone and long-time reader of this newsletter, Laurie Dameron, is a passionate champion of the earth. You can learn more about ways to do your part in saving the planet in this short video on her program Spaceship Earth.