Today is Litha, the summer solstice. It is the longest day of the year and the time when the sun is at its maximum elevation.
Halfway through this year of marking pagan holidays, I'm realizing that it would be a truly difficult thing to actually "celebrate" each one within my modern, urban life. By the very nature of paganism, one feels drawn outside to sun and moon and earth and air. One wants fire and companionship, particularly for the summer holidays. The Wicca Bible presents a wonderful way to welcome Litha. (I don't consider myself Wiccan, but this book is a beautiful and concisely informative pagan resource.)
Litha is usually celebrated outdoors, weather permitting, and usually witches gather at the old sacred stires - the standing stones, circles and hillsides - in order to observe the solstice sunrise with others. Many of us set off no the evening of June 20th (December 20 in the southern hemisphere) to keep vigil together until sunrise on the next day. This means staying awake during the shortest night, and keeping each other entertained with stories and songs after drumming the sun down below the horizon at sunset. At dawn, we begin drumming again, this time to encourage old Sol's exertions to rise early, ride high and shine long and bright upon the longest day. The rest of the day is usually spent outside, sharing rituals and food, catching up on lost sleeping - and getting home.
Oh, that sounds just so wonderful and life-affirming! I just want to soak in the community of it.
I, however, woke up alone, after sunrise, to massive June gloom and a chill in the air. And I'm off to work, and I have work to do this evening as well. It will indeed be a long day!
Perhaps the more realistic goal is to celebrate what pagan holidays I can, when I can. Perhaps it is enough at times to simply mark them here. Think on them. I've been thinking recently on the spirituality of paganism. I've been realizing I don't think on it as a religion, as a worship. Someone once asked me if I "worship" the earth. I'm not really a fan of the word "worship," truth be told. Rather, I see paganism as a recognition, or perhaps an acknowledgement. A topic for the end of this year, perhaps.
The main symbols of Litha are the sun and the wheel. This moment of the shortest night and the longest day, followed by the shortening of days that move us into the coming fall and winter. We stop here to note the height of summer, even as this day marks the eventual change of seasons. From bbc.co.uk:
This is a time to celebrate growth and life but for Pagans, who see balance in the world and are deeply aware of the ongoing shifting of the seasons it is also time to acknowledge that the sun will now begin to decline once more towards winter.
I find myself thinking today about the wheel more than the sun. (Perhaps because at the moment, I can't even see the sun!) The turning of the year, the turning of our lives. How "life's about changing, nothing ever stays the same." It's a powerful thing to meditate on, the wheel. Perhaps I'll give that some time tonight.
I also found this somewhat scientific piece on the summer solstice, which I enjoyed.
Finally, a poem by C.B. Palmer, which I found at this site. I love the anthropomorphism of the sun and the moon.
Sun, rises on the land
And silently, he stalks the dew clad field;
Noon, whispers in the forest
And he comes to rest In the mid day heat;
Sunset, finds his breath a stream of mist,
As he calls to his Otherworld;
But midnight, finds his silhouette
Splayed across a frosty moon;
Darkest eyes, take in Her cold white light;
And she calls him to Her,
All too soon.
C. B. Palmer
Good solstice to you!