Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have done something completely out of character as Midsummer approaches.
I have come to the conclusion it is not important to be right.
Like many of you, I have opinions. Strong ones. Opinions I always said you were all entitled to.
Before you tell me opinions are like toes, we all have them, and mine don’t make me special, let me assure you that I have always worked very hard to ensure my opinions are the best possible ones! You see, I am an educated person. I back up my opinions with facts and research, and I can prove my point to almost everybody. And if I am proven wrong, I just say I have learned something, and change my opinion. So I am always right!
That is very important, right?
But with my fortieth birthday looming just ahead, I have changed my mind about that.
After years of facilitating discussions in person and online, I have seen relationships crumble because people just HAVE to be right. Including me.
One of the big contention points is, not surprisingly, religion.
For Pagans, being part of a minority religion, if we are out of the broom closet, we are bound to get some grief from family or co-workers at one time or another. If you are like I have always been, you are not going to stand for that. You might also get upset just by the fact they express a religious opinion or belief that goes against yours, even if it is not directed to you.
Some family from mom’s side was always very vocal about being anti-gay. Mom was very vocal about being anti-anything-besides-Catholic. My father’s side of the family is conservative Southern Christian and I always say some of them believe separation of church and state is wrong and that the USA needs to be an Xtian theocracy.
I don’t handle listening to such sentiments very well. I can’t just not say anything in response to what I consider wrong. I can’t not try to get people to agree with me that god is too big to fit into one religion. I can’t not try to get people to agree with me that their way of life is not necessarily the right way for everybody. I can’t not call people on what I feel is total BS.
I just can’t. Can I?
Sure I can. We all can.
Nearing forty, I realize I am becoming more set in my ways. So is everybody else. I have had the chance to really think about what I believe. So has everybody else. I know what works for me and what makes sense to me. So does everybody else.
Some of my family is SO conservative, and while I am not 100% Liberal, compared to some of them, I am a total anarchist.
Many heated debates happened amongst us. In private, family members who agreed with me told me so. When I asked why they did not speak up, they all said the same thing…that it was not worth it to argue. I did not see it that way. All I could see was that I thought somebody was wrong, and I had to make sure they knew what I felt was right.
It got to the point some of us decided we were no longer speaking. Sometimes I initiated it, sometimes they did. You could absolutely tell whose child I was because I acted just like them. I did not care. I felt I was justified and that I had family who were intolerant, and that I did not need that in my life.
Then, eight months ago, my life changed. Completely. The changes meant I couldn’t work, and I spent a lot of time at home. Alone.
I also got a lot of visits.
Some were from people who did not share my political or religious views, but people who I love and have known a long time, nonetheless.
I also made a new friend, who came to see me every week, and some weeks, it was the only visit I got. She did not share my religion or my political beliefs.
I learned that none of it mattered.
I reconnected with some family as well. It took me three days to work up the courage to tell one family member I thought it was important to have a relationship, differing beliefs aside. She agreed.
I cried for the rest of the night after that because I was so happy.
Sometimes it takes being alone for a short time to realize how important it really is to have people in your life. Agreeing to disagree for the sake of getting along is not as difficult as I always told myself it was. Truthfully, when people wrote me off because they disapproved of my beliefs, it made me even less sympathetic to their beliefs. I wrote some people off too. I know that their reaction was the same as mine had been in the same situation.
We spent a lot of time creating hard feelings when we could have been discussing other things and enjoying life together instead. I realize it is not possible to have a relationship with EVERYBODY. But it IS possible to have more relationships if one is open to relationships with people who are different than them.
It is a good shift of mindset to have nearing Midsummer.
Midsummer is the longest day and shortest night of the year. Historically, it was celebrated with bonfires. We find the theme of chasing off disease, malevolent spirits, and misfortune with bonfires at many pre-Christian celebrations our Sabbats are based on.
Now, in parts of Europe, the Pagan Misdummer celebrations have changed focus, but some traditions are close to the same.
Instead of lighting fires and leaping over them in honor of the old gods, the festivities are oft done in honor of St. John the Baptist instead.
Midsummer, as celebrated in the Celtic lands, the Slavic Nations, and the Germanic ones are the places many of us who are Neo-Pagans and Heathens draw our traditions from.
In The Gardnerian Book of Shadows, which can be found free on sacred-texts.com, is a ritual for Midsummer. Flowers are arranged around a cauldron filled with water, referred to as the waters of life. The ritual focus is on an invocation of the sun, on its longest day to bless both earth, and people.
In ancient Ireland, the bonfires were built, and it was customary to see who could leap highest over the flames. It was believed the height of the highest jump was how high the crops would get. The animals were lead around the fires, oft clockwise, to bless them.
Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England, is technically a group of things including wooded posts, buried antlers and animal bones and teeth, cremations, ditches, and small holes, as well as the large stones it is famous for , and initial materials has been dated to as early as 8,000 BC. The site was used over a long period of time, and even today, the site hosts rituals and educational tours. So technically, including today’s use, that gives a window of 10,000 years from evidence of first use of the site to today’s use of the site. Pretty cool!
The Midsummer sun rises in alignment with a large sandstone rock that is called the Heelstone. An avenue a couple of miles away was built that aligns with the Midsummer sunset. Evidence of large fires between the two suggests they were perhaps connected.
If this is true, they had at least an all day celebration and ritual and possibly a procession from where the sun rose to where it set.
In Denmark, healing wells were visited in pre Christian times, and bonfires, which are still part of today’s traditions were built. In mediaval times, it was the time for harvesting medicinal herbs.
In Sweden, Maypoles are used as opposed to for Beltaine. This is due to climate. Flowers cannot be found in abundance naturally as early as Beltaine. The Divine Feminine and Masculine are united in the dance, that significance being forgotten due to Christianization, but superstitions are not lost. Single people put flowers under their pillows in hopes of dreaming about future mates. Winter leaves are also burned in fires, perhaps to drive away winter…or in more mundane terms, “danger of last frost”!
After Midsummer, of course, days will shorten again, and nights lengthen. So this is a celebration of the sun at it’s greatest strength, and magically, an attempt to focus that power into strength for an abundant harvest to come. The strength is focuses on the crops, livestock, and the people.
For your own celebrations, may I suggest a prayer and simple personal working to add in there somewhere?
I know I am not the only opinionated Pagan whose family members or loved ones disagree with.
Would you consider changing your role in those conversations? Would you consider being the one to first say. “Let’s agree to disagree!” and then change the subject. Would you consider being the one to reach out to a loved one who will not change, one who would allow the relationship to be compromised, and simply tell them they are more important to you than how you disagree on beliefs?
I realize not everybody will be receptive to you when you do this, but here is a prayer and working for the purpose if you would like to do so.
First, you have to be ready to do this. Really ready. Because I guarantee, your loved one will not change their views. I guarantee that you won’t either.
There will be millions of opportunities to get into an argument with them forever and ever.
They might even TRY to get you to.
But, it takes two to fight. So, you can be the one to decide that arguing or fighting stops.
Even if you aren’t specifically a witch, your will for peace is a powerful spell indeed!
Set up your altar or ritual space as usual for a working.
Get an image of your loved one or loved ones who you want to have more peaceful communications with.
Get a candle which will provide the only light for your working. Use more than one candle if it helps you to see better.
Get a mirror to look into.
Get a few pieces of paper and a writing implement.
Get a small cauldron or other fireproof container because you will be burning some paper.
Get a gift or offering for your loved one. This can be discarded after ritual or actually given to them sometime in the near future.
Get a small gift or offering for yourself, also. Make sure it is something you like and that you will enjoy.
If you are like me, and you cry easily, get tissues.
And last of all, get a hot or cold drink of choice.
I say get something to drink, because of something my mom always did. When I was a kid and I had cried, she would get me a tall, cold glass of tea or something else yummy. She said crying dehydrates you. I do not know if this is true, but the drink always made me feel better!
I am assuming you have already had discussions with your loved one and have been unable to settle differences of opinion. If I am wrong, please put this article aside, and go talk to your loved one asap. Magic is useless if you have not first done the mundane work communicating your feelings and trying to patch things up.
If you are ready to do the working, light the candle to start.
Cast circle and invoke your gods and or guides or not, however you prefer.
Then, write a letter to your loved one. In it, communicate your feelings. Communicate also that you feel your relationship is more important than arguing over who is right, and that you have decided to stop arguing. Say whatever you want to in the letter. It can be as long or as short as you like. While you are writing, put the energy from all these feelings you have, as well as your hopes for better communications into this paper.
Once you have finished this, set that next to the image of said loved one, and put the gift, which is an offering for your loved one there with it.
Next, get another piece of paper, and write a letter to yourself. In it, validate your own feelings of hurt, or upset over things your loved one has said or done. Also acknowledge your own role in continuing whatever issues you have had with one another. Pledge in this letter to work on better communications. Be prepared that you may be the one called to reach out to the loved one, especially if you are estranged from one another. Be prepared you may have to be the one to agree to disagree and put your own opinions aside in order to keep the peace. Put the energy from these feelings into your letter as you write it.
Place this letter next to the mirror and place your gift to yourself there.
On another piece of paper, write how badly communications have gone in the past, and the hurt feelings you both have experienced because of it. You can list the various arguments, or scenarios of misunderstandings if you want. Write as much as you need to, focus putting the energy and hurt feelings into this paper, all of it.
Go back to the letter to your loved one. Read it aloud directly to the image of your loved one. Then read your letter to yourself, while looking in the mirror. Next, place the image of your loved one beside the mirror, and read aloud the third letter to the representation of them, and the mirror to yourself. When you have finished, fold the third letter in half with the side of the paper that has the writing on it inside. Slide this into a blank piece of paper to conceal the writing if needs be. As you fold this paper over or conceal the writing into another piece of paper, will that those hurt feelings and strained communications are becoming a thing of the past and replacing them will be good communications and better times.
Put the letters in a stack any way you wish. Then still yourself for a moment and when you are ready to let go of the hurt, resentment, grudges, reluctance to make up, or whatever upset you might feel, burn those papers. Know in your heart that you are letting go and destroying those bad feelings and all that will be left is the love and desire for a good relationship from now on.
Once the papers are burned, bury the ashes, laying to rest the bad times, or release them to the wind, completely letting them go .
Extinguish your candle or candles, close circle and banish as usual, and either discard the offering to your loved one, or give it to them sometime in the future. Keep the offering you gave to yourself and enjoy it.
Congratulations. You decided to be a peacemaker. You decided your relationships are more important than being right or arguing over opinions or beliefs. You decided we all have different beliefs and we can love each other and have good times and happy lives together despite those differences. You have good priorities and your loved ones are truly blessed to have you.
I think Midsummer is a good time to do this for two reasons. One, in Summertime, we have a lot of gatherings. The weather is nice and often, we see more of each other then. You might “run into” them, and before you do, a working to ensure better relations is an excellent idea. Which leads us to number two. Rather than dreading seeing somebody, use the powerful energy at this turn of the wheel, which is strong for creating life. The Sun is at its strongest and generations of people have used the power of this time for blessings, strength, and growth.
Over the past eight months, I learned that materially, you can lose everything, but if you have loved ones, they will get you through your worst times. There will come a day when you are doing well, and they are not, and it will be your turn to help them.
When all else is lost, as long as we have one another, there is reason for hope, and where there is hope, there really is life.
May you and your loved ones have a long, happy life together.
Blessed Midsummer, and Blessed Be.