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Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

Midsummer 2015 for Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, and afterwards, the days begin to shorten. The Sun is at it’s highest point, and at it’s strongest this Sabbat. It is still going to get warmer, and the wheel is turning towards harvest time. If you are in Finland, “the land of the midnight sun”, this is the time of year there is practically no darkness at all due to location. All Winter, some of us look forward to this time of year when it is warm, the sun rises early, everything is green and growing, and it feels like the Summer will be forever!

Many of the same practices are found in most places that celebrate the Summer Solstice in Europe. Both Eastern and Western Europe include bonfires. In many cases, bonfires that people jump over, are built to drive out illness and evil. Superstitions about marriage, visits to wells to “wash away” illness, and gathering medicinal plants are part of the festivities. Healing so that life can be long and healthy, and making babies, or at least taking steps to find somebody to make babies with are all part of the celebrations.

In modern times, bonfires are still very much a part of celebrations. Some are done in honor of St. John the Baptist, whose feast day replaced Pagan worship for many Christian traditions. Some Bulgarians include dancing on “smoldering embers” (Wikipedia) and some Danes take use of fire for purification a step farther and burn dolls that represent witches who could cause harm. Leaping the fire is done, and while in many places, young men traditionally leap the fires, in Hungary, girls did it, even up to the 1930’s. It was believed those who were able to actually accomplish the leap would be blessed with marriage by the next year!

For Wiccans, Solstice is when the goddess is pregnant with the god. He is growing inside her like the things we will harvest in the coming months are growing on and in the earth. The focus is life, strength, and fertile growth regardless of how the individual tradition celebrates.

While people like me think Summer Solstice seems to have been celebrated everyplace on earth and by most all people, discussing each cultures festivities might bore you to sleep! I will discuss two historic sites associated with Solstice.

One historic site I will talk about is Callanish, which is in Scotland. Dating to possibly as early as 3,400 BCE, it is not just the ring of standing stones it is known for. An actual complex of various structures stretches out for miles. Traces of the mysterious Beaker people’s pottery have been found , as well as burials. The famous stone circle with its huge central stone became covered with some five feet of earth, and was dug out in 1857. The circle is flanked by four avenues, forming a kind of solar cross, and legend has it that the sun, or the “ shining one” travels up one of the avenues Summer Solstice Sunrise, according to stonesofwonder.com.

Multiple internet articles, including the one above mentioned state much research has been done , trying to prove the theory that the site is an astronomical calendar, yet, unlike some other sites such as Stonehenge, strong proof of ritual use at turns of the wheel of the year is still in the process of being established.

A historic site that does show alignment with the Solstice Sunrise is Townleyhall passage tomb, which is part of the complexes of Knowth and Dowth in Ireland. The chambers are filled with sunlight on the day of Solstice, and apparently some days around it as well. The Sunset on Summer Solstice, on the other hand, aligns with Site B, a mound in this same group of monuments. While we do not know exactly what the Solstice celebrations entailed there back in ancient times, we do know that the dead were included as well as the living, as their tombs aligned with the solar activity that marked the event.

For the people I celebrate with, we march at LGBTQ Pride for Solstice. June 21 is the 2015 Summer Solstice and Pride falls on that weekend. June 20 at 11 A.M., we step off for our sixth year being in the march. Pride is something we try, as Pagans to have a presence at every year. Years before we marched, my Priest used to donate money to the cause. Some of the other Pagan groups in town have booths at the festival. Pagans have supported this cause in my town for a long time. A lot of towns have a Pride event. Some people think it is only about getting legislation approved to legalize gay marriage, but it is so much more than that.

To me, it is a celebration of one of the aspects of the god and goddess. In The Charge of the Goddess, it says “Let my worship be in the heart that rejoiseth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.” I interpret that literally as ALL acts, not just heterosexual ones. And not just acts to procreate.

Some traditional Wiccans will be quick to point out that homosexuality was not part of early Wicca with Gardner. But I point out just as quickly that early Wiccan elders like Herman Slater were homosexual, and still represented the god in ritual regardless of their personal sexual orientation.

Today, many who call themselves Wiccan are young, eclectic, and liberal. They are the ones changing Wicca. Many of them tend to be less focused on initiation in established traditions and more about personal practice. They are less likely to do something the way Gardner did it just because it is the way it was done. They are the ones who are today’s face of Wicca, and many of them view homosexuality, bisexuality, and being transgender as being just as valid as being heterosexual. Many of them do not consider monogamy to be the only acceptable expression of sexuality. Also, in America, a growing number of people are coming out of the closet and demanding the same civil rights as heterosexuals.

I am a woman who is legally married to a man and am not in an open relationship. I still consider it very much my business and my job to be supportive of my brothers and sisters who are not heterosexual or monogamous. I think of human beings as physical embodiments of the gods and we act as the gods for one another. I do not think of the gods as being heterosexual monogamous beings who do nothing but have babies all the time.

So my reasoning asks why we should only support a lifestyle that does?

I see our culture as doing so because of Christianization. While modern Neo-Pagans don’t go on headhunts or slaughter bulls at worship like our pre-Christian ancestors did, (and I am not seeking to make that the norm), I also do not hold myself or my loved ones to Abrahamic standards of lifestyle in other areas, like sexuality and marriage practices.

I consider it a problem that the laws governing marriage in this country are specifically based on Abrahamic ones. While I celebrate the fact some people want the lifestyle Abrahamic faiths teach, I also celebrate the fact not everybody does.

Pride is a celebration of life and lifestyle and demonstration of the beauty of all kinds of people and how they love. So, to me, it is very Pagan to get involved in Pride!

It’s hot and exhausting to do the march. We register and lineup in the morning, and step off about two hours later. A few hours after that, we are all flat on our behinds downing copious amounts of iced beverages and grinning from ear to ear because we have, yet again, been a part of a beautiful movement that is creating beautiful change.

It is a big part of our practice to do weather magic before the march. I recall feeling a couple of raindrops one year, and asking Thor aloud to hold off the rain until we finished. No more rain fell after that…until after the march. Upon returning to my car, I was unlocking the drivers side door, and the very next drop fell at that very moment. I made sure to give Thor a beer to thank him!

Your own celebrations may include going to Sabbat with soul kin or celebrating at home. The suggested working for Solstice is the one I want to incorporate into our prayer before we begin our march this year. It can be used before an election, before a civic meeting, or even as a prayer before a discussion on topics such as civil rights. The strength of the Sun at this Sabbat is a good strength to connect with to create change.

Summer Solstice 2015 Columbus, Ohio Pride March Rite

Form a circle with all your attendees.

Select people to represent each of the four directions.

Select one person to stand in the center to evoke the Sun.

The person at the East begins by lighting incense and saying :

Mighty ones of air, inspire the minds of those who we have chosen to lead us so they may see all of us as human beings equal and worthy of the same rights and privileges and to reflect that in the law. Let all people look upon the many thousands of us here today, and let them know that we are but one people, united in our beautiful diversity, and the children of one earth. So mote it be!”

Next, the person representing South lights a candle OR flicks on a cigarette lighter and says:

Mighty ones of fire, transform the pyres of bigotry to passionate celebration of the amazing diversity that we, as human beings are blessed with. Let all look upon the many thousands of us here today, and let them know that we are but one people, united in our beautiful diversity, and the children of one earth. So mote it be!”

Next, the person at the West sprinkles water on the ground and says:

Mighty ones of water, open the hearts of people who do not understand those who express their love for one another and experience their sexuality differently than them. Let all look upon the many thousands of us here today, and let them know that we are but one people, united in our beautiful diversity, and the children of one earth. So mote it be!”

The person at the North touches the ground and says:

Mighty Mother, earth from which we all draw life, we, your children are each separate from one another, but united in our communities by our kinship with you. Support us and embrace us, no matter who we are or how we live. Let all look upon the many thousands of us here today, and let them know that we are but one people, united in our beautiful diversity, and the children of one earth. So mote it be!”

The person in the center raises their arms up to the Sun and says:

Hail to you, invincible Sun. Now is a time of great change and immense growth and you are at your greatest strength. The goddess is filled with life, carrying within her the great god who will be reborn at harvest time. Let the growth of love for all people be part of that harvest. Let the seeds of positive change for the good of all people, beautiful in our diversity, grow strong. May we reap the harvest of equal rights before the law and in the hearts of our fellow man. So mote it be!”

Afterwards, the incense stick is passed around, from person to person, and we will bless one another with the smoke. The first person smudges the second person, saying, “Blessed Be” and passes it to this person, who in turn blesses the next person the same way, and so on until all are blessed.

Candle and incense are to be extinguished. No banishing.

However you celebrate this Sabbat, have a Blessed Summer Solstice. Enjoy the warmth and the beauty of life growing around you and good things happening within you.

Blessed Be!