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" If the world is a tree,

we are the blossoms "

Novalis

SUMMER SOLSTICE – THE UNEDITED VERSION

June 17th, 2024

On 11th June, in time for the Summer Solstice, a new book, Time for Magic,  has just been published showcasing the wonderful artwork of artist, activist and Druid Jamie Reid. Lush has created soaps using his artwork for each of the solar festivals, and there are events celebrating the publication of this book up and down the country. If you’re free for an event in London on Wednesday or Thursday evening, take a look at the Events page here for more details.

Of all the brief texts I submitted for the festivals in this book, the Summer Solstice was the most edited. Here, for the record, is the unexpurgated version. If you’ve got a copy of the book, you’ll see that most of the text here never made it to print. Probably a good thing – I may have overstated things, but I thought I’d share it. Have you found what I say about tension sometimes building towards the solstice true? This year I haven’t noticed this, though in previous years it’s been striking.

SUMMER SOLSTICE

Placed in the South in the Druid calendar, this festival is associated with the noon-day sun, with the height of our powers in early middle-age, and with the ability to bring all of our gifts to bear on our lives.

As the year reaches its zenith, you might well think of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, when Titania the Fairy Queen and her elves dance ‘ringlets to the whistling wind’. Shakespeare sweetened these creatures, who were far more sinister in earlier accounts, and whether you believe in nice or nasty fairies, or none at all, there’s no denying the days leading up to midsummer’s eve can feel strange, nice but nasty sometimes too.

You know that tension that builds just before you reach your goal? You’re on the last lap, you’ve almost finished the book, the song, the picture, the whatever, and it isn’t fun, it’s hard work and you are powering away. It was fun conceiving the project, it was hell starting it, then you got into your stride and the energy built. But now you’re about to climax and it’s fun in some ways because you know you’ll make it, but it’s easy to get stressed now. Angry even.

That’s one way of understanding what’s happening all around us as we reach the summer solstice: Nature is straining to give birth. Winter Solstice and Imbolc were the conceiving bit, Spring Equinox and Beltane the planting, the energy-building bit. And now the dance between sun and the earth is about to reach its high point at the solstice. It may not feel like summer has peaked because it’ll get hotter after late June because it takes months for the oceans and the earth to heat up. But astronomically it is summer’s zenith, which means the Cosmic Dance, the Love-Making, has got as intense as it ever will.

And this is why you might have noticed a certain tension in the air around this time. People get snappy. It feels like something’s got to break. Time for summer storms and the lightning that brings relief.

This is the time of Sol Invictus, Helios – the Unconquered Sun of Syria and Rome – of Aten, Ra, Sulis, Apollo, and every sun goddess or god that has ever shone upon the Earth. It’s the time of triumph when the storm breaks, your effort has paid off, you’ve told everyone in the way to eff off and it’s done! It’s a time to celebrate victory and success and to let your light shine.

You don’t have to worry about getting too big for your boots because this triumphant energy is going to fade soon. Before you can say “Oh the days will be getting shorter now”, it’ll be the harvest time of Lammas and the waning of the year at the Autumn Equinox. In fact, the waning has already begun. As the Daoists say: “When Yang peaks it turns to Yin”. But don’t think of that now. It’s time to raise a glass of sun-coloured mead, to drop into the timeless moment of the Sol Stitia –Latin for the standing still of the sun. For a few days, if you observe the sunrise, you’ll notice that it seems to rise at the same point on the horizon before it begins its relentless movement towards its nadir in December, when it sets as far North-West as it will ever travel.

In the old days they’d light midsummer fires, and celebrate the lazy days of summer before the hard work of the harvest began. There’s an echo here of the timeless days around Samhain – a liminal moment when the fairies can mingle with us and we’ll be too relaxed or tanked up on mead to notice or worry about them. This is the time for socialising, for partying in the longest evenings of the year when our vitality is at its peak. At the opposite time of year, the Winter Solstice, you are in your deepest cave. It’s dark and cold but there’s a kind of stark beauty to the way you must hold yourself in and let go to the dark days and nights. That’s when the dreams can come, the visions that can be born when the world wakes up again, and that you can chase into the summer.

Following that arc of striving towards midsummer, only a fool thinks this will last forever, but the world is full of fools who take this energy to conquer and dominate. But for wiser folk they know that these energies are cyclical, that what waxes will wane, but they will still take pride in celebrating their successes and achievements at this summer festival time. The crown you may have worn at Beltane to symbolise May Queen or King, you can wear again: this time decorated with summer flowers, to symbolise Sovereignty, to celebrate your victories and accomplishments, however small they might seem to your critical self.

This is the day to give your inner critic a break. Tell it to leave you alone. Even though we can often be saddled with self-doubt and shame, the summer solstice is a time to say no to negativity and to let our light shine. If you’re not feeling very triumphant or shining, light a small candle, tune into a tiny flame inside your heart and whack on Ladysmith BlackMambazo singing ‘This Little Light of Mine’. Imagine that small flame becoming a powerhouse of light in your heart and soul, and raise a toast to yourself for being who you are, despite everything, perhaps even because of everything.

Generosity, warmth, magnanimity, vitality, success, optimism, even glory and triumph and victory are the watchwords for this day. Ruled by the element of Fire, symbolised by the Tarot card the Sun and in the Ogham Tree Alphabet by the mighty Oak of Tradition, this is the time for standing at the height of the year to vision and revision the future for yourself, and for all of life, as one that is healthy, dynamic and filled with the good. It’s a time to feel proud, to think big, to be bold and courageous. To foster the quality of confidence in your lion-heart and your solar plexus. No wonder Pride month is June, and Gay Pride often takes place – depending on the nearest weekend – close to the Summer Solstice.

The Summer Solstice is a time for Magic, for getting up at dawn to watch the sunrise. Or for staying awake through the shortest night of the year, taking a kind of sleep-fast to reset your body, and to welcome in the next half of the year: that long journey down the slope of the hill to your Winter Solstice cave, to incubate more dreams, to slow down and gather in the harvest that Autumn will bring.

See more about the book here. And here: