Mark Twain said the coldest winter he ever spent was one summer in San Francisco. Summer Solstice in Maine is like a slighter warmer version of San Francisco winter—wet and threatening rain. I’m at Unity College where we are kicking off our Earth Activist Training with a summer solstice ritual, joined by many of the local Pagans.
Descriptions of other peoples’ ritual are a bit like descriptions of other peoples’ dreams—mostly interesting if they get truly bizarre or if they have some foreshadowing reference to events to come. But I’ll just say that on the Solstice, we like to burn something. Generally a giant figure of a man. I don’t know that Burning Man was inspired by us, but we were burning a man in San Francisco long before they started, so the image was in the ether.
Why a man? It’s a long theological discussion and the true answer is probably, “I don’t know.” Because we conceive of the sun as the God and the earth as the Goddess, although on that level it’s all a metaphor. The Goddess isn’t a big woman, she’s the great forces of creation and compassion cycling through birth, growth, death and regeration—at least, if you ask me. And Gods and Goddesses in their aspects are all simply portals, different doorways for experiencing connection and ecstasy and transformation in all their flavors.
Lately all our transgender folks and their friends have been noisily challenging our nice two by two assumptions. Those kind of challenges are great—they make us look at the world in a new way, examine our assumptions, deepen our understanding of Mystery. But right now I didn’t feel like getting into arcane theological arguments so we decided instead to burn a sun.
We made the sun out of branches and leaves. We lashed together circles of branches, lashed them together into a sphere, tied that on a pole of branches and then wove twigs in between. It was only a bit lopsided and the leaves concealed that part. On its pole it looked more like a big green lollipop than the sun, but I assured everybody that it was the sun, and they’d better damn well believe it was the sun or they would burn in hell. Well, I didn’t actually say that—I believe I said something inspirational like leaves are sunlight transmuted into the flesh of trees, which is scientifically true and which I offer to you Christians to contemplate when you’re meditating on the Incarnation.
During the ritual, we carried the sun around the circle so people could deck it with the flowers upon which they had been meditating, and then danced with it. Or rather, I should say Charles carried the sun. Charles Williams, who is coteaching this course with me, has many gifts including a great ability to sense and move energy, plus he’s young and extremely strong, which was a good thing as the sun was remarkably heavy for something representing a flaming ball of hydrogen, and better him than me! He did a stalwart job, carrying it round and round, kneeling from time to time for people to place flowers (and to rest his back), looking for all the world like Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders, or, to be brutally honest, with his long hair and beard, like Jesus falling beneath the burden of his cross.
At the peak of the ritual, we tossed the sun into the fire. It blazed up with showers of sparks, looking like the flaming head of a God with green hair that slowly came alive with red fire. As the flowers burn in that glorious blaze, we experience in one compressed moment all the poignancy of summer, of fleeting beauty, of blossoms that have to die for seed to set and fruit to form.
And now it’s summer. The wind is howling, the sky is gray, the rain is lowering. I love it! I’m a rainloving kind of gal.
Happy Solstice, everyone!
Just an added note—thanks for all your sweet comments. I won’t always have time to reply to them all, but did want to say, about Palestine and Israel, that if you go to my main website www.starhawk.org, and click on Activist Writings and then on the Palestine page, you can find volumes of stuff I’ve written about the situation and accounts from the times when I have been there, in the West Bank and Gaza, not to mention the time I was turned away.