As Summer draws to a close in the Southern Hemisphere, we are leaving behind the light part of the year’s cycle around the Sun, the Summer Solstice in late December being the point of that interchange. The lightest quarter of the year anywhere on our planet is in the period from Spring Equinox through Beltaine/High Spring to Summer Solstice, which in Australia is from September 20-23 to December 20-23, then the light part of the day declines through the next quarter to Autumn Equinox. The “Seasons of the Light” as I name them, are Beltaine, Summer Solstice, and Lammas: beginning with Beltaine … it is the entry into Summer. The Seasons of the Light are actually a movement towards dark and dissolution of Being … after the peaking of light comes the darkness: whereas the “Seasons of the Dark”, commencing in the darkest quarter of the year (Autumn Equinox through Samhain/Deep Autumn to Winter Solstice) are a movement towards light and coming into Being. That is how Creativity of the Cosmos proceeds.
Beltaine/High Spring is a popular and traditional celebration of Desire and the dance of Life. It is the time when the “Maypole” is danced: which has been renamed as a “Novapole” (for November) in the Southern Hemisphere. At a subtle level, the Desire that is enjoyed in this season, is a desire for mergence, union – for fulfilment of Being. It may be understood as the coming together of the powers of day and night, as Summer truly begins: the Irish name of the Season is literally a blending of “belt” which means white – referring to the Moon as an eye of the night, and “Aine”, a Celtic Sun Goddess – referring to Her “Eye of Fire” the Sun. The traditional red and white ribbons of this season may be understood to represent this marrying of Sun and Moon, as well as the more exoteric understanding of the blending of the fertility fluids of the female and male – perhaps a later consideration: the Holy Desire celebrated in the Season of Beltaine may be felt and understood as a Cosmic Lust, which predated the advent of gender in the evolutionary story of the Universe … it is an Allurement deep down in things – elemental.
At this time of year, the pulses and different colour wavelengths of the increasing light, may be felt in the bodymind, releasing hormones, awakening desires: Summer begins – and for the pre-Celtic ancestors, the “Summerland” was their notion of what later peoples named “heaven”. For many of us today, Summer is a time when life stretches out: and like cattle of old pastoral cultures being let out of the barn, we sense the pastures ahead. We bolt lustily for the enjoyment of life’s pleasures. The Summerland may also be understood as a state of being, a bliss of acting with ease and pouring forth generously.
Desire has many layers to it, and may be understood as a Cosmic dynamic: that is, we don’t make it up, do not invent it … it is innate to inhabiting this Cosmos. It has been present from the beginning and has many manifestations. Physicist Brian Swimme points out that one of its manifestations is gravity. He says that “gravity” is a word used by scientists to refer to a basic dynamism of attraction that is primordial and permeates the cosmos on all levels of being. And just as this essential and mysterious power binds the Universe together – planets, solar systems and galaxies – so does the pursuit of passion.
Some of the ancients recognised the primordial essence as “Aphrodite” – they sang of Her:
For all things are from you.
Who unites the cosmos.
You will the three-fold fates.
You bring forth all things.
Whatever is in the Heavens.
And in the much fruitful earth
And in the deep sea.
Most spiritual traditions have taught that desire is not a good thing: in the clamour to teach detachment from desire, to not get attached to outcomes of desire, the baby has most frequently been thrown out with the bathwater. Surely such a Power deserves more attention, perhaps tracing it to its deepest place within: experiencing our felt surface desires as pathways to Desire itself, to this most powerful creative dynamic, allowing Desire itself to reverently and graciously fill the bodymind, recognizing it as a Holy Desire … Cosmic Lust. We may then dwell on our felt desire for air, water, the warmth of fire, the presence of earth and our desire for meaningful relational existence. We may remember that we are united in this desire with each other, with all who have gone before us, and with all who come after us. We may recognize it as an essential longing, sometimes nameless, sometimes constellated, experienced physically – as the Desire of “the Universe – desiring in us”.
And we may contemplate and find within ourselves Desirability, our own beauty – Cosmic Beauty, instead of cosmetic beauty: we may fall in love with this small self, recognising it as a love for all being. Aphrodite and many Goddesses often hold mirrors, gazing at Themselves: it is a holy recognition of Who She really is and Who all beings are. It is not a “vanity” as it is often described by dualistic and patriarchally affected minds, but deep Cosmic recognition of Herself.
What if we were to recognize ourselves as the “beauty of the green Earth and the white Moon among the stars and the mystery of the waters”? Would that make a difference to how we relate to the green Earth and the Moon and the Waters – to all? Desire brings us back into relationship: like “gravity”, the cosmic dynamic that links us to our place, holds us on this Earth and keeps the planets circling the Sun: Desire holds us in relationship. We may merge beyond artificial boundaries. It is a felt power of belonging in this Universe, on this Earth.
Summer Solstice, the seasonal moment following Beltaine, continues the theme of the passionate embrace of Beloved and Lover. This Seasonal Moment marks the peaking of the light, a maturing of this Love, the peaking of fulfilment and creativity, a ripening – just as the fruits and grains ripen: thus it is also the turning into the dark, the dissolving of being, the “birth” of the dark … as self is given away, merges with other, just as the fruit and grain is eaten, and as the Sun begins its “decline”, its journey back to the North (in the Southern Hemisphere). This is the revelation of the Summer Solstice: our passions fulfilled and released may feed the world. We are each the Bread of Life. This is in direct contrast to Christmas which is being celebrated in the consumer and Christian world at this time of year in Australia (ostensibly a celebration of the evergreen Promise of Life, the hope of new beginnings). Summer Solstice is a celebration of endings, the sacred return of the Fulfilled Promise – an opening into the larger self, the Dark Matter/Mater who is the Source of All. I call Summer Solstice the great Omega.
The cross quarter seasonal point that follows the peaking of light is Lammas – the “feast of the Bread”. It may be named Late Summer (though it is the first Autumn Moment) … temperatures are still hot, usually more so, the dark part of the day is clearly lengthening. So, it has traditionally been the time for the ceremonial marking of the harvest of life, the “sacrifice” or “making sacred” as this term means – a celebration of the Old One, the forgiving and generous Space Who receives all. She may be understood as the All-Nourishing Abyss from Whom life springs and to Whom life returns. We may open to the embrace of the Larger Deeper Self, in whom we are immersed: that is, we may re-dedicate our lives to deep purpose, trusting Her knowing which is beyond all knowledge. The Seasonal journey into the Dark begins.
Beltaine, Summer Solstice and Lammas are intimately connected. They are each an aspect of the creative dynamic that brings all being to fullness, and in that very achievement, dissolves it all, returns it whence it came. This creatively connected flow from the light space of Beltaine, through the great Omega of Summer Solstice to the dissolution of Lammas is a dynamic that may be identified poetically with the three phases of the ancient Goddess – Virgin, Mother and Crone respectively – but is essentially a Cosmological Creative Dynamic, continuous sacred Triple Spiral, in Whom we participate.
© Glenys Livingstone Ph.D. 2007 (slightly edited in 2014).
fn 2. Michael Dames, Ireland: a Sacred Journey, Element Books, 2000, p.199.
fn 3. Brian Swimme, The Universe is a Green Dragon, Santa Fe: Bear & Co., 1984.
fn 4. Brian Swimme uses this expression in Canticle to the CosmosDVD series), # 2 and 10.
fn 5. Doreen Valiente, The Charge of the Goddess.
fn 6. This is a term used by Brian Swimme to name the quantum vacuum, The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, NY:Orbis, 1996.