This essay is an edited excerpt from Chapter 5 of the author’s book PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion.
Dates for Summer Solstice:
Southern Hemisphere – December 20-23
Northern Hemisphere – June 20-23
The “moment of grace”that is Summer Solstice, marks the stillpoint in the height of Summer, when Earth’s tilt and orbit cause the Sun to begin its decline – its movement back to the North. This Seasonal Moment is polar opposite Winter Solstice when it is light that is “born”. At the peak of Summer, in the bliss of expansion, it is the dark that is “born”. It is a celebration of profound mystical significance, that in a culture where the dark is not valued for its creative telios, may be confronting.
The purpose for the seasonal gathering is stated thus, in my own adaptation of Starhawk’s version:
This is the time of Summer Solstice in our hemisphere when the light part of the day is longest. In our part of the world, light is in Her fullness, She spreads Her radiance, Her fruits ripen, Her greenery is peaking, the cicadas sing. Yet as light reaches Her peak, our closest contact with the Sun, She opens completely, and the seed of darkness is born.
As it says in the tradition, this is the season of the rose, blossom and thorn, fragrance and blood. The story of Old tells that on this day Beloved and Lover embrace, in a love so complete, that all dissolves, into the single Song of ecstasy that moves the worlds. Our bliss, fully matured, given over, feeds the Universe and turns the wheel. We join the Beloved and Lover, and Earth, Moon and Sun, in the Great Give-Away of our Creativity, our Fullness of Being.
Summer is a time for celebrating our realized Creativity, whose birth we celebrated at Winter, whose tenderness we dedicated ourselves to at Imbolc, whose certain presence and power we rejoiced in at Eostar, whose fertile passion we danced with at Beltaine. Now, at this seasonal point, as we celebrate light’s fullness, we celebrate our own ripening – like that of the wheat, and the fruit. And like the wheat and the fruit, it is the Sun that is in us, that has ripened – the Sun is the Source of our every thought and action. The analogy is complete in that our everyday Creativity and we ourselves are ultimately also Food for the Universe. Like the Sun and the wheat and the fruit, we find the purpose of our Creativity in the releasing of it; just as our breath must be released for its purpose of Life. The symbolism used to express this is the giving of a full rose or flower of choice to the flames. We, and our everyday Creativity are given over. In this way we each are the Bread of Life; just as many other indigenous traditions recognize everyday acts as evoking “the ongoing creation of the cosmos”, so in this tradition, Summer is the time for particularly celebrating that. Our everyday lives, moment to moment, are built on the fabric of the work/creativity of the ancestors and ancient creatures that went before us. So the future is built on ours. We celebrate the blossoming of Creativity then, and the bliss of it, at a time when Earth is pouring forth Her abundance, giving it away. We aspire to follow Her example. In this cosmology, what is given is the self fully realized and celebrated, not a self that is abnegated – just as the fruit gives its full self: as Starhawk says, “Oneness is attained not through losing the self, but through realizing it fully.”
Summer Solstice is a celebration of the fullness of the Mother – in ourselves, in Earth, in the Cosmos. It is the ripening of Her manifestation, which fulfills itself in the awesome act of dissolution. It is a celebration of Communion, the feast of Life – which is for the enjoying, not for the holding onto. I represent this Seasonal Moment on my Wheel of the Year with a horseshoe, because its yonic shape may represent Goddess’ “Great Gate”, Her gateway, as many cultures understood it, some building sacred sites in that shape. It is also the shape of the last letter of the Greek alphabet, Omega, literally ‘great O’, a great ending, a consummation. Summer Solstice is such a Gateway. At this interchange, the Virgin/Young One’s face has passed through the Mother into the Crone/Old One. The process of the three Seasonal Moments of Beltaine, Summer Solstice and Lammas, as a group, may be felt as the three faces/qualities of Cosmogenesis in the movement towards entropy.
© Glenys Livingstone 2018.
For a PaGaian Summer Solstice/Litha
(Track 1 and 2, CD 3 of PaGaian Cosmology Meditations)
And in Australia and some other global locations the heat usually increases after Summer Solstice, so the inhabitant frequently has the experience of wanting to close out the heat and light and enter the relief of the dark.
Starhawk The Spiral Dance, p.189, with additions from p.219 where she describes Summer Solstice as “the Give-Away time of the Sun.”
This is a metaphor I learnt from Brian Swimme, Canticle to the Cosmos, video 5.
This also resonates with Summer being the season of fires, and something could be made of that in the ceremony.
Charlene Spretnak, States of Grace: The Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age, p.95.
Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p. 27.
Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths andSecrets, p.414.
Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. NE: iUniverse, 2005
Spretnak, Charlene.States of Grace: The Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1993.
Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. NY: Harper and Row, 1989.
Swimme, Brian. Canticle to the Cosmos. DVD series, 1990.
Walker, Barbara. The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983.