As the sun completes is southward journey, it rests briefly over the Tropic of Capricorn before moving northward again. When it enters the astrological sign of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere, we know that the sun is at its highest and brightest, and that the time of the summer solstice has arrived. However, as I write this, rain is starting to fall – but that is okay, the garden is grateful in receiving whatever rain is about at this time of the year.
For the Ngarrindjeri people of the lower Murray River and Coorong in South Australia, the warmth associated with Luwadang continues. As the sun increases in strength, it dries the land, allowing it to be haunted by the call of ravens, the bird that is often associated with death in many cultures around the world.
Within contemporary witchcraft, the God, in his guise as the Sun or Solar God, is now at the height of his power. Ever increasingly, he has been letting us know of his strength. This show comes at a cost and while it will be some time before we actually notice, from the summer solstice onwards, the power of the Sun God slowly begins to wane. This darkness, however, is not perceived in a negative sense, because it is needed to ensure the fertility of the land. Still, in doing so, the Sun God sows the seeds of his own death.
The Goddess is depicted as either showing the early signs of pregnancy from her union at Bealtaine with the God (the fertility cycle of the divine does not necessarily follow the same allotted time of humans), glowing as many expectant mothers do, or her pregnancy is well advanced (as depicted by the Empress found within many tarot decks). All around us the earth shows its magnificent bounty, full of life and busy with activity. Flowers are in full bloom, bees buzz around the garden busily collecting pollen for the production of honey. It is said a sign of a healthy garden is the number of bees that it attracts.
The Goddess, in her aspect as the Mother, Gaia, is on the verge of sharing her bounty with us. However, there is also a death in life aspect at this time of the year that is often overlooked. We humans, regardless of our spiritual beliefs in the afterlife, still tend to fear the process of death, the transition from one plane to another.
Within the bountiful produce are the seeds that will sustain life, feeding us throughout the colder months as well as being available for planting in the Spring to repeat the cycle. After the pollination and fertilization of the beautiful flowers we so admire, they will die. But this is the natural cycle of things, of life. In their death, the flowers release their previous seeds that fall to earth in order to create new life. It can be difficult to connect to the fact that the time of waxing is coming to an end and the waning time is almost upon us when we are surrounded by so much bounty and life seems to be at its fullest.
Summer is a time of beauty and love, energy and strength, and rejoicing in the warmth of the sun. Daylight saving time encourages us to spend longer hours outdoors, often socialising with family and friends. As we enjoy this carefree time, celebrating life and the triumph of light, we do not want to think about the rest of the cycle, that of death, as we will be reminded of that only too readily when the temperatures continue to climb skyward.
The above is an excerpt from Dancing the Sacred Wheel by Frances Billinghurst.
The summer solstice is a time to reflect on the growth of the season – not only the seeds that have been planted within the earth but also those planted within our own souls. It is also a time of cleansing and renewal, a time of celebrating creativity in all its many expressions, as well as joyous love and growth that surrounds us.
(by Cheryl Ban, 1998)
Brown earth lay blanketed beneath
the weight of white snow
People hold within their heart
the promise of light
Light that overcomes the night
That burns a hole
all the way to the hot dry summer fields
The hope that the light holds in winter
becomes in summer
the knowing of the sun’s pathway back again
We poise on the edge of these great turnings
Balanced night and day
Ah for a moment …