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June 20 summer solstice

by Pat Hacker | June 17, 2003

Summer solstice, or midsummer, is the celebration of the union between the earth and sun, of fullness and completion. It is a good time to entertain chance – so make a wish, toss a coin into a fountain or buy a lottery ticket.

The earth and the generous mother goddesses are in a giving mood. Remember always that asking and receiving are balanced by thanks and offering. Let us always return to the earth some of what we take; leave a bit of food, some meal or grain, and a silent ritual of acknowledgment and appreciation.

Each day since the cold darkness of December, by minutes and seconds, the days have grown longer, the earth has wakened, warmed by the sun, ready to restore life, and the glorious cycle continues its rounds as the earth and sun do their passionate dance of fulfillment.

The summer solstice is the half-way mark in the ever-turning wheel of time and change, of beginnings and endings that open to new beginnings. This is the celebration of energy, passion, fire and heat. The sun’s energy is the life-affirming principle. Like the hen that sits on the chicks, it is the warmth of the sun that seeds, sprouts, plants and flowers respond to; they are enticed by the sun’s heat to leave the dark protection of the earth and make their way into the light.

After June 21, the days will begin to shorten and we will start the gradual descent from a time of bright light to a time of inwardness and darkness.

If we use the story of Persephone and Demeter, it is a rich metaphor for the cycles of life for each turn of the wheel of the year and for the similarities of women’s histories and lives throughout time.

In the story of Persephone and Demeter, there is the powerful mother/daughter relationship, there is political reality and male bonding, there are at least two connections between women and our relationship to food, there is longing, depression, separation, desperation, power negotiating with the highest male authority, and reunion.

At this time of year, in the story of Demeter and Persephone, the beautiful young girl, Persephone, playing in a meadow with friends, takes the first steps of straying too far from her mother. The god Hades already has his eye on Persephone, but there will be some time yet before he abducts her and her mother, Demeter, begins searching the earth for her daughter.

The summer solstice is the time of year when women are said to be strongest. The earth and the sun are matched in strength, fullness, promise and power.

Gather your friends together and prepare for ritual.

ritual
  1. This ritual needs to be celebrated outdoors, if possible. If you have a safe and private space for your ritual, it is most beautiful when done sky-clad, bathed only in the light of the moon. On June 21, the waning moon will be two days away from the new moon. If you are able to celebrate your ritual sky clad, it is probably best to have only women in the circle. It will be easier to concentrate on the ritual.
  2. In the event of stinging insects like mosquitoes, have someone stop at a nursery or plant shop and buy lemon-scented citronella plant. Rub the leaf of the plant on your body and it will keep pesky insects away. It will also make you smell pleasant. If you have any Roman wormwood growing in your garden – also called Artemesia, the plant of Artemis – it also works well as an insect repellent by rubbing it on your body.
  3. Prepare your altar at the centre of the circle around or at the south end of your fire pit. Bring objects for the solstice blessing that represent your desires for healing, success, prosperity, love, personal power, growth, manifesting or whatever else you want.
  4. When everyone is ready to begin, and the space in which the ritual is to take place has been prepared, including the centre of the circle or the altar, ask one of the women, preferably the oldest in the group, if willing, to lead the group in making the circle. She, as convenor, will symbolically sweep with a besom (witch’s broom) or any broom you have, gently passing it back and forth in front of her, symbolizing the purification of the circle and the elimination of any negative energy. While sweeping, the leader may say: “With this besom tool I draw, the sacred circle round, time and space contained within, will not to now be bound.”
  5. Once the circle is formed, the convenor or priestess will cast the circle and call in the four elements of earth, fire, water and air, remembering the manner in which each element is special to summer: the sun’s warmth is the fire that heats the earth, the water makes the soil ready for seeds that may be cast by the wind. She can then invite in the goddesses and spirits that you need to make your celebration. Remember always that when we make ritual, we make magic, that our ritual brings change and that we are shape shifters. The power and responsibility of our ritual-making is awesome.
  6. We are flooded with energy from the sun and we are in the presence of the moon. Begin a chant “She changes everything she touches, and everything she touches changes,” swaying and dancing slowly, at first, around the circle, using the chant for a meditation and for bringing the circle into a oneness of spirit, mood and energy. The energy of the dance may intensify until everyone is laughing and breathless.
  7. Into the solstice fire, send your wishes by calling a single word, or by silently sending your thought and wish, or by preparing in advance pieces of paper which you may want to cast into the fire so that the wishes are taken up with the smoke and heat.
  8. For this particular festival, the summer solstice, bring your feasting and libation into the circle and let it be part of your ritual. Eat fresh fruits, juicy mango, peach, melon, watermelon or grapes, plums, pineapple or apples. Bring sweets, juices, wine or beer, not for drunkenness but for ritual celebration. Remember to share your food with the earth by leaving a small amount of food at the base of trees for faeries or on the ground for the goddess.
  9. Spend your time eating and drinking and talking about women’s lives. One member of the group may have prepared a story about a woman in history, or the story of a goddess such as Demeter and her daughter Persephone, or about a family member or an ancestor. Honour each woman’s strength and history through the continuum of women’s lives from past to present, from your ancestors to you and from you to your daughters and granddaughters.
  10. The convenor opens the circle and thanks and releases the elements. You may find yourselves sitting outside most of the night talking. Bring a few blankets along and maybe a thermos of coffee or tea.

Blessed be!

resources for this story

calendars

  • Witches’ Calendar, Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
  • Return of the Goddess Annual Date Books, by BURLEIGH MUTÉN, Stewart Tabori & Chang, New York (for submissions of poetry or slides of artwork, email Burleigh Mutén @ goddess@crocker.com)

National Film Board of Canada films directed by Donna Reed

  • Goddess Remembered
  • The Burning Times
  • Full Circle

books

  • The Goddess Workbook: A Guide to the Feminine Spiritual Experience, by JILL FAIRCHILD and REGINA SCHAARE, The Great Goddess Press, Portland, Maine | 1993
  • Return of the Great Goddess, by BURLEIGH MUTÉN, Stewart Tabori & Chang, New York (for submissions of poetry or slides of artwork, email Burleigh Mutén @ goddess@crocker.com)
  • Book of Greek Myths, by INGRI and EDGAR PARIN D’AVLAIRE, Doubleday | 1962
  • Drawing Down the Moon, by MARGOT ADLER, Beacon Press, Boston | 1992
  • A Woman’s Book Of Rituals and Celebrations, by BARBARA ARDINGER, New World Library, San Rafael, CA, Second edition | 1995
  • The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, by ZSUZSANNA BUDAPEST, Winghbow Press, Berkeley, CA
  • Rites of Passage, The Pagan Wheel of Life, by PAULINE CAMPANELLI, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN | 1994
  • Wheel of the Year, Living the Magical Life, by PAULINE CAMPANELLI, Llewellyn Publications, fifth printing | 1995
  • Ancient Ways, Reclaiming Pagan Traditions, by PAULINE CAMPANELLI, Llewellyn Publications, fourth printing | 1993
  • Wicca, A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner, by SCOTT CUNNINGHAM, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN | 1993
  • The Great Cosmic Mother, by BARBARA MOR and MONICA SJOO, Harper Row | 1989
  • Arladne’s Thread A Workbook of Goddess Magic, by SHEKHINAH MOUNTAINWATER, The Crossing Press, Freedom CA | 1991
  • Women-Church, by ROSEMARY RADFORD RUETHER, Harper and Row, San Francisco, CA | 1990
  • Encyclopedia of White Magic, by PADDY SLADE, Hamlyn Press, London | 1990
  • The Spiral Dance, by STARHAWK, Harper Collins, San Francisco, CA | 1991
  • The Women’s Spirituality Book, by DIANE STEIN, Llewellyn Publications
  • Jambalaya, by LULSAH TELSH, Harper Collins, San Francisco, CA | 1990
  • Women’s Rituals, by BARBARA WALKER, Harper and Row, New York, NY | 1990
  • The Women’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, by BARBARA WALKER, Harper and Row, San Francisco | 1990
  • Earth Magic: A Dianic Book of Shadows, by MARION WEINSTEIN, Phoenix Publishing Inc., Custer, WA | 1980

This feature was first published on section15.ca’s predecessor site CoolWomen.

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