A Ritual of Ease for Midsummer

My circle met at my home yesterday.

I’ve been circling with the same group for 27 years as of this upcoming Hallows (Samhain). We started as a group of six, and over time have expanded to ten, but all the original members are still here. It’s pretty remarkable.

Dark Sun circle is my family. I don’t have blood family any more, so they are it when it comes to celebration of holidays, sharing of confidences, shared grief and celebration. We’ve been through marriages and divorces, all sorts of life changes. Thankfully, no deaths, yet.

So it was wonderful to see them. We’re kind of far-flung, so we only get together every 8 weeks or so, and each time is a celebration, with great food and drink. Usually, we do a ritual for the season or for some other needed purpose. But this time, we didn’t.

That wasn’t really an accident. I had racked my brain about what kind of sun-honoring ritual we might do when the circle came up, but all I can see of the summer solstice is the Season of Ease, with abundant fruits and vegetables, the hard work of the fall harvests not yet upon us, the days long with languid evenings of temperate breezes.

To sit in the back yard in a circle of chairs, to eat stonefruits and new garden vegetables and roasted meat and drink wine and feel the soft breeze and catch up with the dearest people in my world: that was the Midsummer ritual that felt best and most appropriate to me.

My point, I suppose, is that ritual doesn’t always have to be Ritual with a capital “R”. There is certainly a time for more formal ceremonial celebration (what some in my circle sometimes call “waving a stick around”), but social gatherings are their own kinds of rituals, with welcoming, creation of a container, working, resolution and departure.

Enjoy the long days, my friends (if you’re on the northern half of the planet). They pass soon enough, and must be seized while they’re here.

Happy Midsummer!


Moon Meet—the first Pagan gathering focused specifically on the paths of Atheopagans and other non-theist Pagans—will be held Aug. 4-6. It’s time to register!

Moon Meet takes place in the redwood forests of Sonoma County, California, on private land near the city of Healdsburg. Directions will be sent to registrants in early July.  The event is priced at only $90, which includes five meals! Two nights and two full days of workshops, ritual creation, celebration, fellowship and creativity, in a beautiful part of the world. For details, go here.

To sign up for Moon Meet, click here to go to the Brown Paper Tickets site and register. It’s going to be a great time, and I hope to see you there!

Potok and the Hundred-Thousand Year Fire—A Campfire Tale

There was a night—long, long ago—when we had captured fire.

This was many years before we knew how to make it. We found it in a tree which had been struck by lightning, carried it in a gourd to where we made a camp.

And that night, we gathered around where the fire was fed to grow fat and snapping. We saw one another’s faces in the flickering light, and felt the warmth even in the dead of night.

It was a miracle. No predator would dare come near. And we were all together, in a circle, about the dancing, magical fire.

One night, meat was plentiful. A man named Potok had killed a cave bear after a fierce battle. Our bellies were full and grease hissed in the fire, and when we had eaten, Potok stood and told his tale: how he had lured the bear and crept upon it, how his spear went deep, and then he leapt upon the bear with his flint knife. The bear’s fangs hung, fresh and bloody, from a thong about his neck.

We cheered and ate some more.

The next winter, Potok died. We buried him with the bear fangs. But that night at the fire, and many nights thereafter, we told the tale of Potok and the bear.

And the tale, as tales will, grew in the telling.

There followed many fires.

We took fire into caves. We drew the bear, and the cave lion, and the aurochs and the bull. Again and again we returned, our torches flaring, to blow ochre against our hands, flattened against the wall, signifying, we were here.

And we told the tale of Potok. We spoke his name over our weapons before we hunted. Before long, we were asking Potok to help us in the hunt. As if he were still alive.

As if he still existed.

And the tale, as tales will, grew in the telling.

There were fires, and fires, and fires.

We brought them into our houses. We built cities and learned to plant crops in rows.

Circles became lines. And Potok was joined by warriors and heroes and lovers and queens and kings and demons and angels and devils and djinn and ifrit.

Until at last they all rolled into one. One hallowed name. And the fires dwindled to tiny candle flames.

But still we gathered. Still we whispered the sacred name. Even as we gathered to kill one another.

Until—gradually, very slowly—we didn’t.

We learned. We brought our fire into laboratories and harnessed it for engines and turbines and rockets. We found that they flew just as truly, even when we did not invoke the name of Potok.

And so many of us left him behind. In growing numbers, the people no longer spoke the name of a Being who had once been Potok.

Which brings us to this night. This fire.

At a time when we are finally forgetting the name of Potok.

This fire is a place for us to remember the look of each others’ faces in firelight. To gaze upward to the Moon, remembering: we went there. To celebrate anew our humanity, our lives on this generous world, now that Potok no longer distracts us from it.

One day, generations in the future, the tale may be told of this fire. Of this gathering.

Of the People Who No Longer Needed Potok.

It is unlikely that our names will be remembered, but the fact that we gathered at this fire may be. The fact that we began to build the culture of those who celebrate living, who revere the Sacred Cosmos, who bind to one another in community and family…all without Potok.

And that tale, in all likelihood, will grow with the telling. For that fire will burn not here, no.

Look up. To the stars.

That fire may well burn up there. Where people will tell their tales of how we sallied forth, armed with knowledge and filled with reverence, to the sky.