We’re now in the long, golden days of the Northern Hemisphere summer, approaching the very longest day: Midsummer.
Historically, for those of us whose forebears are European, this was the time of year when grain crops were in the fields and not yet ready to harvest, but fruits and early vegetables were plentiful along with milk and meat. Though our ancestors lived lives of hard toil, this time of year was easier than any other: long, warm days with not that much to do but gather the day’s food and tend to the animals.
So what do humans do when they have time available? They play, and they create art and culture! Just as the indigenous people of the Northwest Pacific coast became the most artistically prolific people of North America because they had nothing to do during their long winters of rain but to create art, so the people of Europe passed the time of Midsummer in song, dance, and other forms of cultural creation.
It is for this reason that I chose to make Summer’s End, at the beginning of August, a celebration of art and technology in the Atheopagan Wheel of the Year. The creations of the period of Midsummer will be completed by Summer’s End, and can be contemplated, admired and used in the working of rituals.
In my area, the period of Midsummer is characterized by early mornings of coastal fog that burn off to sparkling, temperate days. We may have the occasional day in the 90s or even higher, but most are in the high 70s to low 80s: perfect, liquid air delicious on the skin, which makes clothing feel completely unnecessary. A great time for lounging in a hammock under a spreading tree, drinking a cool beverage, and reflecting on the great gift that this life can be.
For the past several years, we have held a fairy-themed costume party on or around the Summer Solstice—a “Midsummer night’s eve”—entitled the Court of Titania. Held in a remote redwood-forested area in the coastal mountains, the party features “fairy bowers” decorated with appropriate objects and twinkling lights for visiting and conversing, and “dancing in the air”–a dance floor high atop a building, with redwoods towering all around, lit only by white Christmas lights spiraled around the railing. It’s tremendous fun, and goes all night.
So I encourage you to enjoy this kindest of seasons, when school is out and days are warm and life is less of a struggle than it is a pleasure. A gracious and happy Midsummer to all!
Here, in the spirit of Midsummer playfulness, is a Summer Solstice Carol:
Midsummer Carol (Tune: Deck the Halls)
Mow the lawn and trim the yew hedge! ! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Break, and have a frosty beverage! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Mount the chaise lounge and the hammock! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Toast the year with gin and tonic! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Dive the cooling pool before us! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Dance the sun down with the Morris! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Sizzling food is on the Barbie! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Maybe play a game of bocce! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Hit the road for a vacation! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Now’s the time for recreation! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Time for folly and adventure! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
‘Fore we return to indenture! Fa la la la la, la la la la!
Image: Sun image from the Temple of Aquae Sulis (“Waters of the Sun”), Bath, England