A Solar Reflection

It’s the day after Midsummer—at least, here in the Northern Hemisphere—and it’s hot and sunny, as one would expect. Meanwhile, the chaos weather of global climate change goes on: Banff had 25 cm of snow last night.

I had a quiet Midsummer: set out my Sun Broom to soak up the sun and wove some additional lengths of wild rye into it; contemplated my Focus for awhile.  The day became very hot and we mostly lay about under a fan with our clothes off.

These are the longest days of the year, and those many hours of daylight bring a sense of possibility with them: so much time to do things, so much potential. And yet there is also a feeling of leisure, of relaxation: with so much time, why rush?

For myself, around now is when I feel the urgency of the world recede. It’s not that it isn’t there—witness the horrific concentration camps the Trump kakistocracy is jamming migrant children and families into, and the latest news on global warming—but for a moment, it seems with these warm and luxurious days, the oppressiveness of the news and the facts of our global situation recedes. And I feel almost…optimistic?

Yes, crashes are coming—or, rather, in progress: an economic crash as capitalism collapses under its own metastasized weight; an ecological crash as the planet warms, biological communities unravel and mass extinctions take place; and a human population crash as our ability to flog food out of the soil deteriorates with increasing climate chaos, rising oceans drive waves of climate refugees into areas that can’t support them, and idiot xenophobia keeps migrant agricultural workers away from the crops they would otherwise pick.

Yes, that’s happening.

Still, I look at what is happening in culture and I can’t help but to be encouraged. Awareness—and disapproval—of racism, sexism and homophobia are skyrocketing as older generations die off. People who embrace those ideas are kicking up dust right now, but they’re dying, and good riddance. And credulity in gods and the supernatural is plummeting. It’s going to take awhile, but people who believe in evidence and critical thinking and the social contract are on the ascendant.

And then, there’s us. We naturalistic, Earth-revering Pagans, including Atheopagans.

We are, I believe, collectively forming the embodied and implemented answer to the age-old conflict between science and religion: between loyalty to the factual truth and feeding the parts of ourselves that need stories, and rituals, and meaning.

And we’re doing so around values of kindness, inclusiveness, wonder and joy, both lived and advocated for.

I believe that counts for something in the world. I believe that the healthier we are as people, the louder our voices for those healthy and kind and Earth-loving values are, the more of an impact we have, even in the midst of the crashes.

People are tenacious. They are singularly difficult to extirpate, even in an ecological collapse. Inevitably, survivors migrate to somewhere more benign and set up shop, with their innovative minds and clever adaptations, and they make a go of it once again.

I intend and believe that our values and practices are informed by the lessons of history: that they are what we need to bring forward into the new cultures that will be born after capitalistic consumer culture can no longer be sustained.

So, as I said: optimistic. The long days leave me looking at Long Time, and understanding that a time of collapse and damage and ignorance isn’t the end of the story. Rather, it is an opportunity to begin writing the coming chapters.

Thank you for joining this journey with me—for helping to inform and develop Atheopagan culture and practice. Even here at the ends of many things, we are not powerless, and we are not defeated.

I’ll close with a chant I wrote for fire circle rituals, and sing pretty often (I’ll put up a YouTube video with the tune tomorrow, if anyone is interested):

We believe in a better world
We believe in justice
We believe in a better world
We believe in peace
We believe in a better world
We can heal our Planet

We won’t bow down.

We won’t bow down.

The Sun Broom—A Ritual Tool

The Sun broom is both a Midsummer ritual and a tool you can use ritually around the year.

You will need:

  • A piece of tree branch for a handle. Don’t hurt a tree; go for a hike and find something that has already fallen to the ground.
  • Thin ribbon or strong twine for binding grasses to the handle.
  • A bunch of long strands of dry grass.

I harvest the grass at the height of the day on Midsummer—the peak of the power of the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere. In my particular area, wild oats grow very tall, so I use those, mostly. I bind them to the handle with the ribbon, singing we all come from the infinite Sun, forever and ever and ever. 

Be certain to bind the grasses tightly to the handle—they may look dry but will dry out further and shrink. Otherwise the grass bundle could fly off the handle in mid-use, which undermines the solemnity of the enterprise.

Once constructed, I leave the broom to sit in the Sun until sunset on Midsummer, “charging” in the high summer Sun.

The next day, use your Sun broom to virtually “sweep” your home, moving from room to room and sweeping the air to bring light and warmth to every corner. You might sing (or hum) “Here Comes the Sun” or “I Can See Clearly Now” while doing so.

This is a ritual I like to repeat in the dead of winter. When things start feeling really gray and cold, it feels good to trot out the Sun broom and give the house a once-over, remembering summer and warmth. And you can always use it if things around the house are feeling icky and need some of that cleansing, illuminating sunshine.

The Sun broom is a great tool for drawing a circle to create sacred space at the beginning of the Midsummer ritual, too…or any time it feels like the Sun’s power would be welcome. The Sun broom is a prominent part of my Midsummer ritual Focus, as well.

The next year, do it again! Unwrap the bindings and let last year’s grasses go back into the Earth, and cut a new bundle to rebind your broom.

Enjoy your Sun broom, and may it bring you a sense of strength and power and warming light throughout the year!

Summer

Though weather varies widely across the planet, of course, the traditional meaning of May Day in Europe was “the beginning of Summer”. Thus, the summer solstice was termed “Midsummer”, et cetera. Here in the U.S. the unofficial beginning of summer is a little later, with the passage of Memorial Day at the end of May.

Here in the Mediterranean climate of coastal northern California, our hills are now turning from green to gold as the grasses go to seed and turn tawny. It is the signal that summer has truly arrived, and we have days to match: 70s and low 80s, not quite hot enough yet to provoke the fog cycle which will soon draw moist air in from over the ocean and blanket us with fog during the morning, burning off to sunshine in the afternoon.

Summer is a time with many meanings, most of them pedestrian: it is vacationing time and barbecuing time and the summer break in children’s schooling. In many places, it is the season of stifling heat and or swarming insects as cold-blooded invertebrates take advantage of the heat to complete their life cycles. We’re lucky here; we have some days in the 100s, but they cool off at night, and mostly it’s a pleasant, shirtsleeve-weather kind of time.

For those who grow our food, however, it is a time of hard work. Sowing is done, but stewarding the crops until they are ready for harvest is an ongoing effort, and those raising animals must keep them adequately cooled and watered. It is no surprise that people all over the world greet the season of harvest with feasts and parties: for all the hard work of bringing in the harvests, the wealth of delicious food that results is grounds for celebration.

It bears saying, of course, that south of the equator we are approaching the darkest and coldest time of the year, as well. There, the holy Sun is missed, longed for, and its return avidly awaited. There, it is nearly Yule.

While we in our Atheopagan practices celebrate the summer season with Midsummer, for many of us summer is already here. The Season of the Sacred Sun is upon us.

Whose warm love flows across the land each day

Stirring Life, the world’s magic, arms yearning up,

Turning each green leaf to follow. Whose generous balm

Upon the skin is love’s touch, ahhhhhh heated fingers soothing,

Whose roar boils water from ocean to sky

Drawing sweet from salt, becoming rain, snow, river, lake;

Whose fervid beat upon us may be deadly, and yet

Contemplating cold stars how we miss it, the Golden One, quotidian center

Of our days, steady companion, sower of treasures great and small:

Light-bringer, Life-quickener, dazzling, unbearably bright,

Hail, oh hail the magnificent Sun!