There is no one right way of honouring midsummer, or the summer solstice. Some groups like to meet for the sunrise, some will sit up all night to greet it. Others favour midday gatherings when the sun is at the height of its power, or will keep watch through the day.
These long days at the light end of the year can be intense, wakeful times. There’s a process of moving through the longest days, so I think of this period – from the 21st to the 24th as being the summer’s solar festival time, rather than focusing too much on a specific date. Beyond this short span of days lies the inevitable slow slide back towards winter. It’s the turning point of the year, the time that many sources will tell us we should be feeling high energy and making our plans into reality. Of course in practice life does not always follow the seasons that neatly. The seasons, for that matter, don’t always follow the seasons.
In previous years I have sat up on hillsides to greet the dawn. It’s a soulful thing to do, with long hours in which to contemplate. I considered doing so this year, but the amount of rain round here would have made the process physically hard, and I don’t feel equal to it. Some years I’ve been able to handle the lost night, but I’m sleep hungry, so I went with that. The birds work me with a chorus at dawn – they don’t always, but this morning I surfaced and listened. On a high hill with no tree cover, you don’t get much of a dawn chorus, but at Stonehenge on Salisbury plain, the larks rise up and sing with the sun – which is an experience all by itself.
What am I celebrating? Without ritual, without a working group. I’m very attuned to the light and each passing day resonates with me – I’ve always lived closer to nature so I don’t personally need the festivals as reminders to tune in. The height of the sun’s powers might be a thing to honour, except mostly it’s raining and my solar panel is not gathering much juice today. April felt more summery than this. The St John’s Wort is blooming though, along the sides of the roads, and the chicks who survived from early clutches start to look like adults.
Every day is an event in the life of the sun, part of the cycle, and a moment worth marking. I find it increasingly hard to work up enthusiasm for ‘focal points’. It’s different when you have a group to work with – shared celebration being as much about community, bardcraft and joy as it is about nature. In terms of private practice, I’m not honouring the sun any more today than I did yesterday or will tomorrow. I shall be very glad when it shows up to be honoured in person! It’s been a June monsoon for me.
Whatever you celebrate, and however you choose to do it, I think the most important thing is to know why. Don’t go through the motions because some book on paganism or Druidry told you to. That’s hollow. Celebrate what you find meaningful. And if it doesn’t speak, don’t be afraid to admit it. The eight festivals do not make a Druid. They are a thing to start from, to be aware of, but not to be ruled by. You could turn up to every one of them and never feel anything akin to Druidry stir within your soul. Or you could wander the fields at the times when you feel called to, and find your own truth. Do what works.
Finally, there’s a bit of blue sky out there, and perhaps the gods of sun and solar panels will smile on me, and let me do a little work today.