[With the Summer Solstice just a week away, we decided to take a pause from our regular schedule and invite Erick DuPree back to share his thoughts on this seasonal celebration. DuPree is the author of Alone in Her Presence: Meditations on the Goddess and editor of Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral. He teaches heart-centered practices that unite breath to heart, inviting a holistic relationship with the Goddess. His writing can be found on his own website as well as on the Patheos Pagan Channel.]
“Who made the world?” begins Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day …
“Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?”
As dawn rises over the horizon and into the warmth of possibility, the northern hemisphere approaches the Summer Solstice. For many people, this is the time of Helios, the sun g*d, the Oak King and of St. John. Here the masculine has triumphed anew. These are the days when the sunlight lazily lingers into a short balmy dream. Where the possibilities are seemingly as endless as the sun stands still in the sky.
Midsummer is not in my colloquial “wheelhouse” of Pagan holidays. The myths, legends, and wisdom traditions where, as Joseph Campbell describes, “mankind’s deep need to give g*d a name and face” have never been for me the names of Cernunnos, Lugh, Oak and Holly King or Ra. Those masculinized representations seem a foreign extrapolation of all things resonant, a dual binary not reflective of how I honor the world.So, imagine my trepidation when I was invited to write about Midsummer! Dare I attempt feebly to write about Litha? Or better still, some dilettante collection of musings about each Sun g*d? Well, I could always just write about the matriarchy… and the breath! Because that’s exciting, right?
“Is that all he ever writes about?” I can hear it now.
But there is still meaning in the sun and a lesson within our common lexicon that is Midsummer, even when how we come to know and experience Midsummer is different. It was Starhawk who reminds us,“Paganism has no litmus test for belief entry.” And so, I set out to write about Summer Solstice and, more directly, Midsummer.
For me, “who made the world” is always divinely feminine, even before I could identity what was distinctly different between “male” and “female.” Like a gravitational pull, that once was “alone, awesome, and complete within herself.” I have always known a generative nexus that is all Goddess. I recognize that this is not a common denominator within my Pagan community, or at times even a welcome one. Perhaps had I been born a cis-gendered woman, I’d be writing a very different article to a very different audience. Actually, I’d probably be married to an Evangelical Christian preacher, hosting a ladies luncheon on the actual solstice.
How we come into presence weaves our lives. For me, it all started while being the only guy participating in a group of all women of a certain age in the parish room of a Unitarian Universalist Church, and with a book called Cakes for the Queen of Heaven. Lead by a woman name Janice, she begrudgingly made the exception. A year later, she revealed another name to me, EveningStar, and explained there was more to The Spiral Dance than a book. She taught me to spiral dance, she gave me ecstatic ritual, and she called me priestess.
She was the one who first taught me to be in presence. The truth is, when I stand in the sun at Summer Solstices longest day, I am in presence. It is a reminder of the living, of growth, renewal, and generation. Summer Solstice lives in my heart (and I suspect the hearts of many Pagans and Heathens, regardless of praxis of belief or knowing) as a time to drink-in the glowing, our faces turning towards the radiance that is sunlight, and the cultivation of brightness and renewed warmth. I lean into the possibility of what can be, because the sunshine invites a newness that is possibility.
What might it be like to step into the sun from the shadows? Each ray of sun that comes foreword at this time of year feels like a hand extended and to beckoning me. To be unafraid of this light. I spent years hiding from the rays of the sun. What might they reveal? Ashamed to be seen. My body heartbroken and battered; and like so many, not good enough. Not for the beach or a pair of shorts or even a t-shirt? No dancing around a fire or merry making. There was no worshiping in a heart that rejoiced.
Yet Midsummer can be the healer because healing is the sun as She fills the shifting spaces of darkness with a new light of potentiality washing over pale forearms and faces. This is the promise of the sun as I take her hand and step out of the darkness of winter and allow myself to be held in the generative mother that is Goddess.To me, this too is the ultimate expression of Midsummer. This is where I can hear the speaking of the trees as I lean against bark, or nestle into the grass. Here taking a moment to breathe into Her sacred embrace that is All Goddess. The fertile Earth that has blossomed anew from the warmth of a sunlight, which has nourished Her fertile mantle some the beginning of time. The riches of seeds planted that feed and sustains all.
While cultures near and far have rituals and celebrations that occur on or around the midsummer, I come into this time with a simplicity that is knowing the Goddess as Earth Mother. It is here where I see the brightness of the sun reflected most. This matrifocal wellspring that is Goddess inviting the complicated curiosity to heal and nurture. You and I looking at Her. Where possibility is met with a maternal-like spaciousness that Midsummer creates.
I couldn’t write about the longest day and the warmest of night, and feel empowered to come out of the dark and step into the sun, without Goddess. That wouldn’t be me. Goddess is the reflection of the generative space that first appears when we take a deeper breath in, and a longer one out.The breath we have known from the beginning. From before we knew that we were actually breathing.
This isn’t about an obligation but rather the invitation to give permission to create space to explore to feel the light. This Midsummer’s dream is the revelation that is always the saving message when we turn toward the mother whom flows in, among, and around us to feel her warmth.Growing full. Inviting abundance. Shining from that place of limitless virtuosity. That which is All. That which invites hope. That which heals. That which says. “Come walk by me, in the sun and get comfortable.”
Mary Oliver continues…
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Solstice and Midsummer continue to invite the precious warmth of community. Each of us has pause to reflect on the things that draw us together. How like the sun, we can support each other; generative, growing, renewing, warm. Wildly imperfect, yet perfectly complete, this cycle is the continued moment we share together. For me, this is the generative promise Goddess gives our precious life.
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Oliver, Mary. “The Summer Day.” New And Selected Poems. Beacon Press: Boston 1993. 102-103. Print.