Summer Solstice. The time of fullness LIGHT; the day when, in this northern hemisphere, the Sun rises farthest north in the eastern sky, climbs up to the zenith, and then sets farthest north in the western sky. Opposite Winter Solstice. The time of emptiness, DARK.
Always, we are working to integrate opposites, contrast — within ourselves, between each other, from humans to earth, earth to sky. This time when culmination is reached DOES feel significant. As creatures who, like flowers, respond to the sun, we cannot help but feel the significance of the moment of solar fullness each year.
And this year was no exception. However, and it’s a big however! What we experienced during and leading up to our Summer Solstice evening event, was change, continuous change and adjustment — especially as regards the ceremony we were going to hold, and the relationship between our ceremony and the sky gods!
It started two weeks earlier, at our regular Thursday evening Community Dinner, when Mariella, Eva, Jackie, and me (Ann) agreed to work together to devise an appropriate Summer Solstice Ceremony for our Green Acres Village podmates, neighbors and friends to be held on the day of the Solstice, which just happened to fall on the 21st, Thursday, our regular dinner night. Okay.
So then about ten days ahead of the event I emailed the other three, and we had a lively email thread as to just what would take place and the prep we would need. Eva suggested that everyone receive their own individual flower. Mariella came up with a ceremony using symbols to honor the four elements: fire, earth, water, and air. I said I’d start it out by talking a bit about the astrology of the occasion, and suggested that shamanic drumming at the end would be good, with a short meditation to invoke group energy for balance. We all agreed that in this way we would be honoring both individual energy, plus our connection to the Earth and each other as a community.
Okay! Sounds good! Eva said she’d bring the flowers. Mariella said she’d come with candles (fire), salt (symbolic of earth) and sage (to purify air). We would each hold an individual candle, and then dip one finger into first, a common bowl of water, and then a common bowl of salt. We would then bless ourselves by touching our senses — eyes, ears, nose — to ask that we see, hear and smell accurately; our mouth, so that we speak truth; our heart so that we open to the world; our gut, so that we feel things correctly; our feet, so that we walk with sacred intent upon the Earth.
After the drumming meditation, we agreed that we would finish up by continuing to sit in a circle, and whoever wanted to say something could then do so.
Sounds good, eh? Maybe a little elaborate, but I was sure we could pull it off in about half an hour, starting after dinner.
Okay, and now the fun begins . . .
The day before, Eva emailed the three of us, saying she couldn’t come, nor could her children. Some kind of family difficulty. Then, a few hours later, Jackie emailed, to say that she was feverish, and sick, and wouldn’t be able to make it.
So . . . we’re down to Mariella and me. Okay. Well, the others had been the ones to give out flowers and arrange the earth, salt, water, etc., with Mariella and I the main officiants. Okay, we can still do this, just have to bring in other people to help. Wing it.
The next day, Solstice itself, the weather looked iffy; periodic thunderstorms the 24 hours before, and more promised. Hmmm. Should we set up on the patio? — or just plan on being inside. Let’s do both. Set up for either one. Make sure this house is clean, just in case.
Okay. All will be well, either way!
The time came. People started showing up, a few, as usual, whom we’ve never met before. In all about 28 or so people were there at least part of the time.
Yay! Here comes Mariella, with all the equipment we need for the ceremony —
— plus! Pisco sours (a Peruvian specialty), for all adults who want them.
And her kids, Juakim and Asiri. Yay! They haven’t been here for months, due to some kind of sports practice.
They can meet Coby, Payton’s sweet young brother, here from South Carolina..
Here we are, after dinner, discussing something. What? Possibly the fact that it is becoming obvious that a thunderstorm is moving in?
Just about then the thunder god spoke. Somebody yelled: “Everybody get inside, and bring something with you!” I.e., don’t leave the dishes, plates, cups, and silverware outside!
Okay. Within minutes, the dishes are all in, and we are milling about in the house, just the sky darkens dramatically and releases torrential rain.
Still time for ice cream! (Four people had brought five types of ice cream.) Here is Erin, a new person and Payton’s neighbor, who will bring her kids next time.
BTW: See the man in the background, above? That’s neighbor Devon, who had told me last week that he has extra sulfur that we could have to help with chiggers when working in the gardens (powdered agricultural sulfur: you load it into a sock, and then tie the sock beat your skin with the sock — that way the sulfur inside lasts a long time). I mentioned it to him again before dinner. He ran right home and got it. YES!
Somewhere in the melee, Kate, our drummer, told me that she wasn’t feeling well, and needed to leave. Oops! Okay, well then who will drum? Rebecca agreed to do it.
Meanwhile, we had already handed out the candles outside, but then I decided no, let’s not have candles inside. Too many of us; too dangerous. So we made another adjustment. One candle, on the table, along with water and salt for the ceremony.
Oops! Yet another change: We would stand rather than sit for the ceremony, since the space inside is so crowded.
Mariella and I were making these adjustments off the cuff, as the thunder gods kept rolling outside. By this time all our “carefully laid plans” had been severely tested — and altered. But the essence of the ceremony remained. And we were showing ourselves that we can bend with sudden unpredictable changes in mood, tone, setting, and protocol while remaining true to our original intent. A good lesson in these times of high uncertainty in all areas of life!
And yes, we carried it off without a hitch.
First, the preliminaries.
In the kitchen, Mariella and Rebecca decided to light the sage and wave it around ahead of time to clear the air.
Then I asked Asiri if she would collect all the candles as she handed people a flower instead. But first, take off the rubber band!
Okay, everybody, let’s circle up with our flowers, standing!
I then talked about the flowers as symbols of fullness, of this day of full bloom, Summer Solstice, which, by the way, I mentioned, has already passed, since the actual moment of Solstice, when the Sun passed into 0°00 Cancer, was at 6:07 AM EDT. From that moment on, darkness will increase little by little until Winter Solstice, December 21.
Right as I began there was another thunder boom. A big one. The sky was talking, and we were aware, laughing and excited to be engaged in the larger drama.
Then, Mariella, who was standing at the opposite end of our circle (our oval) —
— talked about the salt, the water, the sage, and the lit candle on the table, how they represent the elements, and our capacity to sense ourselves, each other, and the Earth under our feet. She asked us to each go to the bowl of water, dip our finger in it, then dip the same finger into the salt, then bless the various parts of our body (as specified above) with that finger, before moving on. So we did that. In a big line, not exactly reverent or quiet however. We were all so stirred up by the thunderstorm and our narrow escape from it.
Dario set the tone . . .
We begin, one by one, the line around the room and into the kitchen.
After we had all paraded through, I introduced the concept of meditating as we listen to the sound of the sacred drum, called “shamanic drumming,” (and quickly instructed Rebecca how to do it, having already asked Kate before she left: Low, and slow). I asked us to close our eyes as we stood there, and invoke visions of community, whatever that means for us. Individuals joining in groups, cooperating. I asked us to remain standing in meditation, eyes closed, silent, for a few minutes.
And we did!
Finally, after about four minutes I asked us to again return to our senses, and open our eyes.
Then Mariella suggested that (instead of the planned discussion, which we had nixed beforehand, due to the fact that we were standing rather than sitting) we link arms for a minute or two, and feel grateful for each other. So we did that. And we meant it.
Just then Mariella counted the room and noticed that there were 21 people participating in the ceremony, on the 21st of June! How’s that for magic!
Afterwards, Mariella came up to me with the water bowl and said, why don’t we put the water in a jar, since it holds all of our energies. Add flower petals to it, and more water, and vodka, so that it will keep. Put it in the refrigerator, so that we can pull it out whenever we want to bless ourselves again. Good idea.
And then, we proceeded to get down to business and wash the dishes.
I’m not sure if the ceremony took even 30 minutes. But it felt good, and effective, and will be treasured forever.