Summer Solstice Celebration

“The Sun, each second, transforms four million tons of itself into light, giving itself over to become energy that we, with every meal, partake of. For four million years, humans have been feasting on the Sun’s energy stored in the form of wheat or reindeer, as each day the Sun dies as Sun and is reborn as the vitality of Earth. Every child of ours needs to learn the simple truth: She is the energy of the Sun. And we adults should organize things so her face shines with the same radiant joy. Human generosity is possible only because at the center of the solar system a magnificent stellar generosity pours forth free energy day and night without stop and without complaint and without the slightest hesitation. This is the way of the universe. This is the way of life. And this is the way in which each of us joins this cosmological lineage when we accept the Sun’s gift of energy and transform it into creative action that will enable the community to flourish.” – Brian Swimme, The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos video

The creation of our first summer solstice celebration came about so easily and quickly, moving from the seeds of suggestion to a beautifully co-created ritual, potluck, and campfire within a week.  It was like a mini process of the time between the winter solstice of idea dreaming and the final flourish of the height of the sun’s expansive energy of manifestation – a theme which also became the foundation on which we reflected during our ritual activities.  I began pondering the idea after a conversation with our friends’ Anna and Tim about what we do for solstice, if anything.  My response was that I had always wanted to do something…. but had never really acted on creating my own ritual for this time of year.  We consulted some books and discussed past experiences that elicited thoughts about what opportunities arise for us during solstice, when the sun’s light is at the most expansive, but also tipping towards the decrease.  I reflected on my past intentions to make these seasonal cycles more a part of my families and my communities awareness in celebration and ceremony, bringing to light our spiritual connection to the earth.  It seems to me that the fractions of religion have left many of us spiritually isolated in beliefs that do not centralize around a church- and although many in my community do share the same central church of the earth, community festivals and rituals that acknowledge these spiritual journeys are either missing, or take place in small, private settings.  I was very encouraged with the response to hosting a solstice celebration – everyone I invited was excited to participate and those who couldn’t come were hopeful that they could make it next year.  (There already was a next year.)  It seemed to fill a void for many I talked to, who said they usually spent the night with a few candles and a drum dancing around by themselves, or, like myself, had just never taken the time to create a celebration.  For our homeschooling group, it was a natural continuation of the Waldorf Advent Spiral that we have been celebrating together for three years on the winter solstice.  (See my older post on the Waldorf Advent Spiral.)

Once I began sprouting my ideas, I was committed –  my vague thoughts found roots in Anna and Tim’s soils of visualization.  We brought the theme of magical wood folk for everyone to dress in, and extended invitations to those we thought would like to take on a role during the evening.  We spent a day clearing a walking trail through the forest of our property, and raked up the piles of grass that our neighbor Lester had very timely scythed for us.  We set up a place on a flat rock beside the pond where Joanne created a solstice altar, and we invited everyone to bring something to add to it during the evening.  Then, after we all gathered in our magical wood folk attire in a circle of almost 50, we began with a simple meditation of grounding and listening.  As the sounds of the evening birds filled the still sunlit air, it occurred to me that I had suddenly come into a role that I had never imagined in my intentions, but that felt natural and easy despite my total lack of experience in leading a meditation to a large group and speaking about the energies of summer solstice and how we can reflect on our inner journeys at this time.  I had tried to do some writing as to what I thought I might say, and just couldn’t get it right.  But for three days I had been listening – to my inner dialogue, thoughts, revelations, and insights to help prepare myself for the time of this ritual, although it had been for my own reasons of understanding, not because I saw myself in the role of the “grand ma’am” speaking to everyone else.  There were things I forgot to say, and I tried to keep things short and simple so as to include all the children while engaging the contemplations of the adults.

We started with the time of the winter solstice when our ideas were the seeds of our dreams, and everyone received a piece of cloth and a stone.  We began our journey around the pond, contemplating the energies of germination.  At some point, we tossed our stones into the universe of the pond, and watched the expanding rings of our ideas begin the chain of action.  Then we followed the trail into the forest – empty, and ready to receive.  Along the trail, we met with a variety of beings, each offering a gift with a message.  There was a young man of the moss with a message of grounding, and a grandmother with rosemary and the words of remembrance and love.  A father and son gave cedar, for strong roots and a soaring spirit, and two sweet girls gave fennel for joy.  In a clearing there was a woman that danced and soared with the abundance of summer grain, and finally, a beautiful mother with the gift of wild rose in beauty and heart.  We explored the trail and the little treasures along the way with giggles, in contemplation, with friends hands’ near by, and with eagerness to explore.  As everyone emerged back where we started, a simple song greeted and invited new voices until all of us had returned with our gifts.  Lastly, we sent around a long white ribbon which everyone held onto – amazingly this spool of ribbon ended exactly with the circumference of our circle.  I invited everyone to take part in offering a word into the circle that described a world they deemed as sacred – so that collectively we would create a vision of a healthy, life sustaining community in which to live.  It could have been endless, I am sure – ideas cascaded into each other as we all threw inspiration into the vision – flowers, trees, birds, hugs, tears, bears, watermelon, ice cream, lego, leaves, star wars, space, the milky way, ice cream (again), friends, mothers, fathers, babies, beetles, clay, sand… all imbued into the white ribbon we all held.  Finally we went around and cut the ribbon so that each person had a little piece, which became a perfect tie for keeping together our gifts in the piece of cloth.  In this way, we sent out our individual dreams, collected skills and gifts, then came together in a group to share and build a world that supports each of us and our goals.  Then we feasted!

After dinner we spent some time folding origami boats and boxes with the help of the Kikuchi family.  We placed them on small squares of cedar wood, put a tea light candle inside, and sent them off on the pond with wishes and prayers.  We lit the altar candles, started up a fire, and got out some instruments.  Everyone made a fine effort to stay up to see the Milky Way, but eventually families and neighbors drifted back to their beds.  Except for us and two other families – we pulled out our sleeping bags and spent the night gazing at the crescent moon as it made its way across the late night sky.  It was indeed a beautiful beautiful night.

I am so happy to be finally opening up our land in this way.  This was the first gathering of any kind we have had since all the excavation took place three years ago.  The pond is alive with plants and bugs, the marshy field is dried out and level and ready for orchard plantings, the piles of construction scraps have been cleared away.  We have laid the groundwork for our sanctuary, and I am sure it will continue to change, grow and flourish with the cycles of the land and seasons as will I and the community of family and friends around us, in support and in celebration.

Thanks to Joanne and Kenta for some of these photos.  Ideas for this ceremony were learned from Earth Wisdom – A Heartwarming Mixture of the Spiritual, the Practical, and the Proactive, by Glennie Kindred, as well from our own imaginations and experiences.

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