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June 2008

Summer Solstice: This Ain't No Party! This Ain't No Disco!

Kahlo-moses 
Frida Kahlo, Moses (1945)
The other day, someone I love and respect accused me of being “such a romantic.”

Not just plain “romantic,” but “such a romantic,” which implies I traffic in the higher echelons of romanticism.

It reminded me of Joni Mitchell’s song, “The Last Time I Saw Richard,” wherein Richard declares that “all romantics meet the same fate someday/ cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café.” Of course, my “Richard” is a self-confessed romantic too, and gratefully for me not quite at that point of bleak judgment.

I can’t deny the label, but I don’t think that romanticism and realism are mutually exclusive.

In fact, they need each other to make magic.

And believe it or not, that is how I’m going to segue into this post about the upcoming Summer Solstice.


 

Daliresurrection
  Salvador Dali, The Ascension (1958)
The Tough Questions of Tiphareth

As far as magical correspondences go, the Sun is no day at the beach. 

On the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, the sphere of the Sun, Tiphareth (also known as Beauty), is the center that holds the framework together, the reflecting pool between the top and bottom halves. Without going into too much detail, it serves as a moral filter for the tree as forces ascend or descend the structure,  and this sphere is epitomized by such beings as Christ, Buddha and Krishna – the enlightened ones who bring us a brand new philosophy, a way of looking designed to bring harmony to our lives.

But harmony comes at a price – in essence, a personal sacrifice – and  that’s where the tough questions of the Sun/Tiphareth come in. These questions all have to do with the Self: ego, identity, mission, and truth.

Not so much into Kabbalah? Not to worry.  Let’s get right down to the nitty gritty and look at the Sun’s most powerful day of the year, the fast-approaching Summer Solstice,  in terms of what it means for you.


 

Wheel of the Year Recap at Summer Solstice: Where Am I? Who Am I? And What the Heck Am I Doing, Again?

Let’s revisit the Wheel of the Year and examine where Summer Solstice lands and how it evolves out of the previous holidays:

At Yule you dreamed about what you might do during the light of the year. In early February, at Imbolc, you purified and renewed yourself into the fledgling year and felt its spark of young energy. At Spring Equinox, you decided exactly what projects you were going to launch, and planted those seeds with care. At Beltaine, you reveled in the first flowers of your springtime efforts, and flirted with mysterious ideas about where these projects might take you. Also at this time you worked to attract to yourself the resources that might help you accomplish your goals.

Now we come to the midpoint of the year, the time when the Sun reaches its zenith in the sky, the height of its triumph over darkness, the single longest day of all. It is the most yang time of year: hot, bright, shining, and full of active force.

On June 22, our Sun is all outward, unabashed expression – a force of heat and light impossible to ignore. As such, it is a metaphor for the ego, ambition and identity – the way we project ourselves to the world.

Before going forward, examine the project you initiated at Spring Equinox (or any work in which you are actively engaged). What were your intentions when you started? What are they now? What is your mission with this project, and how is it a meaningful expression of your true self? Who do you think is your true self, at this point in time?

(See, I told you they were tough questions. Existential self-examination is never easy. But don’t fret, the questions do get a little more concrete as we go on.)


 

Vuillardgarden
Edouard Vuillard, Garden at Vaucresson (1937)
Solar Power

The fullest power of the mighty Sun is on your side now. Look at the riot of green growing things it pulls from the ground, the astonishing variety of insects and animals – all sorts of unbridled expressions of self, including the layers of clothes it pulls off of us in its searing heat.

Because the sheer drawing power of the Sun on living things is strongest now, the Summer Solstice is a time when you should be putting forth your greatest active efforts into your projects.  It is not yet time for fruition or full manifestation – that comes later, at Lammas (August 1) and Fall Equinox. Now is the time of labor needed to ensure a good harvest.

Establishing the right pace is imperative now, as well.  As a friend of mine remarked recently on her return to her southern hometown, “You can’t run around like a New Yorker in Mississippi heat!” The same goes for laziness; you can’t lie down to take a nap in a half-hoed row in the middle of a summer day. Either way, you’ll get burned.

The tough questions here are: Are you putting enough work into your mission to ensure a good harvest/outcome? If not, what more can you feasibly do? Do you need to re-evaluate and adjust your goals to fit the level of work you have been able to put into the project up until now?


 

 

Wyethchristina2
Andrew Wyeth, Christina's World (1948)

A “Sunny” Way of Seeing

The noonday summer solstice sun casts an unforgiving light with no allowance for long, fuzzy, dark shadows in which illusions love to hide.

With that in mind, now is the time to look at your primary project and see it for what it truly is. Take this opportunity to look at your year’s chosen task(s) in all its starkness, with equal attention to any flaws you may never have seen before as well as undiscovered and unmined places of brilliance.

Let the Solstice Sun shine a bright light on your efforts and chase any illusions out of hiding. Illusions tend to hide around motivation, for example.

 Despite your best rationalizations and intentions, do you find that your work or goals are motivated out of selfishness?

Another place to shine the light to scare away illusions is upon whatever may have been set in motion at dreamy Beltaine.

If your Beltaine activities were effective, you may have attracted to yourself different people or resources that could help you achieve your greater goals.

What are those resources you attracted – are they even real? If so, are you using those resources ethically, effectively, intelligently and with love? In the perfumed sexiness of Beltaine, you may even have flirted with ideas and resources that only seemed a good idea at the time. Are they helpful now, or are they just distractions from the core goals?

Speaking of distractions . . .


 

Rousseaulion2
Henri Rousseau, Repast of the Lion (1907)

The Work of Weeding

As the summer crescendoes toward solstice, the Sun/god and Earth/goddess conspire to cover her in a wild green gown, bringing forth a cacophony of seamless life. So seamless in fact, that you may find your own little row of precious projects threatened by fast-growing weeds!

These weeds are diversions – other projects that spring up naturally at this time demanding attention. In mundane terms these may be a product of your own over-enthusiasm, or they may even be other people’s passions and projects into which they excitedly want to draw you. Of course it is wonderful to admire a friend’s efforts and to support them in their work, but do not succumb to the temptation to leave your own garden untended while you get whisked off into minding theirs.

A related quandary to the above is illustrated by the way some plants at this time of year grow a little too fast and collapse under their own weight. If your project seems to be getting a bit out of hand, expanding beyond your own resources and limitations, take the time to stake and prune now.

More tough questions: Are you doing your own work? Can you handle the growth of your own efforts, or have you spread yourself so thin, something will have to give later, endangering your anticipated results?

Claudelwaltz2
Camille Claudel, The Waltz (1893)

 

Romance: Flame for the Torch

Obviously the Sun in its unique place at Summer Solstice gives us the best opportunity to examine our egos in complete and total honesty – ego-negating honesty, to be exact, which is the Beauty of Tiphareth. In the Summer Solstice kind of light, nothing remains hidden, so honesty is the rule of the day. At the same time, common sense is in order as well – the kind of common sense that keeps us from working too hard or too little, and the kind that reminds us to remain focused on our own work.

But work isn’t done for its own sake. And that’s where romance – yes, the sometimes dangerous romance courted at Beltaine – is not only useful but necessary.

Romance is the ingredient needed to sustain the work, the magic sexy carrot that draws it forward. After all, it is the initial spark of romance that lights and fuels the fire of work. Romance, in its devotion to as yet unrealized ideals and untouched intangibles, inspires the work that makes ideals manifest and invisibles visible.

That is how the spark of romance at Beltaine ignites the flame of work that blazes at Summer Solstice. Without the first, the second could never be.

In the heat of the moment, a lover (and keep alert: this lover may be your self!) may make many grand declarations, but in time even the most naïve person will be able to tell illusion from reality.

The tough question here can be downright heart-breaking: Have the romantic promises offered you (by yourself or another) during the wild romance of Beltaine borne out?

In asking myself this very question I found myself needing to distinguish between what is an ideal and what is an illusion. Neither is tangible or verifiable.

But illusions are erroneous little props the ego uses to fulfill some desire or neglect some old wound. They are the places we look when we do not wish to scrutinize our own reality because we think that it is too frightening or abysmal or boring.

Ideals, on the other hand, are the places we look when we have an idea of our mission of service, our bliss, our tropism; the places we look when we accept the truth of our possibly frightening, abysmal or boring reality, but want to make it better.

And unless you are Christ, or Buddha, or Krishna, you will most likely have to be satisfied to only approach your ideals asymptotically. But oh, what beautiful work it is to come so close, and how sweet that closeness!

While illusions exist in a land of shadowy unreality, ideals are a beacon of pure truth that shine unflinchingly and draw us up and out – like the strong summer solstice Sun. To my mind, ideals are the irresistible invisibles advanced by romance, and it is that falling in love with ideals that inspires the best work and brings the best results – that is, the most powerful magic.

Summer Solstice asks some uncomfortable questions, but when better to examine the things that matter most in life, than when the light of the Sun is brightest, strongest, and most able to reveal the truth?

May the Sun that sees “beyond change and chance,” as the Aurum Solis folk say, expose to you your own illusions as well as ideals. May it draw your best work out of you. And above all, may you find the balance between hard, practical work and keeping an ecstatic, romantic eye on the true prize.

And don’t let any cynical “Richards” divert you from the path you call your own.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Matthew 6:19-23