BY TRISTA EDWARDS
Although it may not feel like it, the summer has begun to wane. If you follow the wheel of the year, Midsummer has passed and we are approaching Lughnasadh, which marks the beginning of the grain harvest. August 1st (despite much of the country still suffering from blazing heat) will offer up a bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs that were first planted at the beginning of the season. Lughnasadh marks the halfway point between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox; and lately I find myself using these final fading days of Midsummer to reflect on my personal evolution halfway through the year.
I have always felt an intense connection to the summer solstice—it is the day I was born. It is a day of fire and sun and light; frivolity and celebration; growth and abundance. It is the longest day of the year and the shortest night. It is a celebration of light, nature, and growing in all forms—celebration that mirrors that of the abundance of the surrounding countryside.
The day also commemorates darkness. The day after the summer solstice marks a decline into the dark half of the year, as the days will become shorter. Some claim that this transition between seasons, this shift from light to dark, gives rise to heighten communication with entities from across the veil.
I always head into nature on this day. I follow my innate sun heritage to seek out heat—unfathomable heat. Desert heat. Swamp heat.
Perhaps it is my solstice birthright, but I have always been attracted to sweat. I love summer for the offering up of our bodies to the sun. We can peel away the dark months and feel the warmth of the season on skin. We sweat out in the elements. We bare ourselves. We remember we are bodies. We remember we can catch fire.
This time of year is erotic. The light forces us to engage with our bodies, our sexuality, our shadow self, our animal self. We shed clothes. We give way to our inhabitations. We blame the heat for kneeling to our desires. There is a darkness in this as much as there is light but unlike certain Puritan aspects of society that has taught many to reject this facet, I celebrate it.
For the past several years, I have travelled to the desert at the solstice to receive the sun in perhaps its most nascent of settings. I camp. I hike. I meditate. I imbibe. I bathe—I exist outdoors. I am tantalized by the danger of the desert but naturally I respect it. Time outdoors hiking in extreme heat well above the 100s in places such as Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Southern California (places I’ve spent my past few solstice years) can only be experienced in spurts. Mass amounts of water must be consumed. Physical exertion must be kept at a minimum for purposes of safety. The desert makes you feel minuscule against the vast waves of sand or the heavy star-lit sky. I buckle at my own smallness and I am thankful for it. I am reminded of only what I need—food, water, shelter—and any other material items seem almost absurd.
This hovering danger of the elements also reminds me of the limitations of the human body as much as it brings me to a more concentrated awareness of it. The light can all too quickly turn dark. Like Icarus, we must not let hubris take us too close to the sun. Nature is there for us to enjoy not possess and we must remember that. I push myself physically when hiking desert mountains or even small, low-elevation trails but within reason; always mindful of the threshold of endangerment that I do not want to cross. Forever conscious that I am visitor in a beautiful yet unforgiving land.
Fire Spell from Raven and Crone:
This spell is based on a little-known solar ritual from the Aegean islands. Long ago on the night before the Summer Solstice, hoops were set ablaze, and the villagers would guide the Sun's return by jumping though rings of fire. You can create your own ring of fire with this spell. At dusk, outdoors if possible, light four candles of appropriate color, one for each season, in a circle. In the center place a gold or yellow candle for the Sun. Light the seasonal candles and say:
"Seasons must turn,
Let the Sun return."
Light the Sun candle and say:
Charge me with passion,
Turn my words into action.
It must be!"
Jump over your lit candles if you dare. Meditate on each season and thank the Sun for its return as you put out the candles.
For more Midsummer spells and rituals check out Raven and Crone, an online shop for Pagan supplies and crystals.
Trista Edwards is a poet, land mermaid, light witch, horror enthusiast, creatrix, traveler, and dog lover. She is also the curator and editor of the anthology, Till The Tide: An Anthology of Mermaid Poetry (Sundress Publications, 2015). She is currently working on her first full-length poetry collection but until then you can read her poems at The Journal, Quail Bell Magazine, 32 Poems, The Adroit Journal, Sou’wester, Queen Mob's Tea House, and more. She writes about travel, ghosts, and poetry on her blog, Marvel + Moon. Trista is a contributing editor at Luna Luna Magazine.