Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thinking about Summer Solstice: Shame, Pride, Strength, and Power

I was on a long train commute recently, trying to use the time to get some work done. I ended up writing in my Book of Shadows (spiritual journal) about Litha, or Summer Solstice.

Because I find That-Which-Is-Sacred in nature and the seasons, I like it when my spiritual work is in tune with the rhythm of the seasons. The Wheel of the Year is useful for this. The Sabbats -- the Solstices, when either day or night is longest; the Equinoxes, when dark and light are equal; and the cross-quarter days in between -- are convenient times for me to stop and check in with myself with respect to the seasons, and are also a convenient time to check in with the Goddess / the Gods in a more mindful, take-stock kind of way than I do most First Days.

Some of the Sabbats speak to me deeply, and were part of my life before I ever identified as a Pagan. Some of them just make a lot of sense to me emotionally and spiritually. And some make sense mentally, but not on that instinctive level. Summer Solstice, or Litha, is one of these.

Oh, Summer Solstice makes mental sense to me. It's opposite Winter Solstice, which does speak to me on a gut level. As I've lived in different parts of the country, Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice are times when I've really had an especial sense of place about where I've been living: sunrise and sunset on the longest and shortest days of the year are very different in different parts of the US. The longest day is much longer in Seattle than Philadelphia; sunset on Summer Solstice is later in Ann Arbor or at Camp Grayling than in the Mid-Atlantic; the shortest day is shorter in Seattle than in Ann Arbor than in Philadelphia.

Last year in Seattle, we threw a Summer Solstice cookout where it wasn't dark til nearly 10 pm, but it was chilly enough we were all wearing fleece and long pants in the backyard, gathered around the grill.

You get the picture.

But while Summer Solstice makes mental sense and place-sense, it has never spoken to me in my gut the way some of the other Sabbats do.

On the train, I was trying to plan this year's Summer Solstice Celebration, and not getting far. So I started writing instead.


- What do I actually want to do for Summer Solstice?
- What would be faithful to my leading?
- What is my leading?
- What about my MFW notion that came to me in MFW?
- What is my leading with respect to Roses, Too! Tradition?

I have a strong leading and commitment to Feminist Witchcraft

I have a leading to teach it to other people, especially women

So what do I have to teach, and what do I have to learn, about Summer Solstice?

The Sabbats that follow this are all about harvest -- at Lammas, we ask, "What have you harvested so far this year? What do you hope to harvest yet?"

At Litha, we've often talked about fruits, pride, and first fruits.

Gay pride, queer pride, Pagan pride; Pagan pride is more associated with Mabon.

The flip side of pride for both of those is perhaps shame.

So how can Litha, with its bright, purifying (burning?) sun, chase away (burn?) shame, transform shame, into pride?

What things have we been ashamed of that are actually sources of strength, power-from-within, and pride?
  • femaleness; female gender; being women
  • our bodies
  • femininity -- characteristics stereotypical of female gender
  • being femme or being perceived as femme in a queer culture where that may be suspect or not as honored as being androgynous or soft-butch or gender-bending
  • feminism
  • being Pagan; being too, or too obviously, Pagan; being not Pagan enough
  • being spiritual/religious
  • doing "ritual"
  • doing ritual that is too plain, too down-to-earth
  • health, body, physical issues
  • cognitive and energy deficits
  • education -- high school and seminary especially
So: how to take this stuff about shame, that provokes or produces shame, and transform it into pride?

(One key is feminist analysis of shame based on oppression and powerlessness...)

Transforming shame and powerlessness into pride, strength, and power-from-within.

Burning things? Eating rainbow fruit salad? [ <--- Rainbow fruit salad has appeared at past Roses, Too! Litha potlucks where the theme was "Take pride in your fruits (all puns intended)"]

Writing them down, putting them into a cauldron [the Cauldron of Cerridwen], stirring them around, pulling them back out, reading them - ? ie, "I have been ashamed of/when ---," then, "X is a source of pride / strength / power-from-within" - ?

(What do we do with them afterwards?)

What about things like violent or destructive behavior, illness / injury / disease, addiction, etc?

Transform the statement.

"Recovery is a source of pride, strength, and power-from-within."

"The ability and willingness to take responsibility for my actions is a source of strength and power-from-within."

"My body is a source of pride, strength, and power-from-within."

"My body's ability to heal is a source of pride, strength, and power-from-within."

"Not taking crap from inferior doctors is a source of pride, strength, and power-from-within."

Etc, and more.

I was done writing then, but all this has been bubbling away in the stewpot in the back of my brain. And I'm curious to see how things will cook up for Litha.

And although I might not have consciously realized it until now, that little bit of work has borne some fruit already: I bought jeans (on sale for cheap!) yesterday that show off my belly fat.

Not something I ever would have done before.


Beth C. said...

I've been celebrating Litha without realizing it. Your post has brought that out beautifully.

Among other things, I posted on my LJ about a new book called "Flow: A Cultural History of Menstruation" which had a lot relating to pride in being female, and having & getting respect for our menstrual cycles. I'll email you with more details, but long story short, you've stirred up things in me!

Blessed be!

Beth C. said...

This post as made me realize, I've been living a celebration of Litha without realizing it. Just one aspect--why I couldn't be there with you. I was at ALA, affirming that even though I've lost my library job, I am still *a librarian* and I will be again, despite "the powers that be" depriving me of my job. Strength and pride!

I am so grateful that you and those with you were gifted with such a strong ritual.

Blessed be!

chrysalis1witchesjourney said...


May I repost (with appropriate attibution/copyright) this to the Pagan Values blog?

Witchery = "witch*er*y/ n. 1 witchcraft. 2. power exercised by beauty or eloquence or the like." ~Oxford American Dictionary of Current English New American Edition (2000)

staśa said...

Oooh. Yes. I hadn't thought about that, but yes; and I'll add the tag to this post. Thank you!

staśa said...

Beth -- interesting! Both of those.

In our ritual, a lot of what came up was around violating norms (other people's norms). There's a lot in the cultural history of menstruation around that. Just look, in the 20th and 21st centuries in the US, at the evolution of how we do and don't talk about it.

And good for you for going to ALA. :)

Blessed be!

safaraz said...

I found this a very interesting look at the meaning of Litha, which was very different from my own understanding.

My take on Litha comes from the understanding that as it is the longest day, then from then on days will be getting shorter, and therefore enjoy it while you can. And to extend that out into wider life, to enjoy everything while you can, as it will eventually fade, so don't waste it!


staśa said...

Safaraz, that doesn't contradict my own understanding of Litha, or my prior understanding of Litha... it's more that it adds into it.

I'm reminded of what happens in my life at Winter Solstice. I often participate in a Roses, Too! Tradition Celebration, where the potluck theme will be something like "warm food" or "comfort food," and a small, intimate circle where our magic focuses on spiraling into the Darkness, finding gifts there, and spiraling back out into the Light. And I'll also participate in and sing in this community Winter Solstice Celebration, with its very different focus, spiritual work, and "take" on the Sabbat.

It's all based on our experience of the Sabbat, and to me, that's a huge part of what's important.

Thanks for your comment, and welcome!