Sacrament of the Soil

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year — Litha, as we modern Pagans will have it. In the deep of Winter, I wake up early, smack in the middle of the Great Dark, and do my daily practice longing and longing for Summer: long days to work outside in the yard, sit on the porch with friends, and pick flower, after flower, after flower.

Litha is one of the eight high holy days of my year (or as Lark Rise to Candleford called them, “high days, and holy days, and bonfire nights.”) And as is far too often the case, I worked at the office all day on my religious holiday. I love my job and it is a big part of my spiritual practice, but lately . . . .

And, so, when I came home in the late afternoon, I did not go inside and do laundry, unpack the week-old suitcase sitting on the guest room bed, nor go to the grocery store. I did not gather my travel receipts to submit, record my hours for billing, nor catch up on emails. No, on my high holy day, on the longest day of the year, on the Summer Solstice, on Litha, I went out to my way-too-weedy herb bed and pulled weeds. This was my ritual, my celebration, my Sacrament of the Soil. I put my hands into the dirt, felt around until I knew that my fingers were underneath and between the roots of the grasses that have taken up lodging in my herb bed, and I pulled them out, shook the fine dirt back into the herb bed, and discarded the grasses. Sacrifice and solemnity — weeds for empty space, more root room for the herbs, more sunlight for the poor bok choy, and fish peppers, and angelica, and black hollyhocks.

This is, although it appears not to be, High Magic. This is what hedge witches do and have always done. This no Ceremonial Magic, but it is the deepest, deeper, and most deep magic that there is: this union of sun, and rain, and woman, and living plant, and soil. This ritual of declaring “This, not that,” of selecting some plants over others, of putting sacred hands into sacred soil to remove sacred weeds and leave sacred herbs.

Others no doubt celebrated this high holy day with bonfires, elaborate rituals, costumes, incense, and great magics. I danced my now long-practiced dance around the bramble bush, came home and weeded, went out back, and hugged my magnolia tree which, in deep shade, has produced one perfect, lemon-vanilla bloom this year.

I shan’t be gone long, you come, too.


5 responses to “Sacrament of the Soil

  1. So far – we have hauled out our back hedge of old, sick red-tip photinia, added a new fence and gazebo but yesterday we were given a Very Deep Magic Gift — a gray day! Yes — a gray day hereabouts that meant my DH could go out and pick ax through the nasty, tough clay soil — and we discovered some far nicer soil under it all! 🙂

    So — the next act is to act lots of compost and peat moss — and then a layer of good soil and choose and plant some drought-tolerant trees, bushes and grasses (not lawn, but clumps of grasses) — and then add herbs like rosemary and lavender …..

    Midsummer Magic!

  2. This year I and my child (who is three and a half, exactly, born on winter solstice) have re-entered tour back yard. Our garden is thriving, the weeds and little trees are being pushed back, and I asked for Father’s day to have two hours to trim the ancient and leggy lilac. Indeed it is sacred work!

  3. Jan, sounds like a lovely Solstice! I was just in San Francisco and I have to say, I have always loved grey cats and grey days.

  4. John S., I completely agree that tending lilacs is the work of a priest!
    One of my very favorite flowers.

  5. I managed to spend the longest day out on the river for the longest trip scheduled all week. 17.8 miles of paddling a kayak on the Ogeechee river in Georgia. It was fabulous.

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