Tag Archives: Litha

Another Song for the Solstice

/hat tip: Ina

A Song for the Solstice

Litha-time, and the Living is Easy

It’s been said and said that this past Winter was brutal here in the Magical MidAtlantic. The snow came far more frequently than we’ve learned to expect and, worse, there were days, and days, and days of bitter, bitter cold. The weather kept us indoors and damaged even the plants that it didn’t kill. Every Witch I know shakes her head when asked about her rosemary: “Didn’t make it. Had to plant new.”

And Spring, when it came — and it was slow to come — lingered on longer than it often does, with cool days and cooler nights. Even after I grew brave enough to plant some of the front porch planters, I’d step out in the morning and find the sweet potato vines withered up and unhappy over how cold the air had gotten overnight. They came back, well, all but two of them, but it took them a while.

But now, here, just before Litha, we’re finally getting what I think of as some real Virginia heat. It’s already in the 80s when you wake up in the morning, even early in the morning. (The birds have been “at it,” as we say here, for several hours already.) And you have to wake up early in the morning if you’re going to get anything done outside. (Well, I have to. I’m an old woman who spends most of her days at a desk, inside an air conditioned office. You can acclimate to working outside in this weather; Landscape Guy and his crew were over yesterday and then the lawn guys were here. But they’re young, and strong, and they do it every day, and even they are happy to stop for water.) By eleven o’clock or so, the sun is intense and I need to escape to the spot on the screen porch, directly under the ceiling fan, glass of ice water with mint at hand.

I was outside before six this morning, hoeing weeds out of my wee vegetable garden. How so many weeds can fit in such a little garden is one of life’s mysteries. It’s as if my garden is a tardis for weeds. The peppers, and squash, and cardoons, and Swiss chard, and bok choy, and lettuce that I started from seeds back in March are now big plants, a few of the peppers already beginning to turn red, the pattypan squash sporting giant blossoms that make me consider: fried squash blossoms now or actual squash in a few weeks??? So far, actual squash is winning, but I could always change my mind. The mint is out of control; the basil is huge; the parslies are finally beginning to grow; and the new rosemary bushes are beginning to branch out.

And just as we say that the Winter was “brutal,” we say that the heat is “oppressive.” Once the birds settle down from their crack-of-dawn concert, the world does get quiet in this heat and it is a different kind of quiet from the frozen silence of a mid-Winter morning. On days like this, we’re always half-expecting rain; it’s how, as often as not, the world resolves all this pent-up energy, here in the MidAtlantic, by late afternoon or early evening. And it matters because, when the temperatures get this hot, if it doesn’t rain, we’ll need to go water. Plants need more water in this heat. And, so, after I had battled the weeds to a blister on my thumb, I spent a lovely half an hour watering the Empress Wu hosta and the wisteria, the sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), the datura, the toad lilies, and the ferns. If we don’t get rain tonight, I’ll have to hook up the sprinklers and do the woodland garden and the front beds.

I love these long, hot days. I love the humidity. I love the welcome relief that even a bit of shade can provide. I rejoice in the lightning bugs and the way that what I eat has more to do with what absolutely must get picked NOW than with anything else. Today, the Swiss chard has got to be picked, so I’ll be making a recipe that my friend Ina gave to me.

Cook some pasta. Sautee chopped Swiss chard w/ some onions and garlic. Chop up some basil and the zest of a lemon or two. Drain the pasta, mix in some ricotta and the Swiss chard. Top with basil and lemon zest, as well as some red pepper flakes, if you like. Eat immediately.

What are the days just before Litha like in your landbase?

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Litha

What did you start at Samhein that’s now near to harvest?

Summer Day Poetry Blogging

Litha’s Coming Ballet Blogging

Follow the Day & Reach for the Sun

Out in the Woods All Night, A-Conjuring Summer In

/pre-post on June 20

Litha PotPourri

*One of the most basic elements of my daily practice is to invoke certain Goddesses, one of whom is the Goddess Columbia, the Patroness Goddess of my shining city on a swamp. My city was named for Her and Her statue stands high above the city, looking out over not only the marble buildings of government, the monuments, and statues, and museums, and rivers, and small forests, and fountains, but also over the metro stops, the neighborhoods, the local bodegas, and the basketball courts where kids shoot hoops late into the summer night. When I invoke her, I attempt to be present to all of Her landbase. Today, on the New Moon just before Litha, I remember that She looks out over community gardens.

*A few years ago, my job took me out to San Francisco directly at Mabon. I was sad to be separated from my wonderful circle of wonderful women. I had to be up the next morning and functioning at 100% of my Brehon self, and, so, I didn’t dare to seek out any of the local, public celebrations of my religious holiday. Instead, I went back to my hotel, which looked out over the entire city, ordered a Stoli martini, and sat near a window, as I watched night come. And as the lights of the city came on, I had the strongest experience of being connected, in a web, to Pagans all over the city, all celebrating the same holiday. Since then, I’ve tried, at each of the eight Great Sabbats, to tune in to the millions of Pagans, all over the world, celebrating each Sabbat with me. Whether I am in a circle or alone, I am part of a web of Pagans who encircle Mother Earth with joy, and anticipation, and love. Now, as Litha begins to encircle Our Mother, I feel that connection as strongly as ever. See here, and here, and here. (Odd, isn’t it, how we call it MidSummer, when it’s really the beginning of Summer?)

*Ever picked up a copy of Sage Woman, or PanGaia, or New Witch, or Witches & Pagans at a local bookstore? When I was just discovering Witchcraft, those magazines were Goddessends to me and I read them, literally, from cover to cover, including every ad, editor’s notice, author’s bio, and artist’s signature. To this day, when I see Sage Woman or W&P (the surviving combination of Pan Gaia and New Witch) at a bookstore, I always buy in order to ensure that the bookstore will continue to carry them. As The Wild Hunt recently noted, W&P is now hosting a number of Pagan bloggers who will be posting (mostly) monthly at its new site.

I’m flattered that they’ve decided to include my own mad ravings. (Anne Niven recently suggested, and I agreed, that my contributions be entitled “Looking for Trouble.”) I was delighted, and not merely because one of my favorite poems (Portrait of the Artist) by Dorothy Parker says:

Oh, lead me to a quiet cell
Where never footfall rankles,
And bar the window passing well,
And gyve my wrists and ankles.

Oh, wrap my eyes with linen fair,
With hempen cord go bind me,
And, of your mercy, leave me there,
Nor tell them where to find me.

Oh, lock the portal as you go,
And see its bolts be double.
Come back in half an hour or so,
And I will be in trouble.

More to the point, they have up a wonderful post by Witch Doctor Joe that has great information about being in touch with your own landbase. One of the suggestions that he makes is to seek out your local farmers’ market. This is great advice, esp. for people who live in urban areas. There is a farmers’ market in Dupont Circle, right in the middle of D.C. There is a farmers’ market at 14th & U Streets, at Eastern Market, and at Vermont Avenue, near the White House. As Witch Doctor Joe says:

There are many benefits to being a locavore and shopping at a Farmers’ market; the food is often organic or at the very least, fresher, much healthier and always seems to just taste better. Every one benefits financially as well when you buy direct from local growers, the cost is lower [well, this is true in absolute terms], the money stays in the community and stimulates the local economy. But for me, the greatest benefits are by far more Magical.

While I am happy to engage local farmers in a mutually beneficial producer-consumer relationship, my primary interest is interaction with the Genius loci. And this venue really makes perfect sense when you think about it; the market is full of local growers and their produce. To be a successful farmer, one needs to be especially attuned to the natural rhythms and cycles of their land. Their product is the physical manifestation or body of the spirit of that land. But I’m referring to a bit more than just some tomatoes from a neighborhood garden. [I also acqurie] jams, soaps, herbs, and beeswax among many honey bee products not shown.

How do you stay in touch with and how do you support the Genius loci of your Place? Farmers’ markets do play a role in my personal practice, but not as large a role as they played when I lived on the 15th floor of an urban condo. They play a role in my education of G/Son and we go to the farmers’ market whenever he’s here.

*In Dancing in the Streets, A History of Collective Joy, Barbara Ehrenreich (Look! How many times do I have to plead with you? Just go read this book.) talks about how few opportunities there are, in capitalist culture, for people to get together for festivals that allow them to go all out and experience joy along with a group of other people. Among the few venues left are rock concerts. As Litha approaches, I’ve got Saltatio Mortis on regular rotation (esp. treadmill rotation; five more minutes? Hels, yeah!) on the iPod.

May your Litha be all of that, and more.

Picture found here.

Summer Solstice Poetry Blogging

Summer at North Farm

~Stephen Kuusisto

Finnish rural life, ca. 1910

Fires, always fires after midnight,
the sun depending in the purple birches

and gleaming like a copper kettle.
By the solstice they’d burned everything,

the bad-luck sleigh, a twisted rocker,
things “possessed” and not-quite-right.

The bonfire coils and lurches,
big as a house, and then it settles.

The dancers come, dressed like rainbows
(if rainbows could be spun),

and linking hands they turn
to the melancholy fiddles.

A red bird spreads its wings now
and in the darker days to come.



~ Tony Hoagland

Sometimes I wish I were still out
on the back porch, drinking jet fuel
with the boys, getting louder and louder
as the empty cans drop out of our paws
like booster rockets falling back to Earth

and we soar up into the summer stars.
Summer. The big sky river rushes overhead,
bearing asteroids and mist, blind fish
and old space suits with skeletons inside.
On Earth, men celebrate their hairiness,

and it is good, a way of letting life
out of the box, uncapping the bottle
to let the effervescence gush
through the narrow, usually constricted neck.

And now the crickets plug in their appliances
in unison, and then the fireflies flash
dots and dashes in the grass, like punctuation
for the labyrinthine, untrue tales of sex
someone is telling in the dark, though

no one really hears. We gaze into the night
as if remembering the bright unbroken planet
we once came from,
to which we will never
be permitted to return.
We are amazed how hurt we are.
We would give anything for what we have.


In These Soft Trinities

~ Patricia Goedicke

Whenever I see two women
crowned, constellated friends

it is as if three birch trees wept together
in a field by a constant spring.

The third woman isn’t there

exactly, but just before them a flame
bursts out, then disappears

in a blurred, electric shining
that lifts my hair like an animal’s.

In an aura of charged air I remember
my poor mother turned into royalty,
my sister and me in bobby socks

endlessly, all summer long
calling each other Margaret Rose

and Lillibet, Lillibet, Lillibet,
pretending to be princesses…

Now, swollen into these tall blooms
like paper cutouts in water,

in each new neighborhood garden
always, two women talking

nod their three curly heads together:
with bits of dirt on their foreheads, speckled
iris, flaming poppy

in the backyard dynasties of the multiflora
it is the famous funeral photograph
of the Dowager Queen, Queen Mother, stunned Young Queen,

three stepping stones in marble
that haunt me forever, clear
and mysterious as well water, the weight of it

in a bronze bucket swinging
powerfully from my hand.

As the plumcolored shadow rises,
full as a first child in the orchard,

the lost gardening glove on the path,
the single earring tucked

in an odd corner of the purse and then found

here double themselves, then triple:
in these soft trinities
the lives that begin in us

are born and born again like wings.
Secret as doves scuffling

in the wide envelope of wombs
like loose, comfortable aprons flung

over the heads of friends leaning together
in the hum of earth’s plainsong

like a three part round,
like a single voice murmuring
the dream never leaves us, of the self

like a three masted vessel still voyaging:
out of the long matrix of memory,
the royal bulbs in the hold,

the ballast that keeps us upright, loyal
to the dark, deep-bedded throne
of the old country each new soul claims as its own.

Picture found here.