Summer Solstice

Mark Twain said the coldest winter he ever spent was one summer in San Francisco. Summer Solstice in Maine is like a slighter warmer version of San Francisco winter—wet and threatening rain. I’m at Unity College where we are kicking off our Earth Activist Training with a summer solstice ritual, joined by many of the local Pagans.

Descriptions of other peoples’ ritual are a bit like descriptions of other peoples’ dreams—mostly interesting if they get truly bizarre or if they have some foreshadowing reference to events to come. But I’ll just say that on the Solstice, we like to burn something. Generally a giant figure of a man. I don’t know that Burning Man was inspired by us, but we were burning a man in San Francisco long before they started, so the image was in the ether.

Why a man? It’s a long theological discussion and the true answer is probably, “I don’t know.” Because we conceive of the sun as the God and the earth as the Goddess, although on that level it’s all a metaphor. The Goddess isn’t a big woman, she’s the great forces of creation and compassion cycling through birth, growth, death and regeration—at least, if you ask me. And Gods and Goddesses in their aspects are all simply portals, different doorways for experiencing connection and ecstasy and transformation in all their flavors.

Lately all our transgender folks and their friends have been noisily challenging our nice two by two assumptions. Those kind of challenges are great—they make us look at the world in a new way, examine our assumptions, deepen our understanding of Mystery. But right now I didn’t feel like getting into arcane theological arguments so we decided instead to burn a sun.

We made the sun out of branches and leaves. We lashed together circles of branches, lashed them together into a sphere, tied that on a pole of branches and then wove twigs in between. It was only a bit lopsided and the leaves concealed that part. On its pole it looked more like a big green lollipop than the sun, but I assured everybody that it was the sun, and they’d better damn well believe it was the sun or they would burn in hell. Well, I didn’t actually say that—I believe I said something inspirational like leaves are sunlight transmuted into the flesh of trees, which is scientifically true and which I offer to you Christians to contemplate when you’re meditating on the Incarnation.

During the ritual, we carried the sun around the circle so people could deck it with the flowers upon which they had been meditating, and then danced with it. Or rather, I should say Charles carried the sun. Charles Williams, who is coteaching this course with me, has many gifts including a great ability to sense and move energy, plus he’s young and extremely strong, which was a good thing as the sun was remarkably heavy for something representing a flaming ball of hydrogen, and better him than me! He did a stalwart job, carrying it round and round, kneeling from time to time for people to place flowers (and to rest his back), looking for all the world like Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders, or, to be brutally honest, with his long hair and beard, like Jesus falling beneath the burden of his cross.

At the peak of the ritual, we tossed the sun into the fire. It blazed up with showers of sparks, looking like the flaming head of a God with green hair that slowly came alive with red fire. As the flowers burn in that glorious blaze, we experience in one compressed moment all the poignancy of summer, of fleeting beauty, of blossoms that have to die for seed to set and fruit to form.

And now it’s summer. The wind is howling, the sky is gray, the rain is lowering. I love it! I’m a rainloving kind of gal.

Happy Solstice, everyone!

Just an added note—thanks for all your sweet comments. I won’t always have time to reply to them all, but did want to say, about Palestine and Israel, that if you go to my main website, and click on Activist Writings and then on the Palestine page, you can find volumes of stuff I’ve written about the situation and accounts from the times when I have been there, in the West Bank and Gaza, not to mention the time I was turned away.

23 comments to Summer Solstice

  • Kerrick

    That sounds beautiful, Starhawk. I like the image of the sunlight being transmuted to the flesh of leaves. But of course, the Earth and the minerals of the soil have a lot to do with that too.

    I’m sure I can make something post/trans-gender supremist out of that if I try, just hang on a minute…

  • I’m envious that you can have a fire for solstice. We have a burn ban in effect. On our island, we are sometime smug about the problems of the unreal world, but some damn fool burnt a couple acres of Gary Oak preserve not far from here a week ago — must have cost BC $100,000 to put out — so we don’t get to burn things at solstice.

    It’s been overcast in the morning, so I’ve been unable to plot the solstice sunrise and record the time. So I guess we can’t start our Permaculture design for another year. To a procrastinator, everything is a blessing. 🙂

  • Ann C`

    I live in Maine and this has been a very soggy summer so far. I’m glad you’re a “rain-loving gal,” but it’s too bad you couldn’t have come in late September or early October. We have some truly spectacular days at that time of year.

    The ritual sounds like fun! I wish I could have attended.

  • Sarah

    Pretty cool post. I just found your site and wanted to say
    that I’ve really liked browsing your posts. Anyway
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you write again soon!

  • Patrice H.

    The ritual with the burning sun was very creative, and funny, especially the way you describe your friend holding it. I personally never thought about doing a burning sun for the Summer Solstice, I’ll try that for next year.

  • I am glad you are blogging; I enjoy reading your fresh in-the-moment posts.


  • Flame RosaNegra

    it was beyond cold on the beach in sf on summer solstice, but brave souls dipped in the ocean anyways; not me …although i did get my feet and legs in Mama Sea……the wind was no joke…howling it was……it felt like my face was being sand blasted….

  • billywinkie

    Nice job Miriam!! How about pics of the chix and tractor!! The girls at my place put one together and joined the backyard chicken revolution!! I’m gone most M-F and so I know what you mean about working on something and then setting it adrift for a time until you can get back to it. It’s not always easy. Keep up the good works.

  • Mia

    Happy Solstice to you!

    Great post.

    I especially like the description of the burning sun and the reason it was a sun and not a man burning. Very creatively adaptive and sensitive.


  • lillith

    happy belated summer solstice. xxx

  • Revan

    As written above, the burning sun is a great idea ! Stronger than a burning man. I’ll definitely try it (maybe on a smaller scale though).
    Thank you for sharing.

    (sorry for my poor english, not my native language)

  • Sue S

    Thank you, Starhawk, for all your hard work in Palestine. Your writing has helped me understand a little the difficulties faced by Jews (especially), in thinking about the idea of Israel, and the reality of occupied Palestine.

    It is courageous people like you and Richard Falk and Adam Shapiro, and so many others, who will finally change the direction of this terrible injustice.

  • Sounds like a lovely ritual! I got a lot out of the Earth Activist Training that I went to, so I’m glad to hear that they’re still going on. And I can imagine Charles carrying that verdant replica of the sun. 🙂 I think that a blog like this will help to make permaculture, earth activism, etc more personal and real for people who read it, maybe even motivate them to give it a try in “analog reality” [a.k.a. offline]. Thanks!

  • I usually never do a reply post but I enjoyed your blog a lot,Thanks for the great info 🙂

  • I usually never do a reply post but I enjoyed your blog a lot,Thanks for the great info 🙂

  • How long have you been blogging…your good at it.

  • I don’t usually post but I enjoyed your blog a lot.

  • This blog makes me want to start my own blog.

  • Gia

    Thank you for a great blog, I will be sure to bookmark your site and check back later 🙂

  • Maybe you could edit the blog title Summer Solstice to more specific for your subject you make. I liked the blog post however.

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