(AP Photo/Dan Joling)
Once again, the wheel of the year turns and brings us around to Solstice, the longest day and shortest night of the year. Sunlight reaches its peak, and begins to decline.
For Pagans, the Summer Solstice is one of the major milestones of the year. My own group, Reclaiming, will celebrate in rituals all over the U.S., Canada, and around the world—including our Australian groups for whom this is the Winter Solstice. In San Francisco, we’ll meet on the beach, deck a God/dess figure of branches with the early summer blossoms, and set it on fire as an offering, to take our wishes, our hopes and our dreams into the otherworld where they can become seeds of change. Solstice is one of our most poignant rituals, for as we watch the bright-colored blossoms burn to ash, we remember that life is brief and so must be deeply cherished in every moment.
For us, the outward shifts in the cycle afford us an opportunity to do our inner work of change and growth. Summer Solstice is a time to reflect on what things in our lives, and our world, may have reached their peak and need to transform.
Solstice has a special meaning for us this year, at this crucial time when so much of what we have grown up with, expected and counted on is challenged. This year, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million. The overwhelming consensus of reputable scientists is that climate change is here, is human-caused, and is rapidly becoming irreversible. In the words of climate scientist James Hansen, “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted CO2 will need to be reduced to at most 350ppm.” We are past the tipping point now.
Our way of life that depends on the profligate squandering of resources, natural and human, has reached its own peak. If we face the necessity of change, we can use the immense resources we still have to create a graceful transition to a new technology and economy. Or we can continue to cling to the old ways until we crash into devastation. Ecological necessity is not a brand, not an identity choice, not a government/ corporate/ UFO/ Illuminati conspiracy, not a media fad of the moment. It’s real. The heat is on. The floods, the droughts, the hurricanes are here. The fires are already burning.
When faced with the need for change, we humans tend to resist. We cling to what is familiar, what is immediately profitable or distracting. We dispute the facts and deny the reports. And so we seem by default to be tumbling onto the path of destruction.
Let this Solstice be a time to instead embrace change. As the sun sets at last on the longest day, take some time to consider how everything must eventually reach its peak, and transform. The sun’s decline triggers the grain to set seed, the apples to swell, the squash and tomatoes and corn to ripen. We must be willing to let go of the blossom and in order to harvest the fruit. When we stop clutching our fears and our limiting assumptions, we can open our hands and receive inspiration and hope.
May this Solstice be a time of opening to the possibility that we can find a new way to live, in harmony with nature and with one another, in justice, in balance, in love.
To find a Reclaiming community and Solstice ritual near you, go to: http://www.reclaiming.org
Starhawk is the author of twelve books on Goddess religion, earth based spirituality and activism, including The Spiral Dance, The Fifth Sacred Thing, The Earth Path and The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups, on power, process and group dynamics. She is currently working with Yerba Buena Films on a feature production of her novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing. She blogs at www.starhawksblog.org, her website is www.starhawk.org, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter @Starhawk17.