Summertime, and the Livn’ Ain’t Easy

Well, we’re past the colorful fun and romp of Beltane and have to get ready for a long, hot summer. Our ancestors knew that once Beltane came and went, once the pinks and violets of the flowers melded into the lush greens of maturing crops, we could now sit back and rest a bit before the harvest. This agrarian cycle is most likely where this romantic vision of summer came from. And it is a powerful, attractive vision: lush gardens, warm, languid days, relaxing under a tree, resting from our labors.

In California, where I live, the local winemakers are awaiting the Flowering of the Vine, which comes just before the small “berries” start to form on the vines. And, while they wait, the Pacific Ocean, still clinging to the chill of winter, casts a gloomy steel-grey sky over the coastal towns, causing us all to sigh to ourselves and turn inward in a very winter-like way. Not very summer-like at the moment. Worse, in Californa and the Southeast, we are experiencing the anguish and worry associated with continued severe drought and wildfires, just after severe tornadoes struck the Midwest. So much for a restful, romantic summer.

We pagans sometimes fall into the trap of honoring nature as something pleasant. Since we expend so much regulated effort attuning to the rhythms of the Earth, we often expect constancy and regularity. We get annoyed, for example, when the weather doesn’t behave as it is “supposed” to. We also can get annoyed when the weather is downright unpleasant. I admit I have an issue with witches who refuse to do circles in the rain.

Most of us grew up controlling our environment through liberal use of air conditioning and heating. Few debates are as “heated” as the ones in my office around the climate control (Think about THAT one for a moment, climate control.) When we became witches we found joy in attuning to the environment. But we expected Nature to play nice, just like the thermostat. I have news for you. It doesn’t and it never did. No, my friends, it is not all faeries and unicorns dancing in a springtime glade where it is 72 degrees and the sunlight is delicately dappled through the oak trees. I hate to break it to you. It just isn’t. Nature is sometimes dark, dangerous, unpredictable and foreboding. It drowns, burns, buries, shoots lighting at, and sweeps people away for no apparent reason. Our “Mother” Earth, while nurturing, is also a cold-blooded killer. Children and animals die. And, it isn’t always the fault of the current Administration, or of nasty industry or automobiles, or of terrorists, or even of global warming.

I am not stating a very popular pagan principle, but I am stating a scientific fact. We as witches, as followers of the Path of the Wise, must realize that darkness and death is part of life. The bad often comes with the good. No one, not even the Goddess, will save us, because she might, just might, kill us. And we may never know why.

Does that give us license to embrace darkness? No. Just because it exists, doesn’t mean we have to energize it or twist it or use it to augment our egos, which would just serve to injure ourselves. But we cannot pretend like it’s not there. And we shouldn’t pretend like it’s not there. In fact, all this “badness” has a very important spiritual purpose.

Chögyam Trungpa Rimpoche, the Tibetan guru famous for bringing Buddhism to the West, stated “On this path…there is no sense that we are going to be saved, that someone is going to keep an eye on us so that if we are just about to make a mistake, someone will fish us out. If we had that sense, the journey would become a very sloppy one because we could afford to play around…so this journey has to be a very individual, very personal journey.”

His point, I think, is highly relevant for those of us in the Craft, we have to remember that our journey is our own, and we face our own dangers on the path. By connecting to the Earth, we cannot and should not lull ourselves into a false sense of security. We are, actually, embarking on a very difficult and perilous journey. We are facing ourselves and dealing with our own foibles, mishaps, hatreds, loves and even our own divinity, all in one package. We are dealing with these things, because we claim to embrace Nature—that which is.

The presence of danger reminds us of this fact. It reminds us to be mindful and to deal with the vagaries of life and the fears and emotions that these force us to face. The Craft is not a hiding place from the “bad world” that ignores the ecosystem, pollutes the environment, and wages war. It is a resting place, or a temporary refuge from all that so that we can gain perspective, perhaps, but not a hiding place.

When we cast circle, sometimes it is helpful to think about what it contains and integrates, as opposed to what it separates us from. When we cast, we embrace all aspects of Nature: fire, tornadoes, hate, war, love, divinity. We connect with ourselves as well, all aspects, good and bad. We don’t walk in flawed and walk out levitating off the ground. Instead, we can hope to walk out more connected to our nature—of Earth as well as of Spirit. Instead, we can hope to walk out, more human.

And, I wish you the true blessings of Summer!