The month of June brings us the longest day of the year known as the Summer Solstice when the sun is at its zenith. This festival was called St. John's Day in the European Mystery School tradition, and has been a traditional time of community celebrations all over the world & throughout history.
It is a time for flowers, for weddings & betrothals, a time for community bonfires & dancing and singing in the fields.
The Summer Solstice occurs when the sun enters the zodiacal sign of Cancer, which occurs on June 20, 2012. It is one of the four solar holidays of ancient peoples and remains sacred to many people today. These four solar holidays are the Summer & Winter Solstices, and the Spring & Autumnal Equinoxes. Together they delineate the great Cosmic Wheel of the four seasons.
In the northern hemisphere the Summer Solstice is the moment when the sun begins its metaphorical descent into the underworld and days again begin to grow shorter. St. John's Day, celebrated on June 24, birthdate of St. John the Baptist, is one of those Christian holy days which is synchronistic with the earlier, perhaps original (pagan) holy day of the Summer Solstice.
The Solstice is a moment of reversal. In previous seasons, Cosmic forces have been streaming into the Earth's aura and penetrating deeply into the biofields surrounding all living beings, quickening the flow of life force energy and strengthening the will forces within each of us, creating the templates for growth of plants, animals and humans alike. Now the season of growth has taken hold, and the three living kingdoms begin to exhale as the Earth brings forth verdant growth, animals give birth and humans celebrate their sexuality with the traditional June wedding ceremonies amid peak displays of flowers and fields ripening with corn and grain.
Now is the time when the power of the individual to make conscious choices is at its maximum. The Sabian symbol for the first degree of Cancer is "On a ship the sailors lower an old flag and raise a new one." The revolution has begun.
This is a pivotal moment in the annual cycle of seasons, a time to initiate dramatic changes in your world. Where in your world is a revolution needed?
Resolve to be true to yourself and your personal beliefs. In truth is strength, and through strength, the world can be renewed.
Meditate upon the fact that you as an individual, in co-operation with other like-minded individuals, can work together to bring about a total transformation of the social vessel which currently carries you across the ocean of life. The first step is to join together, make the commitment to change, and raise the flag of peace, love and understanding.
The Austrian philosopher, educator and clairvoyant spiritual teacher Rudolf Steiner taught his students the many ways that they could enhance their will forces by contemplating the forms and cycles of nature, and thus accelerate their spiritual development. As part of his teachings, known as "Anthroposophy", Steiner gave extremely insightful lectures concerning the traditional European festivals celebrating the annual seasonal cycles of the agricultural calendar. Here is what Steiner had to say about St. John's Day: "And so at the time of the St. John's festival, through the ceremonies that were arranged for those among the people who wanted to take part in them, ego-consciousness shone in just at the height of summer."
"And at this time of midsummer people could perceive the mineral realm at least to the extent necessary to help them attain a kind of ego-consciousness, whereby the ego appeared as something that entered into dreams from outside. In order to bring this about, the participants in the oldest midsummer festivals — those of the summer solstice which have become our St. John's festival — the participants were led to unfold a musical-poetic element in round dances having a strong rhythmic quality and accompanied by song. Certain presentations and performances were filled with distinctive musical recitative accompanied by primitive instruments. Such a festival was completely immersed in the musical-poetic element. What man had in his dream-consciousness he poured out into the cosmos, as it were, in the form of music, in song and dance.
"Modern man can have no true appreciation of what was accomplished by way of music and song during those intense and widespread folk festivals of ancient times, which took place under the guidance of men who in turn had received their guidance from the Mysteries. For what music and poetry have come to be since then is far removed from the simple, primitive, elemental form of music and poetry which was unfolded in those times at the height of summer under the guidance of the Mysteries. For everything the people did in performing their round-dances, accompanied by singing and primitive poetic recitations, had the single goal of bringing about a soul mood in which there occurred what I have just called the shining of the ego into the human spirit.
"But if those ancient people had been asked how they came to form such songs and such dances, by means of which there could arise what I have described, they would have given an answer highly paradoxical to modern man. They would have said, for example: 'Much of it has been given to us by tradition, for those who went before us have also done these things.' But in certain ancient times they would have said: 'One can learn these things also today without having any tradition, if one simply develops further what manifests itself. One can still learn today how to make use of instruments, how to form dances, how to master the singing voice' — and now comes the paradox in what these ancient people would have said. They would have said: 'It is learned from the songbirds.' — For they understood in a deep way the whole import of the songbirds' singing.
"My dear friends," Steiner continued, "mankind has long ago forgotten why the songbirds sing. It is true that men have preserved the art of song, the art of poetry, but in the age of intellectualism in which the intellect has dominated everything, they have forgotten the connection of singing with the whole universe."
"Even someone who is musically inspired, who sets the art of music high above the commonplace, even such a man, speaking out of this later intellectualistic age, says: 'I sing as the bird sings who dwells in the branches. The song that issues from my throat is my reward, and an ample reward it is.' Indeed, my dear friends, the man of a certain period says this. The bird, however, would never say such a thing. He would never say: 'The song that issues from my throat is my reward.' And just as little would the pupils of the ancient Mystery schools have said it. For when at a certain time of year the larks and the nightingales sing, what is thereby formed streams out into the cosmos, not through the air, but through the etheric element; it vibrates outward in the cosmos up to a certain boundary... then it vibrates back again to Earth, to be received by the animal realm — only now the divine-spiritual essence of the cosmos has united with it.
"And thus it is that the nightingales and the larks send forth their voices into the universe (red) and that what they thus send forth comes back to them etherically (yellow), for the time during which they do not sing; but in the meantime it has been filled with the content of the divine-spiritual. The larks send their voices out over the cosmos, and the divine spiritual, which takes part in the forming, in the whole configuration of the animal kingdom, streams back to the Earth on the waves of what had streamed out in the songs of the larks and the nightingales."
"Therefore if anyone speaks, not from the standpoint of the intellectualistic age, but out of the truly all-encompassing human consciousness, he really cannot say: 'I sing as the bird sings who dwells in the branches. The song that issues from my throat is my reward, and an ample reward it is.' Rather, he would have to say: 'I sing as the bird sings who dwells in the branches. And the song which streams forth from his throat into the cosmic expanses returns to the Earth as a blessing, fructifying the earthly life with divine spiritual impulses which then work on in the bird world and which can only work in the bird world because they find their way in on the waves of what has been sung out to them into the cosmos.'"
"Now of course not all creatures are nightingales and larks; also of course not all of them send out song; but something similar even though it is not so beautiful, goes out into the cosmos from the whole animal world," Steiner continues. "In those ancient times this was understood, and therefore the pupils of the Mystery-pupils were instructed in such singing and dancing as they could then perform at the St. John's festival, if I may call it by the modern name. Human beings sent this out into the cosmos, of course not now in animal form, but in humanized form, as a further development of what the animals send out into cosmic space."
"And there is something else yet that belonged to those festivals: not only the dancing, the music, the song, but afterward, the listening. First, there was the active performance in the festivals; then the people were directed to listen to what came back to them. For through their dances, their singing, and all that was poetic in their performances, they had sent forth the great questions to the divine spiritual of the cosmos. Their performance streamed up, as it were, into cosmic spaces as the water of the earth rises, forming clouds above and dropping down again as rain. Thus, the effects of the human festival performances arose and came back again — of course not as rain, but as something which manifested itself to man as ego-power," Steiner says in his April 23. 1923 lecture.
Today we recognize St. John's Day and the Festival of the Summer Solstice, as a time of flowering, when roses and daisies and motherwort express their Divinity through the sacred geometry of Light, Color and Form.
The earth breathes out. This is expressed in the Northern hemisphere as green fields & forests, colorful wild flowers, flowering trees & abundant herbs both wild & cultivated. The air is filled with the myriad pollens of trees, grasses & flowers. Green peas & strawberries bless our tables. Farmers harvest the first ripening crops, kitchen gardens offer their first tender green meals & the promise of harvests to come is tangible to all. Fruit orchards are heavy with the first small fruits ripening on limb & vine.
The Great Mother is the source of Fertility and the Fairy Godmother who grants us our individual and collective Dreams and Wishes for our loved ones, our families & communities & for our Mother Earth herself.
In the human community, maidens & young men begin to ripen into their sexuality, and the earth pours forth a fragrant, verdant perfume. Now is a time of rising sexual energies -- a time for Love in all its many forms. Now is the time for first discovery of the sexual impulse & for committed union with the Beloved.
At this time in the year, we also begin to express our spiritual and emotional energies in an outward flow. Our bodies are more expansive in the increasing warmth of summer's days & nights & the outward expressions of Nature. And our souls & hearts more easily find expression for thoughts & feelings of love.
It is a time traditionally for bonfires, for lovers trysts, for making wishes to fulfill love. When the Sun is in Cancer, the traditional time for weddings, betrothals & new expressions of love, the full moon is called the 'Mead Moon', (or honeymoon).
Summer Solstice is the time for the community to rejoice in the many gifts of the Great Mother, in her myriad manifestations of Female Power, Nurturer and Creatrix. Now is the time to celebrate the heightened sense of energy all around, the success of the spring planting and the joy of new love. Now the entire community rejoices in the commitment to an abundant future expressed in new marriages, ripening corn and wheat in the field, tomatoes forming on the vine and the seasonal sharing of the first ruby red strawberries.
It is a time for gathering flowers to make medicines for winter. It is a traditional time to release worries, fears & old outmoded forms of thinking or behavior & to take on new ways of loving & living in the world.
Around this time of year, the first burst of flowers appear on Hypericum Perforatum, commonly called St. John's Wort. St. John's Wort is a magical plant whose yellow blossoms reflect the sun and has a long deserved reputation for healing depression. The oil infused from this plant turns a lovely ruby color when infused & is a wonderful oil to use for protection, for spiritual work & for healing the emotional body. The word perforatum perhaps refers to the tiny perforations on the plant's leaves, which you can see when you hold them up to the light. Crush some leaves and/or the flowers, and you will see the red oils of hypericin, which has been shown by contemporary science to be an effective anti-depressant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory & anti-fungal remedy. Studies have been performed in Germany showing effective immune modulation in subjects with HIV.
Certainly, using St. John's wort as a tincture, or as an anointing oil on Midsummer's Day, St. John's Day or the Summer Solstice would be a wonderful addition to any ceremony held to invoke the many beneficial and protective energies available during this auspicious Celestial occasion.
Just as St John baptized Jesus Christ with water, we are baptized on the Summer Solstice with the Great Mother's gifts of elemental Fire & Water in the form of Universal Life Force energy and rising sap within the abundant plant life surrounding us. When we celebrate the Joy, the Love, and the Bounty of Creation, when we light fires to ritually activate protection for the year, or dance in celebration of this great Solar Feast Day, we are born anew.
Some invoke, Juno, the Roman Queen of Heaven for whom the month June is named, some Isis, the Egyptian Mother of Life & Death. The Great Mother is also known as Oshun in Africa, as Inanna, the Sumerian Queen of the Universe & consort ofTammuz (or Damuzi) and as Ishtar, the Babylonian Star Goddess who has been variously called Ashtoreth, Asherah, Anath, The Great Whore of Babylon, Great Mother of all Green Growing things. She has many names and many children.
To celebrate her Festival of Life, simply call upon the Great Mother Spirit within us all: woman or man, child, beast, every creature great & small. We all are connected as if by a cosmic umbilical cord to the nurturing stream of Life Force Energy that the Great Mother bestows upon us here on our only home, Planet Earth. Through our connection to Her we are all connected with one another. It is the great Web of Life she weaves that we celebrate on Summer Solstice Day.
In the Northern Hemisphere June is the moment when the Great Mother's Roses begin to bloom & offer up her perfume. Of all the expressions of the Great Breathing out that take place at this sacred moment of solar ascendancy, the Rose has always been the symbol for fertility, an expression of the Mother, of Love & Union.
The Summer Solstice is a good time to perform a Rose ceremony. Plant a rosebush, or if you are already blessed with roses, then cut yourself a rose, thank it, and make a wish upon it as you breath out your deepest desires. Then place the rose in a stream or pond or other nearby body of water. Watch it travel to the Mother carrying your wishes, buoyed by the strenthening, protective & cleansing waters of the earth. Or simply place a cut rose in fresh water on your altar. Ask the Mother to grant you your dearest heart's desire.
Go out into your yard, a garden spot or a wooded area and observe the forms of nature. Let the flowers, the trees and the herbs around you speak to you. Meditate quietly among the plants and allow the energy in the air to fill your being as you breathe deeply in and out.Reflect upon the transformations you have seen in the landscape since the Winter Solstice. Picture the snow, the spring thaw, the seeds planted in early spring, the first shoots and the growing stalks, the buds, the flowers and the fruits as they appear over time. In this way you can attune your soul to this season's transformations of the Cosmic Wheel.
Each of the four annual solar festivals help us tune in to the various energies of the ever changing Cosmic Wheel of the year. As we tune into the seasonal changes we move closer and closer to the Source that sustains the movement of the Wheel. Celebrating the eternal Source of Universal Life Force Energy that manifests in the continuous renewal of life we experience through the changing seasons strengthens our faith in the abiity of Life and human spiritual evolution to overcome all obstacles over time.
In the face of global climate change, mass suffering, war, poverty and hunger, we often experience feelings of personal powerlessness. These seasonal ceremonies help us to approach the ever-changing seasons of our lives with equanimity. Celebrating the turnings of the year, we can learn to gracefully accept both obstacles & joys in life. The Gift of Life is an ever shifting dance of light & dark, of breathing out and breathing in, of abundance, scarcity and renewal.
Attuning our own consciousness to this Dance of Life we can gratefully offer ourselves & our love & gifts to the world, knowing that our efforts to create a better world spring from that same inexhaustible Source that sustains the Cosmic Wheel. Establishing a conscious connection to that Source, we can be certain that our efforts in working for peace, social justice and sustainable communities will result in a new cultural flowering.
May you connect with the Divine Source during this seasonal celebration and may you and your loved ones receive the grace and guidance you require to attain your loftiest spiritual goals. May you all be happy and healthy and free from fear. May you each experience great love in your lives.
This is Enough
Aphrodite singing ghazals. A sky with
gold streaks across. A stick
that finds water in stone. Jesus
sitting quietly near the animals.
Night so peaceful. This is enough
was always true. We just haven't
seen it. The hoopoe already wears
a tufted crown. Each ant is given
its elegant belt at birth. This love
we feel pours through us like a giveaway
song. The source of now is here!
From Coleman Barks translation of Rumi "The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing"
Originally Published as the June 21, 2007 edition of the Satya Center newsletter.
(All photos (not including the bird) are by Jane Sherry including both artwork images of the Great Mother)