I love summer, even more so now that I live in a place where the seasons are clearly delineated and you have to maximize your warm weather enjoyment when you can. Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, opposite Winter Solstice as the longest night of the year, and is the official beginning of summer (nope, it doesn’t start on Memorial Day (US) when the pools open :-P). On the Solstice, whether Winter or Summer, we honor the sun that gives us warmth and life; in summer the sun is at the height of its power, reigning in glory, and in winter the sun is at its lowest, yet returning every day stronger than the day before. Depending on your mythos it is also a celebration of the sun god, the oak king, or the fire of ‘midsummer’.
I find it particularly interesting that Father’s Day (US) is always an adjacent weekend, similar to how Mother’s Day is usually a weekend adjacent to Beltane/May Day. New Age pagan theory equates feminine with the moon and masculine with the sun, so it seems to make sense to honor the sons of the Sun who have bred their own sons as we leap the fires and dance in honor of the heavenly body that regulates life on Earth. I struggle with Father’s Day, myself, as I never know how to celebrate this. I’m remote from all my parents, but Moms seem easier to buy for – candy, chocolate, strawberries, jewelry, or emotional gifts – but Dads?
I suspect this echoes, or is the source of the echo, my struggle to connect with the divine masculine. It seems that most Pagan celebrations for the Divine Masculine are Pan or Dionysius (any excuse to party, amirite?!). Goddesses get all levels and textures of rituals and celebrations, but I feel that the Gods either get lip service as the Goddess’ partner or they’re only good for a good time. Where is the sage or the father or the youth in all of this? What about Gods of the forge or travel? I struggle with why we focus on Gods of the party and of the hunt.
Especially in modern paganism, where the Divine Masculine seems to be getting the shaft (pun intended!) on worship, I think it is important to honor Him when we can. There are many sun goddesses across several cultures, just as the moon wasn’t always a goddess and in several instances was a god, but for the purposes of modern Western interpretation we will go with the Sun God motif. He can be warm and gentle, a lovely summer day to frolic and play. However, in His harsher aspect plants may turn brown and die, water dries up and the ground cracks, and skin burns to blisters from the impact of his fierce gaze. Contrary to popular belief, Life isn’t always beautiful and it is unreasonable to expect such a force to conform to your “think positively” mantra. It is especially important when working with deities and elemental forces to remember that there will always be an intense or even violent side – knowing and honoring that as well is key.
Desert tribes honored their Sun God by creating the Abrahamic religions. Sometimes I amuse myself by thinking of a heat-crazed and sun-sick prophet crawling out of the desert with his crazy visions of one omnipotent male god, and how people must have viewed him in this delusion. Native American tribes have various tales of the sun burning the Earth and how their various heroes and trickster gods saved them. Even in fiction, the religion of a Sun God can be found. Mercedes Lackey, creator of the Valdemar universe, illustrates this in the country of Karse, where a monotheist clergy of men dominate their people and start holy wars in the name of their god. The leader of their religion? The Sun of the Son – which was quite ironic when the Sun God finally tossed aside his false prophet and installed a woman in that position.
This year, I’ll be celebrating the Sun in a new way – by attending Pagan Spirit Gathering. I’m very excited to experience this festival in a space out of time, participating in rituals, workshops, and the larger community for an entire week. The theme this year is “With Our Hands” – building community and communing with nature while we celebrate the Solstice! I will have the opportunity to support the young women’s rite of passage and be in Service to the greater community in Psyche’s Grotto. Besides the usual workshops and concerts and merchants, a sacred fire is lit during Opening Ritual and tended all week. I suspect it will be dedicated to Brigid, as she is a primary deity of Circle Sanctuary, but I am very interested to see how the Divine Masculine is honored at this festival.