16th June 1987
Dear Tessa and Glyn,
Rather late, as usual, this letter.
How shall I begin about the summer solstice? The Sun is at his height, that much is clear (in spite of all the rain and the unseasonable cold: that Beltane promise of warmth didn’t last long!). From now on, in terms of the cycle of the year, things will change. In the Craft, we say that the change is because of the culmination. Now the Sun King has known complete love with the Queen of Summer. It is because of this fulfilment that he changes his direction. Inspired by love, he begins a new quest, setting sail for the Isle of Rebirth. Thus, the Sun God will wane in the outer world, as he gains strength in inner realms, as Lord of Night.
At the summer solstice we can celebrate all this and align ourselves with the change. Because the new adventure of the Sun King is a hero’s quest, we conclude the rite by calling upon the hero/heroine in ourselves. And we call upon the Sun God to bless all the land, and to put to flight destructive forces.
It should go without saying that a witch’s heroism isn’t about wielding weapons or conquering, but a matter of finding the courage to heal and transform. In the face of societal pressures to keep quiet and to acquiesce about oppression, environmental damage, industrial pollution and the continuance of nuclear stockpiling, it is also heroic to protest, politically, on behalf of Mother Earth.
The hero’s quest is vitally concerned with self-exploration, with inner development and a facing of one’s own inner demons, for a full self-knowledge. The Sun God transforms the destructive forces with the light of truth.
The summer solstice is a joyful time and celebration is itself magical. The Goddess gives us true fulfilment if we are open to her. In receiving her gift we, like the Sun, are changed and filled with the power to bless. The summer solstice is the time in all the year when we are nearest to the ’Holy Grail’, the cup of happiness given by the Goddess. (This is the true meaning of the Grail. It is far older than that in the Christianized Arthurian legends.)
In nature, the year has reached a peak. The leaves are out on all the trees, gardens are full of flowers and, in the fields, the crops are well established. It is a time for the enjoyment of what one has. The rite for a solitary witch takes account of all these themes.
Cast your circle and invoke both Goddess and God. A cauldron, bowl of wine or fruit juice should be at the centre of your circle.
This is my summer solstice poem for this year. You could read it aloud, or read something of your own.
Light of the Solstice Sun is seen
upon the water,
far upon the sea, fire and water, reconciled.
The Sun sets sail for what his love has shown him,
sets sail for her Otherworld.
We, too, are setting a new course,
for the Queen of Summer brings
the cup of happiness,
cup of the sweetness of desire fulfilled.
Bless us, O Queen of Summer, and bless all living creatures.
Now the peak has been reached, the change
shall be made.
Now the sails of the bright Sun are unfurled.
Dance deosil with joy and freedom. Chant She brings the cup of happiness,/the cup of the wine of life.
Earth the power of your dance and chanting into the cauldron. Do this by directing the gold cone into the cauldron’s contents as usual. Fill your chalice with the wine or fruit juice. Say, I drink of fulfilment. Drink slowly and meditatively. Look into the cup from time to time. You may see visions. Feel the changes in mind, body, soul and spirit that result from this. Give thanks to the Goddess.
Take two unlit candles from beside the altar and place one each side of the cauldron, about three feet apart on a line running east to west. Light the candles, saying, Let the midsummer fires shine forth. As you light them, imagine all those other midsummer fires, past and present.
Twin bonfires are a tradition at midsummer. It may be because the Sun has a dual nature, a waxing and waning side. This is often represented in mythology by rival friends or brothers. The Sun waxes in strength and vitality from winter to summer solstice. This is the first brother, strong in the outer world. In the second half of the year the other brother has ascendancy. As his physical strength wanes, he gains in the inner realms, becoming finally ’the Sun at Midnight’ or ’Lord of Shadows’, the Wise One. Taken together, these two make up the full being of the Sun. They are one and the same God.
Go and sit at the south quarter, the area of passion and of change. Face in towards the twin candles and the cauldron, sitting comfortably, perhaps cross-legged. Think about what is currently bringing fulfilment to you, in your life. Is it music? Making love? Going into the countryside to be alone? Books? Your garden? If there are many things, think about them all. Think especially about any vision of fulfilment which you may just have had while drinking the wine. It is the Sun God’s fate, and yours also, to be changed by a fulfilment. Let us say that, for one of you, the greatest current fulfilment is learning about the Craft, studying to become a witch. For the other, it is the new relationship. You are in love. Each of you should think about this (or whatever it may be), feeling the energy of your passion flaming up and impelling you to make changes. Visualize these changes. See them as though they have already happened. See your life as it would be afterwards. Think about the steps you must take to bring this into being; or better, see if you can perceive, intuitively, what you must do. Silently, make your pledges to the Goddess about these steps. Now take another candle (which should have been placed ready at the south quarter). Light it from the midsummer fire on the western side of the cauldron. Before you light it, hold it for a while, imbuing it with power, consecrating it. For added magical effect, anoint it with oil of rosemary, or rub it with the fresh leaves. Rosemary is a herb sacred to the Sun, and also has connections with the sea. It is said to bring a safe voyage. As you touch your candle to the flame, say, As this candle burns, so may the change be made. May I—[list all the steps you mean to take].
Now take the candle deosil from the south quarter (summer) through the west (autumn) to the north (winter). Place it upon the altar. Leave it to burn all the way down. You may move it, when the rite ends, but do not extinguish it.
Now rest awhile, enjoying the candle-light. Drink more wine, if you want to. Then take a wand of wood and consecrate it. Bless it in the names of the Triple Goddess and the Horned God, dedicating it to magic. Pass it swiftly through or touch it to the incense, candle flame, water and stone (or pentacle) upon your altar.
Stand with your back to the altar, facing south, and raise the wand high in the air. You are about to invoke for protection and blessing upon the land, to call down the blessing of the Sun. Simple invocations are the most powerful. You may be able to speak spontaneously, or you may feel more confident if you have planned and learned what you want to say beforehand. It could be something like this:
I call upon the power of the bright Sun King,
as he makes his journey to the Otherworld.
As he draws away, may he still
shine in blessing, upon this land,
bringing peace and plenty.
And I call upon him now, to vanquish all—[for example, oppression].
May this be put to flight in his name.
Wave the wand. Continue around the circle, waving the wand at each quarter, saying, Peace and plenty. All [oppression] vanquished from the four quarters of this land.
Sit quietly for a while after this. It is then time for communion, after which the rite is ended.
Enjoy yourselves. Celebrate in style!
Bright and blessed be,