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THE WONDER explores perspectives, rituals, and observances of modern, naturalistic, Earth-revering Neopagan religious paths. Naturalistic Pagans embrace the world as understood by science (that is, without gods, magic, or the supernatural), and enhance our lives with myth, ritual and activism. Hosted by Mark Green (author of ATHEOPAGANISM: An Earth-Honoring Path Rooted in Science) and Yucca (formerly of The Pagan Perspective YouTube channel, now of the Magic and Mundane channel).

Named #4 in the top15 Pagan podcasts for 2022! https://blog.feedspot.com/pagan_podcasts/

Summer Solstice/Midsummer

June 14, 2021

Remember, we welcome comments, questions and suggested topics at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com

White Wine in The Sun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCNvZqpa-7Q



Mark: Welcome back to the Wonder Science-based Paganism. I'm your host Mark. 

Yucca: And I'm Yucca.

Mark: And it is time for Midsummer. It is the summer solstice coming up and we're going to talk about that today.

Yucca: Exactly. So. What it is to us in our particular bioregions and our particular practice. And just about it in general. 

Mark: Yeah. I mean, this is one of those holidays that doesn't actually exist in the over cultures calendar of holidays. The, the, the winter solstice is pretty well-represented by all of the various winter salts to see holidays that happen around that time. But with the exception of the American Memorial day, we don't really have anything that 

Yucca: Cool. 4th of July, sort of. 

Mark: Yeah. Okay. 

Yucca: Yeah, I think 4th of July.

know it's a little bit later, but it's still kind of in that same time of year summary, holiday 

Mark: Yeah, enjoy, enjoy the long evenings. That kind of thing. Yeah. You're right 

Yucca: but it's still a stretch 

Mark: right. It's not 

Yucca: I mean, Christmas and winter solstice right there. Right. 

Mark: And it's not like in some European countries where Midsummer is a big deal and you have all kinds of traditions that go along with that.

Yucca: Who is, is it son, Juan they're in primarily Catholic countries. There is a St stay which involves a bonfire. On the solstice. And sometimes there's a tradition of the students burning their old papers and things like that at the end of the year to celebrate that the, that.

the semester, the year's over. 

Mark: Okay. I wasn't aware of that, but that's very interesting. Yes. I mean, this is another fire holiday very closely associated with building a big fire, which frankly I think is just an another excuse to build a big fire. I mean, people. People don't need much of an excuse to build a fire and have a big party around it.

But this is another one of those. So we're going to talk about how we conceptualize mid summer or the summer solstice what we call it, how we envision it in the cycle of the year, the wheel of the year and the various cycles that we track. How that may vary from bioregion to bio region what kinds of rituals we do in our practices and that we're aware of that other people might do and stuff like that.

So let's dive in.

Yucca: Yeah. So question number one. Is it actually mid-summer for you? 

Mark: Yes, 

Yucca: it is. Okay. 

Mark: It is, I consider the beginning of summer to be the Mayday holiday. And yeah, that's just so that the names Midsummer and mid-winter will otherwise they don't work.

Yucca: But in terms of, in your bioregion region, your climate, has it been summer for awhile? 

Mark: oh, yes. 

Yucca: Yeah. Okay. 

Mark: Yeah. For quite a while. And the, the transition in my region is very noticeable because all the Hills go from being green, to being gold, all the grasses die. And so, you know, you have this kind of golden brown color instead of the green of the winter growth. And that happens right around may day.

So, it begins right around may the eighth. So that's kind of the beginning of summer and it extends and it's completed. The Hills are completely brown except for the green Oak trees. By the time we get to the summer solstice. 

Yucca: Hmm. 

Mark: How about you?

Yucca: Well, definitely not. Mid-summer as in the mid point of summer for us, this is the beginning of summer. We, I live at a very high elevation, so dry, dry desert, but high desert. So 7,000 feet, I think that's a little over. 2100 meters somewhere in that range. So very high up. So really summer press doesn't begin until June to beginning of June is the beginning of summer feel.

The last week of may, may be may is one of those months that can really go either direction where it's literally freezing the night before. And then it's very hot the next day. So this is the start of summer. And we've got a very, very short growing season, but this is when things really are getting into their groove in terms of the life coming back from the dormant period from the new life emerging.

And it's a very brief period that we have in the middle of the year where we might have some green. We don't, we're, we're gold most of the time of the year goals and lots of red earth and all of that. And if we're lucky, it has not been the case for a while now, but this is the beginning of our monsoon season two. So the monsoons, really will pick up a little bit more, you know, fingers crossed in, in the coming months of, so June, July, August, it's been being pushed back a little July, August, even into September. But when the rains come is when the life that's just been hiding in gray and down below, just pops up into existence just into visibility.

And so. There definitely isn't a sense of maturation yet, but everybody's still, everybody's getting into the groove. Right. And finally we're out of the, the freezes. So, but you still got to take a sweatshirt with you wherever you go, because it'll drop being high up. We'll drop back down into the fifties or so at night, usually.

Mark: And you consider that cold.

Yucca: Well, if your day was 90,

Mark: Well, that's true.

Yucca: right? If you were at 90 and then you went down to 50, but no, in the winter we get down into the teens, we get freezing and very cold in the winter, but it, but it's a pretty big drop between, you know, you're in a tank top during one part of the day and then putting your sweater on for the rest of the day.


Mark: huh. Huh. So, how do we understand this holiday in terms of the cycles of the wheel of the year? What is, what is its place? In our, in our. Symbolic understanding of it in the, the ritual celebrations that we do.

Yucca: Hm. Yeah. Well, one of the things we've talked about before is our different approaches to. The wheel of the year. And for me, that approach, I'm looking at the seasons and then the holidays being the midpoint of those seasons is kind of the celebration as a representing different ecosystems or types of life, which are really, really critical for our own survival and for our, our experience of.

The biosphere, which of course is much huger than, than we can even begin to imagine. We just live on this very thin little layer and we only occupy a very small part of that layer anyways. But the first summer is about. The arthropods for us, it's about the insects and   arachinids and myriapods and all those little jointed legged beings with their armored shells and lots of celebration, especially for the honey bees and the ants and all of those little creatures.

It's that time of busy work that they are doing. 

 Mark: I, on the other hand tend to, I tend to think of the wheel of the year in two different dimensions. The first of which is the more kind of Wicca consistent, traditional understanding of the wheel of the year as the agricultural cycle. Right? So the holidays reflect food production at different times of the year.

And. In the case of this particular holiday that makes this the holiday of doing nothing. This is the holiday of leisure because everything's planted, everything's growing. Nothing's ready to harvest yet. And it's time to just kind of sit around with friends and drink some beer and have a barbecue and, and go to the beach and just enjoy those long, comfortable days.

And I consider those to be sacred activities at this time of year. It's it's important to have a time when, you know, you're just taking it easy. And, you know, storing up some energy for when you're going to have to work like crazy to bring the harvest in later on 

Yucca: Mm. 

Mark: the other dimension that I think of the wheel of the year along is kind of mapping the arc of a human life.

So I think of birth as being equivalent to the, the birth of the son, the coming back, the return of the sun, starting at the winter solstice. So what, by the time you get to the summer solstice, you're kind of in the fullness of adulthood, right? I'm not. Not the sort of urgent, energetic learning, still kind of wide-eyed young adulthood of, of Mayday or bell Tane, but established, you know, building a family building career the, the kind of adulthood where you can enjoy agency.

Right. You're, you're fully empowered to do all the things, you know, because you're well past 21 and now you get to make choices and you have to make choices and it's a time to just sort of reflect on, you know, what's it like to have power. What's it like to be able to make those decisions for ourselves and to plot out what we're going to plant, what we hope to harvest so forth.

So, this summer solstice is a time of year when I honestly have fewer kind of formal rituals because the rituals are things like lying in a hammock with a Mohito. 

Yucca: Sounds like a great ritual. 

Mark: yeah, yeah, I totally agree. I think it's a very good thing for you. And so that's, that's the sort of thing that I look to do at this holiday.

How about you?

Yucca: Well, I think partly because what's happening in our climates is so different. It definitely is not a leisure time for us because it really is still that beginning. You're still getting. In the annual cycle, you're still getting the plants in the ground, right. You're still working it's that there and in the agricultural cycle.

I mean, our cycle, our growing season is so short. I don't know. Perhaps people who live in a longer season might have more time, but there's never a time that you're not doing anything except the dead of winter. Right. That's but the rest of the time of the year, you're busy as can be with what's going on. But when it comes to the celebrations, it's for us, one of the really big times of the year. So it's up there in, in the celebration and awareness around it, as much as the winter solstice is. So it's like these two halfs of the year for us, the winter solstice and the summer solstice which we have playfully Called Hafmas.

So there's Christmas and then Hafmas, which is, haf is Welsh for summer. And we use a lot of Welsh in the, in the home, but when you write it in English, it's H A f because the F is just, just a single V it's only if it's two F's. So it looks like half, like half the year. the split of the year and half.

So the, the half year celebration. And so there's, it's also the time of year that we're outside at night a lot, even though the night's short compared to other times of the year, it's just so much more pleasant to be out. In the middle of the summer, around a campfire, looking at the skies and, and in the next few coming weeks, we're going to have some wonderful meteor, shower opportunities and all of that.

And then we also do gifts this time of year as well. So we do gifts both sides of the year and the kids are really into that. 

Mark: I'm sure.

Yucca: yeah. 

Mark: Well, that's great. So it does seem like there are some commonalities. I mean, it was interesting. I. I was reflecting when you were talking about how other than the dead of winter, you really don't have a dormant time in, in terms of planting and agriculture. And it occurs to me that where I am is so benign that people actually grow gardens through the entire winter.

They they'll grow winter squash and leafy vegetables and stuff like that. And you know, maybe you get tagged by a freezer too, and you lose some stuff, but certainly in a greenhouse you can grow stuff all year round with no problem.

Yucca: Have we talked about it before you and like a zone nine or. 

Mark: I don't know what zone I'm in, honestly. 

Yucca: You mentioned, you could get away with what most people would call a fall garden or a spring garden 

Mark: Oh, for 

Yucca: during the winter where you've got your, like you're saying your leaf fees and your, all your brassicas and things like that. 

Mark: Yes, absolutely. And people do and you know, they're, they're putting in tomatoes by April 

Yucca: Hmm. 

Mark: and Getting tomatoes by July, right. You know, the early tomatoes. So, you know, the kind of a traditional meal for us around this time of year is the caprese salad response Sorella and the really good, fresh heirloom tomatoes and the basil leaf.

And then you drizzle it all with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and it's just awfully good. Really really good. And just super, you know, fresh that's, that's kind of the quality of everything right about now, you know, peaches are coming into coming into ripeness right about now. And there's, there's nothing more than the taste of a peach.

That is the summer to me.

Yucca: Yeah. Oh, oh, that just makes me hungry thinking about it. And I like the texture on the outside, the little, little bit of fuzz as you bite into 

Mark: Yeah. Everything about 

Yucca: underneath it. Yeah. 

Mark: Perfect. Peach is about the ultimate food. If there really were a thing that was the food of the gods, I think it would be a perfectly ripe peach.

Yucca: Yeah. Now they're in the, for us, they're in the grocery stores, but none of our, our fruit trees are bearing yet. 

Mark: Okay.

Yucca: Right. There's some that survived are late. Frosts have got their little, little green fruits just starting to grow that are about the size of a gumball right now, but we won't get those fruits for another month, at least on the earliest of them. 

Mark: Wow. 

Yucca: So 

Mark: Wow. And, and, and that's, that's probably like plums and cherries, like those kinds of fruit or. Hm.

Yucca: Well, we get a lot of the stone fruit do fairly well. 

Mark: Oh, good. Okay.

Yucca: The apricots are the ones that do the best and in my particular area, in fact, there'll be so many, we get those little tiny ones that people are asking you to come take them away because they drop and they make all those, the little squish.

Yeah. Everywhere. Yeah.

And then we, you know, apples and some Of those ones do very well. But everything has to be adapted to being in a very dry condition, dry, and then the very cold in the winter. So it's kind of both extremes. 

Mark: Sure. And I imagine you you have a lot of competition from birds and other wildlife for the fruit. Once it becomes edible

Yucca: Yes, certainly. So, I mean, there's a lot of things that you can do tricks the, the birds aren't so bad. Depending on where you live in, in the area where we are now the biggest problem with having an orchard is that it attracts bears and the bears will try and climb into your tree and they'll break your tree to get to your 

Mark: Right, right.

Yucca: the birds, you can usually you discover like a branch or two, and then they're pretty good at sharing, but the, the bears not so much 

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: havoc. Yeah. 

Mark: So how about rituals? Why don't we talk about some of the rituals that we might do at this time? I do have one that I do every year. There's actually an article about it on the atheopagan ism.org blog. I have a broom that I call a sun broom. And it's a handle made from Oak, a piece of Oak that I found in a nearby state park.

And I bind, I cut wild oats, long, tall, wild oats every year and bind them onto this handle to make a broom. And they leave that out in the. Summer solstice sun all day long until sunset. So it soaks up all the sun. Right. So then if in February, when I'm feeling really kind of discouraged by the darkness and lack of light and all that, I can take that out and wave it around and feel better.

Yucca: Yeah.

that's great. Hm.

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: Well, we don't have any specific rituals like that quite yet. I think that maybe over the years, those might start to develop some for me, it's always been just this moment, taking a moment for the awareness. And of course like to S to set my alarm just for the moment of the actual solstice which of course could come at many different times of day, depending on the year.

But, but long walks if you have a labyrinth or can make a labyrinth nearby, I think that there's just something about being out in the middle of the hot. If you're taught where you are, but the middle of the long summer solstice stay and taking that, that moment set aside, just to be aware of the, the continual cycle that conduct continual progression. We also Put up and it's evolving every year, getting more and more complex. But kind of like a summer Garland that has the big looks like a honeycomb almost cut out. So it looks like so instead of having like a, like a tree that we put up the celebration and put, you know, B related art and big cutout, The arthropods and spend some time studying the, the, just watching, like, if you've got a nearby little ant mound or big outman Mount, those are just hanging out with them for a little while. 

Mark: That's great. I was just remembering something and now it has left me again. What was that?

Yucca: it was a Garland related. Or 

Mark: It wasn't either of those. Probably my ADHD brain went just somewhere else on something that only, that must be related in an associated way, but I could never track down what the path was. 

Yucca: Was that moment? solstice. 

Mark: I like to do that too. I like to know exactly when it's going to be an observed that that's happened as well. Oh, I know what I was going to say. This year is actually going to be a really special celebration for the summer solstice on the 20th because my ritual circle is going to get together in person.

For the first time since COVID and I'm really looking forward to that. It's going to be just amazing to see everybody. 

Yucca: How wonderful. That's great. 

Mark: Everybody's vaccinated. And 

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: over to my circle. Brother's house in Napa, and we're going to drink a bunch of wine and eat seared meat. 

Yucca: Sounds great. Yeah.

Yeah. That, that the community and this sense of, and that in person ness of the community is really that's wonderful. 

Mark: So meanwhile, elsewhere in the world on, on the other half of the world it's coming up on the winter solstice. And we thought we'd talk about that for a minute. Maybe contrast what's happening there. You know, for our friends that are in the Southern hemisphere

Yucca: just a reminder on that. There's often a missed perception that the summer solstice is when the earth is closest to the sun. And that's not the case. There are some planets that have very elliptical orbits in which their seasons. Are caused at least in part by the distance from the star, but that's not the case with ours.

Ours is caused because of the tilt of our planet relative to our orbit around the plane of our orbit around the star. So it's going to be reversed depending on which hemisphere you're on for one hemisphere, it's going to be the summer solstice for when it's going to be the winter and the other way around. 

Mark: right, right. Yeah. So, because the earth has now tilted the Northern hemisphere towards the sun where we get more direct sunlight and longer days. The opposite is

Yucca: our position is

such that we are tilted in that way, the earth isn't within a human timescale, wobbling back and forth. 

Mark: no, not at all. It's it's processing around around a tilted axis. Yeah. So meanwhile, in places like south America and South Africa and Australia and New Zealand they're coming up on the winter solstice. Which is I would imagine a little frustrating for those that follow more traditional pagan paths because they get bombarded with all this stuff about you know, it's summer, it's summer solstice.

It's Letha, it's, you know, in, you know, here's all this, here's all this, this stuff about, you know, Holly Kings and goddesses and Kings and all that kind of stuff. That makes no sense for where they are at all. But if you strip all that stuff out

Yucca: I was going to say the folks in Brisbane, I think they've been having a really cold snap for what they typically have this time of year that, you know, they're putting on sweaters and that's quite unusual for that area. 

Mark: huh. Yeah. Yeah. So, 

Yucca: And of course, the other side of the year, too, when, when the Santa clauses out and yet it's the middle of summer, 

Mark: Right.

Yucca: summer solstice was Santa Claus and reindeer. 

Mark: Which in gendered, my favorite Southern hemisphere Christmas song, which is called White Wine in the Sun by Tim Minchin. And it's a very moving song and it's also a non-theistic song. Not just in the sense of not having any gods in it, but it's, it's like goes into his disinterest in in theistic stuff.

He's, he's very funny, but also very moving it's. We'll we'll put a link to the YouTube video in the, in the notes. It's a wonderful song.

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: Let me see.

Yucca: So mark, have you ever spent any time in the Southern hemisphere? 

Mark: I haven't, I've never been south of the equator.

Yucca: I have not either. It's it's a dream. I want to go and. And see the other half of the sky and the other half of the earth. 

Mark: yeah, me too. I'm particularly interested in Africa and south America. For some reason, I don't know, Australia has always struck me as being so similar in many ways to the American west that I just haven't. I mean, culturally, obviously not, it's obviously totally different. But in terms of the geography and the land shapes and the aesthetics and that kind of thing, it just looks very similar.

So it hasn't drawn me as much. 

Yucca: You know, interestingly, it's one of the places I'm very drawn to. I'm very, you know, I am very happy with where I live and it's home, but that's, you know, and when people ask, oh, well, if you had to move somewhere, right, where would you go? And even never having been there, there's just always a, well, well, I Really

loved the look Of the Outback and of course. there there's a lot of different areas, but there's just something about it that just calls me 

Mark: Oh, 

Yucca: and weirdly Greenland as well.

Very, very 

Mark: Really, really attracted to Greenland Greenland and on, up into Cape Breton and those kind of far Northern Newfoundland, those far, far Northern areas in Canada. I'm also very attracted to along the Atlantic seaboard. But I think that some of that may just be, because there's so much contrast from where I am here, you know, I, I just, I like to go somewhere where things are really different, 

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: and experience what that's like.

Yucca: Well, I talked about this before, but we do have an invitation out to folks who anyone who'd like to come on and talk about their wheel of the year. That is, you know, from a Southern hemisphere perspective or a tropical perspective or, or, you know, maybe a polar perspective that would just be, be amazing. 

Mark: It would be so 

Yucca: will be interested in that. 

Mark: We would, we would love to do that. Also, I wanted to announce because it's on the blog and we've been talking about it in the atheopagan Facebook group, but we are having a non-fixed pagan gathering in 2022. It'll be in Colorado Springs, Colorado in the United States, which is quite central for people who are Canadian or Mexican or from the U S and it's on March.

I'm sorry, May 13th through 19th, 13 through 1913 through 16th. 

Yucca: I think, Yeah. Let me

Mark: Yeah. 13th through 16th. 

Yucca: So that's a Friday through Monday. 

Mark: yes, it's at a retreat center called love 40 and It's going to be beautiful. It's just, it's really amazing. We've raised enough in deposits in tickets so far to put down the deposit for the retreat center 

Yucca: Just tucked into the Ponderosa Pines and.

Mark: Beautiful view of, of Pike's peak and some national registry national historic building registry buildings on the site that are in the kind of classic rustic style including one called the Ponderosa lodge, which will be our meeting place for our activities. So it's pretty exciting. And there's all the details about it or that we have so far are on the atheopagan ism.org blog.

And we, if you're interested in meeting other people of like-mind and gathering around a fire for rituals and doing workshops and just hanging out. 

Yucca: and we'll be there. 

Mark: Yep. We'll be there. We will be there. So don't let that frighten you though. We, we, we aren't harmful and it'll, it's actually going to be great.

It'll be the first time we've ever met. 

Yucca: Yeah. 

Mark: so that'll be exciting. So, if you're interested in that at all, do go to the blog and find out more about it and keep watching that space because as we know more about what the event is going to entail, we'll be publishing that stuff there. So, I'm really excited about this.

I think it's just going to be so much fun.

Yucca: Yeah. And I feel, you know, Giddy just thinking about it. It's very, 

Mark: Huh.

Yucca: Yeah, it's, it's, it'll just be amazing to see people and especially after the year and a half or at that 0.2 years, that we'll all have had and, 

Mark: right, right. I mean, especially after all of the, the shut downs of COVID and all that kind of stuff, and we have nearly a maid to plan for it. Well, yes, everything else. it's it's not 

Yucca: What a year, 

Mark: Yeah, at least the election worked out. Okay. 

Yucca: Just need to get worried about midterms. 

Mark: yes. Yes, but let's not. Go there right now. So this has been a great conversation.

thank you Yucca, thank you so much. And to all of our friends out there listening wherever you are, I hope that your solstice, whichever one it is is wonderful and enjoyable and that you have a lot of wonderful things to eat.

Yucca: exactly. And if there's anything that you want to share with us about your traditions or questions, suggestions that you have for the podcast, you can find us at.

Mark: thewonderpodcastqueues@gmail.com. So that's the wonder podcast. All one word Q S. At gmail.com and we welcome your feedback and your questions and any input that you have so that we can make this thing better.

Yucca: Well, thank you, mark. 

Mark: Thank you, Yucca. Have a great week.