Midsummer is one of those celebrations that suffers terribly in the Southern Hemisphere. From the time we celebrate Rosemas (Beltaine) to a few days after Midsummer, the world is entirely drenched in Christmas. Even those who celebrate Jul when there’s an actual chance of real and actual snow, and who openly mock the fake white window spray and the winter coated reindeer, it can be trying. We have families. Families who travel and who adhere to the culturally and social prescribed time to be together and give gifts. The idea of fitting Midsummer in to a schedule that is stressed by increased work commitments, family, and everything the season has come to represent to me personally, consumerism, obligation, social conditioning and expectation, guilt, is often a task too many. For many of us, it’s our pagan friends who understand best. We all in one way or another straddle two worlds. Telling your pagan, or witch community you can’t do something because of ‘this worldly’ stresses, like Christmas, family stays, work exhaustion, and you will find a sympathetic ear. People will understand, and you might have your friends tell you to ‘make sure you meditate in the garden before you family arrives’, or ‘I will light a candle for you’ when family can mean conflict. But telling Nonna or Nanna you’re not doing Christmas, and you might be in for guilt laden diatribes in mother tongues about how you don’t respect tradition, or at worst, even love them enough. What’s truly horrifying is that it is no different for people who aren’t pagan. The number of times I’ve switched on the TV in this last month or so to see some expert psychologist talk about how to deal with family conflict at Christmas, financial experts with advice on how you can fulfil your Christmas financial obligation is mind-boggling-frightening! Not one ever says “just don’t do it.” Never, not once. And yet, on the other side, the number of times I myself or someone else in my community has expressed that stress and an inability to join in with festival preparations or activities to the level they would like has never resulted in that expressed obligation. It’s a celebration, a festival. If your idea of a good time is sporting trackies and having a few beers before sleeping through most of it, then you know what? It’s a good festival. If you’re broke and can afford to bring nothing along, you know what, that’s cool too, we can still have a good festival celebration.
And that’s if you have a community physical. For many people who celebrated Midsummer this weekend, that celebration might well have been at home alone and their community existing in the ether of cyber-space. I had both.
A student on the mainland spoke to me Midsummer’s Day, exhausted from having just finished work for the year, running about in exhaustive heat preparing for family to arrive, said her Midsummer Eve, when she finally had time to herself to sit down, was not a riotous, wild celebration, but quiet, meditative. She was thankful just to have that short time to acknowledge the unseen world, the wild, sun drenched land, take a moment of quiet for herself. Too cool off for a moment and just be. And that, I replied, is an excellent Midsummer.
At home, I was joined by another student and friend, and we spent Midsummer Eve’s day wandering about the local bush collecting things for our alter, cooking, decorating and adorning our space, which just happened to be my lounge-room, laughing and just hanging out. We had a wonderful drumming and dancing ritual just the two of us, and then we chatted until the wee hours. And that, I declared, was a excellent Midsummer.
And that’s the truth of it for me. We all live in the world. No matter how our practices and celebrations might differ from the ‘norm’ (for want of a better word), we all have, for the most part, to engage with the rest in one way or another. What is different, is that at the core of the experience for most pagan people is communion, not consumerism; the Unseen, not keeping up with the Jones. The smallest act of recognition and connection with the spirit self, with the spirit of others, with the Wild, spirited World is a profound act of Will and Craft when everything and everyone around you is completely and utterly disconnected from Land and season, from the real needs of others past what they can afford as token at Target.
There’s a quiet and riotous centre of all things, a cool and explosive core in the centre of being that is always. It does not have a designated day. It does not have a set time frame. It’s Mystery is that it will encompass both silence and sound together, joy and sorrow at once. To experience it for a moment is to be inside a cherished experience that can change you. Midsummer, as it happens in the middle of a collective cultural madness and disconnection, serves always to remind me most of the reason I am here. Now, doing what it is I am doing. Because this wild burning land whispers of things older than tales of the birth of men. Because my true joy in life was never really inside a Christmas sale. Because there is no tradition I will keep to that speaks contradictory to the needs of people and that Land. Because church on Sunday leaves the rest of the week feeling a little empty.
So I wish all my readers a Merry Midsummer. I hope you had a moment in the madness to breath in the thick, heady eucalyptus air, to shiver at a thunderstorm rolling in over vast flat redness, to bury your feet in the sand and taste the cool salty water. To sit in the middle of the riotous wild place we call home here in Australia and be still, just be. Part of it.