Today, the day of the summer solstice, is a time to celebrate the beauty and vitality of nature, to bask in the rays of light and warmth reaching out to us all around the earth. In the Lithuanian Pagan solstice observance known as Rasos or Jonines, paralleled in the Latvian holiday of Ligo, and other similar festivities across Eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia, the peak of the nightlong celebration is the setting on fire of wagon wheels coated in pitch, which are rolled down hills to mimic the rolling or turning of the sun across the seasons. As there is only a brief time of darkness on the night of the summer solstice, owing to the phenomenon of the White Nights in the Northern European summer, the lighting of the wheel is meant to re-awaken the sun when it seems to have disappeared, however briefly, threatening darkness, chaos and death. Happily, the sun is soon again shining, and the cycle is complete.
The lighting of the wheel is a reminder that the ancients understood nature to be not only sacred and vital, but also fragile, in perpetual risk of destruction or disappearance. Whether you go out today or tonight to celebrate the solstice, or stay home due to the endless round of task and obligations that consume our lives like the darkness that swallows the sun each night, say a prayer or take a moment to contemplate how our modern way of life has threatened the continued vitality of nature like never before in human history. Let's take a note from the wisdom of the ancients, and remember that life is not just a quest for material consumption and social status. Life is also to be lived in, and with, nature, and that imposes a sacred obligation on us to not allow nature to be destroyed. Not by choking our air with automobile exhaust, not by blowing up mountains to burn more coal, not by ripping open the depths of the earth and ruining the water supply to scrape out more oil and gas, not by mining uranium to fuel unsafe nuclear power plants, not by islands of plastic garbage stifling the sea, and not by mountains of discarded electronics that poor children in Africa and elsewhere burn to separate the valuable bits to make more electronics to be discarded next year.
There are so many problems to be addressed in our unhealthy use of nature's resources, but the sun, who we Pagans salute on the solstice, contains one key to our planet's survival. The sun offers boundless energy that we can tap without destroying or desecrating our environment. Solar power is not a panacea to all that ails the earth and our relationship to it, but it is at least a partial solution to one piece of our environmental dilemma. Let's embrace that full-force and encourage our politicians to do the same!
May all hail the beauty, warmth and power of the sun.....!
May all remember our dependence on, and the fragility, of nature.....!
May all find the wisdom in their hearts to respect true and enduring values....!
Peace and plenty to you and yours on the solstice!