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Summer Solstice: The Sacred Marriage of Heaven and Earth

Summer Solstice: The Sacred Marriage of Heaven and Earth

Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, and stands opposite the Winter Solstice in the Wheel of the Year.  It is the time when the new life and light that was born at the Winter Solstice is manifest in our lives and in the world.  Summer Solstice has been celebrated in practically every culture on Earth, and is a time of joy and celebration of the powers of life.  The Sun is at its fullest power, and the darkness of winter is a fading memory. But just at this moment of greatest light, we begin to face death, for now the days begin to shorten and the darkness grows.  Solstice literally means "sun stand still", for at the solstices the sun seems to stop on its course before it reverses itself.

Many traditions have grown up around the Summer Solstice.  The Native Peoples of America had many ceremonies celebrating the Sun, especially the Sun Dance which ritually commemorated the life-giving powers of the sun.  The Sun Dance of the Great Plains peoples was a dedication to the divine spirit, held during summer solstice when all of nature was rejoicing and the sage plant was succulent.

Summer Solstice was the most important and widespread festival in Europe.  In Celtic countries, it was celebrated on Midsummer's Eve and was a vegetation-fire-water ritual, when all the elements of life were celebrated and honored.  It is a time of magic, both good and bad; a time when the faerie folk once again come out to dance.  Fires are lit to help the Sun in its course, the waters bring blessings, and dreams are potent. 

But most of all, Midsummer is a time for lovers, for it is the moment of the marriage of Heaven and Earth. The Sun fertilizes the Earth with His heat, and She becomes pregnant with Life.  But there is a cost to all of this, for the Summer King must fight the Winter King for his Flower Bride, and although he overcomes the darkness, yet will the darkness overcome him as well.

The Man stood in the darkness, watching as the Dragon sank below the horizon.  He had followed it for many days now, never losing sight of it, but never gaining on the creature that had stolen away his Beloved.  Staring into the darkness and wrapping his sorrow and his anger around himself like a cloak, he once again recounted the story of his loss, to awaken his numb mind so that he might go on with his search. 

It had been a night of storms, of lightning and rumbling thunders, of fierce winds, which tore at the clouds, and no moon.  They were seeking the shelter of a cave when they came upon the Dragon watching in the darkness.  In a whirl of wings and flames and eyes older than Earth Herself, it descended upon them, and when he came to himself in the morning, she was gone from him. Gone.

Sinking wearily down against the tree trunk, he closed his eyes to the last of the night's darkness. Immediately, he stepped into the brightness of an early May morning, when he had known joy.  There before him in the sparkling spring light, she lay smiling up at him, and he was ravished anew, there in the darkness.  As if she were still with him, the darkness of her eyes drew him down into deep surrender - all that he was yearned for her, and his groan of longing rang out and silenced the forest.

He sat as one dead, as if the sound of his sorrow had released his spirit from his body.  Suddenly, a nightingale sang out to the silence, and her song awakened him to sweet memories of love.  In his weariness and longing, he allowed himself to remember LOVE.

He remembered those first days, after the first wild passion of the fire, when they had traveled through the forest together.  Each day was filled with light and soft, golden warmth, and each night the bright brilliance of the starry sky looked down upon them in the damp coolness of the forest depths.  In those first days, he came to know her moods, which flowed and rippled like the winds that shook the treetops.  His own silences were matched by her stillness, and he watched, enchanted, as the animals of the forest came up to her as if she were their queen and mistress.  He watched as she took delight in the simple beauty of a wildflower, or the awesome splendor of the eagle's flight.  He came to know her tenderness, which she shared in all innocence with him, never losing trust in his acceptance of all that she did.  He learned that her sweet softness never denied her strengths.  And hardest knowledge of all, he learned to let her go when she needed to be alone.

He remembered a day in May, when they had walked into a hollow full of the scent of lilacs.  Playful breezes drew the fragrance through the warm sunlight, and he had been filled with a sweet lethargy.  They laid down under a lilac bush, watching as the light drew out such a fullness of purple and green that the beauty of it filled his heart with love.  He had turned to her in a rush of desire, but was stopped by the look on her face.  With eyes closed she lay there, intoxicated by the fragrance and the colors.  And his desire turned to joy and delight. With a new sense of gentleness, he drew down one of the blossoms, and with delicate strokes caressed her face and body, giving her back the joy and delight he felt in her.

Released by the memory, his heart was lighter as he opened his eyes.  There before him shone the Morning Star, a sign and a beacon of his love.  A fierce joy filled his heart, and he leapt up refreshed, ready to resume his search.  But he waited and watched as the sky began to fill with color.  He would wait for the sunrise, for his heart told him that today would be a day of terror and wonder. Today, he would confront the Dragon and claim his Beloved for his Bride.

As the Sun rose in the East, He cast his spears of light through the forest, until one fell at the foot of the Man.  Taking the gift of the Sun in his hand, his mind cleared of longing and desire and weariness, he raised his arms to welcome the Light.  Opening himself to the Light, the Man felt a rush of love flow through his body, where before he had felt only loss.  Now, the love he remembered became a living love, and he knew that he would find what he had lost.  And when he was done giving thanks, he set out on his search, the spear of Light in his hands, and Love and Hope lending wings to his feet.

The Woman lay in the darkness, watching the stars shine out of the depths of the night.  She looked for the Big Bear, way shower to the Center, and then followed the arc of its tail to the bright star of Arcturus.  Then she turned her gaze to search for the sparkling circle of the Northern Crown of the Queen of Heaven.  The Crown brought back strange memories, memories of an ancient voice speaking to her out of the darkness, calling her to Remember.

And she did remember, but it was knowledge without words, a deep wisdom she remembered in her bones.

It was that deep wisdom which made her get up now and climb the outcropping of rock that rose up behind her.  There she found what she was looking for - low on the horizon flew the Night Dragon, stretching out its claws to capture the luminous glow of the moon in its sharp embrace.  She seemed to hear the deep-throated laughter once again, and the voice which spoke out of the depths of time.  "This too shall be mine.  This too."  And she knew he meant to keep her if he could.

But that Other voice spoke to her out of the starry heavens, and she came back to herself and knew that she would never surrender to the Dragon.  And with the thought came an image of her Beloved.  There, alone in the darkness, she remembered Love.  And the Dragon vanished from sight. 

After a while, she lay down in the fragrant grass, thinking of the Man who had been taken from her.   From the first moment she looked into his eyes, she had been ravished by waves of feelings.  Even now, a sweetness spread throughout her body at the thought of him.  His delight in her was intoxicating, and his touch brushed her flesh with flames.  He had filled her with a pleasure she had never known, and yet, always longed for.  And she still longed for it, lying alone beneath the starry heavens, even as she understood something new about her longings.  

When the Dragon had carried her off in a whirl of wind and wings, it seemed as if her very heart had been ripped out of her body, overwhelmed by the loss of her Beloved.  For many days she had wandered through the forest, frantic to find her lost love.  Finally, in utter exhaustion, she had crept under a bush and fallen into a deep sleep.  While it was still dark, she awoke to the sweet smell of honeysuckle, carried on a warm and gentle night breeze, which was dancing through the grove where she lay.  The deep fragrance reminded her of a day in May when she and the Man had lay beneath the May lilacs, in joy and delight.  It was then that she understood that she had lost herself in the Man, that she had forgotten that her love for him was part of a larger love.  She remembered the Mothers, and their charge to her.  She remembered the Life around her, and was glad once more.

After that night, she searched for the Man, but now she also took delight in the life of the forest around her. Sometimes she followed after the nightingale, imagining that her Beloved was calling to her throughout the night. Sometimes, the sweet waters of the forest beguiled her, talking with enchanting voices of the happiness of all creation, and her heart filled like the deep forest pools, and overflowed in song.  And finally, she had come to this fragrant meadow by the side of a forest fountain, and she decided to rest.  Here, within this enclosed garden, under the deep blue of the sky, she waited upon her Beloved, knowing that one day, he would come for her. She knew this with a fierce certainty; as if the dazzling light that shone down upon her, and the persistent winds that blew upon her, and the life of the forest growing around her were all messengers of hope.  Her Beloved would return!

The Dragon stirred in his sleep.  The spell he had cast over the two humans was fraying; the Darkness was being pushed back by the magic of Light.  The Dragon uncoiled his tail, and began to stretch his wings.  This Pearl was his treasure, and no mere Man would claim it from him!  A low, long hum began deep in his belly, and grew and grew until the cave walls began to echo and boom, and finally he cast it forth like a net, to ensnare the Man and entrap the Woman.  And then he got ready to fly.

The Man, meanwhile, continued his search with the help of his father, the Sun.  The light now had a new intensity, a fierce white flame that framed each leaf and blade of grass in light.  The Earth blazed with the dazzling brilliance of the stars, and the shadows themselves took on a deeper coloring.  The shadows on the forest floor became deep wells of emerald green, and the tree trunks shone like ebony.  The sky overhead was full of blues and the shiny white of clouds, which were in turn reflected in the bubbling brooks and streams. 

The light gave new sight to the Man, and the forest once again became a place of wonder and delight for him.  The bright yellows and reds and blues of the birds flitting from tree to tree reminded him of the many moods of his Beloved.  She had often stood beneath a tree, singing and calling to the birds as they warmed their nests, and now he could see tiny heads peeking out of those nests, crying to their parents for food.  

When he came to a stream to drink, he followed the light down into the depths as it sparkled over scales and fins, and drew out the deep rich colors of the stones beneath the waters.  He could see the face of his Beloved in the magic mirror of the waters, and his heart rejoiced, for he knew that she was near.

And she was near.  That very day the woman left the secret garden she had found, and came down into the forest in the early morning light.  She had dreamt of her Beloved in the night, and they had walked together by the stream.  Awakening with a glad heart, the Woman had prepared herself for his coming.  After she bathed herself in the pool at the foot of the rock, she had dressed herself with care, weaving a crown of roses to wear in her hair.

And now the Woman had found him there by the stream, just as in her dream.  She ran toward him, calling out to him in her joy.  But as she reached for him, the winds began to blow and a darkness descended.  She saw him turn with a smile on his face, as if he had heard her cry.  But he looked with unseeing eyes right at her, and try as she might, she could not reach him.  Standing there, she was invisible to him, for while he stood in the strong sunlight, she was enclosed in a circle of darkness. And then she saw the eyes, and knew that the Dragon had returned for her.

The Woman saw now that the Dragon had coiled itself around her and made them both invisible to the Man.  The Dragon raised its head and looked upon her with its ancient eyes.  "So, you have seen through my spell.  But you will never break through it.  Come, why struggle against me?  I am more powerful than you can imagine.  Submit to my will, and I will give you all the treasures of the Earth.  Come away with me, and I will share with you the wisdom of my long life, a life that is as old as the Earth Herself.  Come and be the crowning jewel of my dragon hoard."  As he spoke, he wove his spell, catching the Woman's glance so that she was forced to look into his deep, ancient eyes. 

And the Woman had to listen, for the power of his spell could not be denied.  But as the force of his power overcame her, she retreated into herself, holding on to a dimly felt Presence, to a memory of her Mother, and to a deep wisdom that she felt in her bones.  And as she retreated before the fierce breath of dragon desire, she hurried to the place within herself that was Love.  It seemed a tiny flame in that vast darkness, yet she took it up in her hands and hugged it close, and found that there, in the vast darkness, she held her Beloved. 

And then Love called to Love, and the darkness was dispelled!

Opening her eyes, the Woman searched for the Man, and her heart leapt as their eyes found each other. No longer invisible, she still was prisoner to the Dragon. When he saw that, unexpectedly and unlooked for, his spell had been broken, he encircled her more closely with his tail and turned to face the Man.  The Man had already leapt over the stream and stood facing the Dragon, the spear of Light held balanced in his hand.  The Dragon looked on the Man and spoke. "Be gone, human, for you are no match for one such as me.  There is no hope, and you will die for no reason, for this Woman is mine and will never be yours.  I will pity you for your loss, and spare your life if you leave this forest now, and never return."

"Oh great and ancient serpent, I have followed after you these many weeks with no hope in my heart. But hope has been reborn in me, and that I will never again let die.  For the Woman you hold captive is the guardian of my Love, and I could not desert her if I tried.  While you fight to keep her for yourself, I must fight to free her so that Love will come to live in this place.  It is no longer myself, but Love who guides this spear.  The darkness and fear of death no longer can stop my Love."  And stepping back, the man lifted his spear.

 With a deep roar that seemed to split the very ground they stood upon, the Dragon reared up, up, up until he filled the sky with darkness.  The Woman cried out to warn her Beloved, while he, in turn, called on the Sun, raising the Spear of Light above his head.  And the Sun listened to the cries of His children, and gave answer.  For the Sun stopped in His course and blazed out with such a radiance that the darkness shredded and dissolved, and the Dragon was revealed.  And then the Man let fly the Spear of Light, and it pierced the heart of darkness, and the Dragon fled before the power of Love.

That very night, the Man and Woman stood together in her secret garden, and the Moon shone down upon them.  Clothed in garlands of roses and silvery light, their marriage vows were witnessed by the denizens of that forest bower - the winds, the trees, the flowers and grasses, the animals and birds, the waters and the Moon and the starry sky.

couple in garden toon

The Bride:

You open me wide
To the Mystery of Love
And I penetrate
The darkness to the depths.

My Beloved encircles me
In the strength of his arms.
With his encircling Love
He guards my sweet softness.

My Bridegroom waits upon me
He watches my comings
He watches my flow
My Beloved waits upon me.

Is there anyone like my Beloved?
His is the swiftness of the Stag,
The far sight of the Eagle
The strength of the Bear.

My Bridegroom comes like the Sun
His warmth is radiant.
His beauty shines out
He is my Light.

I look for my Beloved in the daylight
And I see his face in every green leaf.
I wait upon my Lover in the night
And I find him in the depths of a forest pool.

Oh, my Bridegroom!
Come to me in my marriage bower.
Come and enter into me
And let me bring you delight!

For my love is sweeter than honey
My love more intoxicating than wine.
For I will open myself to you
And let you penetrate my depths.

The Bride welcomes her Beloved
With the fire of her desire.
With the Love of a free heart
I call the Bridegroom home.

The Bridegroom:

In the first days, I was reborn
In the very first days, life was renewed.
In the first nights, I learned sweet delight
In the very first nights, I surrendered to Love.

In the freshness of the first morning
My Beloved lay in our bed of living green,
In the first light of morning
We awake to wonder and delight.

The whiteness of her shoulders
Blinds me with desire,
The softness of her white flesh
Excites the hardness of my own.

Her neck offers itself to me,
Her neck extends itself to my kisses,
And when I lose myself in its strength,
It kindles the sweetness of my desire.

With burning lips
I fire the white slopes of her shoulders.
Glowing rosy now from the heat,
They lead me to the fountains of life.

As a man dying from the dryness
From the force of the fire,
My lips find a haven
In the fountains, in the deep wells.

The twin cups are offered to me
Their golden nectar offered to me.
Twin nipples dark as earth
Waiting for the pull of life.

I will suck the sweetness of life,
I will drink of the waters.
My softness hardens her cup,
My delight intoxicates her.

And now the waters flow freely
And I drink from every stream

I drink from every deep pool.
Ah, the sweetness of the Waters.

My Beloved gives herself to me
She shares her sweetness
She softly gathers me in
To her dark mystery.

My Bride calls to me
She calls me to the depths.
My Beloved opens me to Love
And I awaken to its Mystery.

And now I discover the deep red rose,
I discover the blood-red bower.
And the living greenness encloses us
As I come home to her hidden garden.

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