Midsummer is here, a time of sunshine and frolic.
It is the golden time of the year - and gold is a metal of the Sun, and the Sun is at its peak on Midsummer. It’s a time of strength and personal power.
Some of you may be familiar with the lovely pagan notion of the Wheel of the Year, but for those who aren’t, let me recap very quickly: there are eight festivals in the year, eight major times when the season turns, and we celebrate different aspects of that beautiful adventure that is life. This notion is very ancient and also very modern: while the idea of seasonal festivals is prehistoric, the eight-fold Wheel as know it came into existence in the twentieth century. I hesitate to say it was ‘invented’ - it’s more that an old understanding of the circularity of time found a new articulation.
And we do need to remember, in our society more than in any other in history, that time can be seen as a circle and not only an arrow; we need to remember that winter gives way to spring, and that it is at Midsummer, when the Sun is at its peak, that darkness starts rising, with days inevitably getting shorter.
In Puglia, where, even with the tourist onslaught of the last twenty years, agrarian life still goes on, this is an understanding most people have, in a way which is more powerful for not being explicitly articulated. Here the time of Midsummer is defined by the Night of St John, when stubble are burnt. In truth, the burning does not happen only on that night: the countryside around me is full of fires, mostly burning at dusk, when temperatures are kinder, and there is less of a risk fires will burn out of control.
The scent and the distant flames make me think of how important it is to burn and keep burning, even more so when life gets at us, even when Midsummer seems far; how important it is to remember Midsummer always comes back.
So may we burn, all of us. May we always burn. Many people will try to quench us, and many events. May we burn stronger than them all.
Happy Midsummer to us all.