Fertility

“Fruit Basket”, oil on wood

Image via Wikipedia

This is the time of year in my part of the world where we see the fruits of fertility. Almost everyone I know associates Beltane with fertility, and that is perhaps as it should be with Beltane being the “planting” time of year for many folks in the northern hemisphere.  Midsummer has passed and everything is growing and growing– or if you’re down south here, being harvested and enjoyed.

Fertility isn’t really about things that are growing, although that is its results– fruits, babies, projects completed. Fertility is a state of receptivity. From dictionary.com: bearing or being capable of bearing offspring.  It’s easy to get confused about this as a pagan virtue. Does it mean we should try to have lots of children? Does it mean we should try to produce many awesome projects? I think it’s more about the quality of being receptive, of being open to the possibility of producing, be it children or art or some other work that the Gods set us upon.

If we’re not receptive, we aren’t listening or paying attention and we can miss our opportunities.  Fertility is not, however, a passive state. You can’t be fertile ground for new things to grow in without working on being healthy. This is doubly important with spiritual and mental projects. If we’re not doing the work we need to do to prepare ourselves for the job ahead of us then we won’t be fertile ground. Our work will wither and die, if it sprouts at all. So part of being fertile is taking care of ourselves. Like preparing a garden with compost and weeding, we need tending if we’re going to bring forth our best work.

Fertility can be ranked by quality, not quantity as well. One small fertile field will give a better harvest than several acres of sub-standard land. One nutritious dinner is better than three low quality meals. In being fertile, we are being called to be rich sources for whatever we are producing.  I think fertility is important as a virtue because it’s the soil from which other things grow. We can be rich, loamy earth or we can be pallid deserts, and much of that is up to us. We do the work to improve and ensure our own fertility and through that, enrich each other’s lives with our gifts.

Happy Summer Solstice

The sun behind the Heel Stone at Stonehenge, s...

Image via Wikipedia

Like its winter counterpart, Summer Solstice is a holiday that has been celebrated around the world since pre-Christian times. In the Christian era it became St. John’s day, but many of the traditions remain. Bonfires to ward off malignant spirits because the veil is thin, purification rituals, gathering of medicinal plants at their prime, all-night parties that start as vigils and end as revels.

Neopagans sometimes call this holiday Litha, after the Anglo-Saxon month that coincided with this time of year.  And because of Shakespeare, we all think of fairies on Midsummer, and delirious dreams and delights and tricks. It is perhaps another interpretation of the veil between worlds being thin, not only the veil between the spirit world and ours but also the fairy realm and ours as well.

I’ve been interested in the discussion going around various places about just what “midsummer” means. I’ve always read in scholarly sources that this is an Middle English usage of  “mid”, meaning “with” instead of the more usual “in the middle of”. Midwife has similar roots. This does not stop people from coming up with the most convoluted theories involving Celts, Astronomy, planting schedules and the like. I think in this particular case Occam’s razor is the way to go.

Even so, it is the middle of the long days and short nights time of year even if it isn’t the middle of summer. I live far enough south that this isn’t quite the same effect as it is in more northern latitudes, and so the inevitable mourning about the coming loss of sun is less sharp for me.  The shortening days are less a dramatic fading away and more of a subtle muting. I do very much miss the midsummer moon of my childhood in the north, though. The moonlight would be almost blindingly brilliant and make everything look so strange and high contrast. I could imagine fairies dancing in that sparkling moonlight world very easily.

For us, this is the beginning of the end of the nice weather, the entry into the time long, hot days that will burn out the garden and violent storms that punish the earth more than cool it. We’re entering a fallow time here, and that makes it almost upside down compared to my friends a little further north. Already we’ve eaten beans and the last of the cucumbers and radishes for now. We’ll have to wait for cooler weather to plant again.

It’s a good time to eat ripe summer fruit, stay up late to look at the stars, and let lazy dreams carry away the afternoon doldrums.  We’ll clear away the old vines and plan what we’ll do next.