How Smokey Bear Would Celebrate the Summer Solstice

It’s a bonfire at mid-June, but a couple of things are a little off.

Flames leapt into the June sky, illuminating the attentive faces of the surroundng watchers, while waves of heat rolled off the fire. Around us was darkness, mountains, and forest.

I was thirsty, so I walked over the cooler to get some water. On the way back, my boot felt loose, so I put it up on the front pumper of Engine 968 to re-lace it.

“It’s a great bonfire,” I thought. “Too bad it’s ten days early.” This was the night of June 11, 2022, and the solstice will come at 3:14 a.m. local (Mountain) time on the 21st.

I live in a Colorado county where evangelical Protestanism is the dominant faith, although there are others, and all the local political races are settled in the Republican primary.[1]As an unaffiliated voter, I can vote in either major party’s primary, so this year I voted as an imaginary Republican, since the alternative is to have no candidates at all. But since I was here, I tried a Wiccan reading of the event: The fire was lit, and people assembled. (That perhaps is backwards from normal practice.) We cast the circle — not drawing it with a sword but digging it with pulaskis, MacLeods, and combi tools.

A spcialized circle-casting tool based on the Army M1088A1 5-ton  6×6 tractor.

Then we marked it in fire —two people circled the perimeter with drip torches to make sure eveyrhing burned

And in water. Another celebrant drove deosil around the circle in a Type 4 wildland engine, spraying a “wet line.”

No salt though.

Pagan-studies scholar Helen Berger recently wrote a summer solstice-themed article for The Conversation (“Academic rigor, journalistic flair”) titled “Wiccan celebration of summer solstice is a reminder that change, as expressed in nature, is inevitable.

All sabbats begin by creating sacred space, mostly outdoors when the weather permits. This is done by those leading the ritual walking around an area, chanting as a form of prayer and sprinkling the area with water and salt, which are believed to be spiritually cleansing.

And it occurs to me that a hypothecal Smokey Bear coven could do a heckuva circle-casting just with what is carried on the trucks. How about a ring of Class A foam?

After all, Smokey Bear is a face of the Great Bear, one of the oldest religions of all. The somewhat Pagan-ish American Buddhist philosopher and poet Gary Snyder composed a sutra for Smokey [the] Bear in 1969. Here it is with some commentary that he wrote in 2005, published in the Buddhist magazine Tricycle.

In the sutra, I see Smokey as the incarnation of the ancient brown bear of the North and of [the Japanese mountain bodhisattva] Fudo at the same time. But, of course, the Forest Service didn’t know anything about all those associations and reverberations. That was part of the fun of it all, turning the establishment’s imagery on its head.

You read this far and you are still wondering about the fire? The larger fire department in my county and the smaller one to which I belong are operating under a temporary “automatic mutual aid” plan for wildfires because it is so dry now. If a fire pops up in their service area or ours, the other department is dispatched too.

This was in their area: it took our two engines an hour just to drive there.

In this case, a member of one of the well-established ranching families, stewards of the land, etc etc., had piled up an acre of “slash” — stumps, tree trunks, limbs and so onefrom logging or fire mitigation (ironic) or whatever. All nicely dry.

Then he (or his hired hand) decided to burn some other trash adjacent to it. “We don’t need no steenkeeng permit.”  And the first fire ignited the slash pile.
The flames were visible for miles, and they sure lit up local Facebook pages as well. It was like a small lumberyard on fire — there was no way we had enough water to put it out, so we just made it burn more completely. One lucky engine crew (not mine) got to stay all night to monitor it.

Notes

Notes
1 As an unaffiliated voter, I can vote in either major party’s primary, so this year I voted as an imaginary Republican, since the alternative is to have no candidates at all.

Sunne [feminine], Light of the World

At one time, we had a book on the Sun as feminine (as in much of the old Germanic tradition) in the pipeline for the Equinox Publishing Pagan studies series. That did not work out, for complicated reasons. Meanwhile, enjoy the video, which is especially interesting if you are used to the Father Sun/Lady Moon dichotomy.

And I have been listening to Wolcensmen a lot of late. Here is their YouTube channel.

How Paganism is Good for Men

Lee Kynaston (The Telegraph, UK)

With all the talk about how witchcraft = empowerment for women, here’s something different: “7 things paganism can teach the modern man

It’s in a newspaper, so don’t expect great depth, but at least it means that the Paganism stories now run at the summer solstice, not just at Halloween.

Happy Independence Day & Blessed Be


The Stars and Stripes, a Colorado craft beer, and a Ripley’s witchcraft museum goblet. This is actually the summer solstice celebration, I reckon, delayed two weeks.

I’m kicking back after driving one of my department’s fire trucks in Nearby Town’s 4th 0f July parade. Here is a picture of one of the units pre-parade. Kids and an early Farmall Cub. You couldn’t pose that.

How They Celebrate the Summer Solstice

From 2012, a BBC piece on how Latvians celebrate the summer solstice:

It is not a complicated festival. All you have to do is head out to the countryside, get a fire going, stay up all night waiting for the sun to come up and drink lots and lots of beer – which, I can only assume, is why it is called Ligo, the Latvian word for “sway.”

I have been feeling the energy boost from more sunlight, but I live at just past 38° north, whereas Riga, Latvia’s capital, is at almost 57° north. So even the “shortest night” is longer here.

What do you do?

Solstice at Britain’s Newest Long Barrow

BBC

BBC

How will the archaeologists of the future explain how barrow (also known as as tumulus) building stopped in the Neolithic — and then resumed, 5,500 years later?

We know this one was built on a solar alignment, because the BBC tells us so.

See the barrow under construction here. And yes, dead people.

Saturnalia with the Romans

io-saturnalia

We are in the midst of Saturnalia, so consider this article by Classics scholar Mary Beard on “Five Things the Romans Did at Christmas.”

The headline was just to grab you, because she begins, “OK, the Romans didn’t actually have Christmas. And even Christian Romans didn’t celebrate Jesus’ birthday on 25 December until at least the fourth century AD. ”

Another sample:

A few Roman writers enter into the spirit of the occasion. Catullus, for example, called it “the best of days”. But mostly they were supercilious lot, complaining about the forced jollity and the forced shut-down (just like me . . .!). The philosopher Seneca tut-tuts about all the dissipation and fact that you can’t get any public business done.

I don’t put myself in the same class as Seneca (or Mary Beard), but I will probably be thinking on Thursday that I should go pick up the mail at our little post office . . .

Read the rest. And also what happens when she “takes the show on the road,” so to speak.

Solstice Is Coming, But Summer is Here Now

An exchange on The Wild Hunt as to when the “summer festival season” properly began led a commenter to post this link in response to the statement that summer begins on June 21.

I hear idiot television newspeople (but I repeat myself) saying that all the time at this point in the year.

From The Straight Dope:

There is a widespread misconception in this country–which extends, I might note, to the makers of most calendars, dictionaries, and encyclopedias–that summer “officially” starts on the day of the summer solstice, June 21 or 22, which is the longest day of the year. Americans also believe (1) that there is some valid scientific reason for doing it that way, and (2) that everybody in the Northern Hemisphere does it that way, and always has.

None of these things is true. So far as I have been able to discover, no scientific or governmental body has ever formally declared that summer starts on the solstice. . . . .

“It isn’t really clear how the astronomical definition [i.e., summer starts on the solstice] got started,” says Kevin Trenberth, a climate researcher at the University of Illinois in Urbana. “Although the sun-earth geometry is clearly the origin of the seasons on earth, it has nothing directly to do with temperature or weather.”

He notes that meteorologists define summer simply as June, July, and August. “For practical purposes, the meteorological definition is the best one, being very closely to the [weather] statistics,” he says.

In fact, it appears that June 1 was accepted as the beginning of summer in the United States until relatively recently.

Go the link to read the part about when summer used to be calculated in Ireland—not May 1, as some might think.

The moment of  the summer solstice is 1716 hours UTC, June 21st. Track your solar festivals here.