Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why I Do Not Celebrate Litha

"A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind." 
-- Tao Te Ching

Because first of all, "Litha" is an Old English word meaning "navigable" - pertaining to the calmness of the winds in the European seas during this time of the year. Here in the eastern Pacific however, the seas sure are far from looking very "navigable" with winds occasionally running up to 250 km/h (and more).

Of course it also has that less archaic-sounding name, Midsummer. But it's hardly the middle of summer here with we Pinoys declaring it the "end of summer" just as soon as the first tropical storm hits, which usually happens just around the end of May.

Apolaki's altar

Of all the years of doing the sabbats, the fact that Litha is the longest day of the year just hasn't sink in to my consciousness. I know that the sun will rise tomorrow around 5:30 in the morning and set around 5:30 in the evening giving us almost equal parts of night and day - just like it does throughout the entire frickin' year on every country that's near the equator. It's not like in some parts of Sweden where we could get to experience 20 hours of daylight in June, and then 20 hours of darkness during winter.

Midsummer was originally celebrated by people who live just a few latitudes below the icy north pole where the heat of the sun is a boon - ergo all the glorifying and praising the sun receives in those textbook Wiccan rituals. Down here in the tropics, it just doesn't make sense for me to rejoice in the strength of the Sun seeing that the people are fanning themselves with any flat piece of material they could grab and occasionally blurting out: "ang ineeet!", usually followed by some kind of expletive. That is, in those days when the sun is not hidden behind gray skies. Yeah I know, the sun is the "source of all life on Earth" blah-blah-goddess and all that, but at these times it can also be the cause of  heatstroke, skin cancer and grumpy mood.

Fortunately, the middle of summer does have a significant effect on our lands which is a worthy cause of ritual itself: The warm air of the Pacific ocean stirred by the heat of the sun becomes the seed of tropical cyclones which often find their way onto our shores, while in east continental Asia, the land mass heats up and pulls the monsoon winds from the southern seas, bringing us rain and wetting our shoes as they make their way to Japan. Our ancestors have aptly given these winds a masculine sounding name, Habagat, which has eventually also become the name of our season of rain and storm. As the heat of the summer wanes, the monsoons stop and the colder trade winds from the northeast take over, and to these winds the wise ancestors have given the feminine name, Amihan, completing the Yin and Yang of our annual tropical climate.

Habagat season. The eastern portion of inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) bends towards northern Asia, the southwesterly monsoon winds become prevalent.

Amihan season. The ITCZ finds itself way below the Philippine area, the colder easterly trade winds become prevalent.

I would much rather prepare myself physically and spiritually for the coming of Habagat than pretend to be a Viking welcoming the humid heat of the tropical sun.

As a city Pagan, Habagat is a tough season for me. Crop-growers in the farmlands may welcome the rainy season, but for me it also means having to deal with flood, mind-numbing traffic, ruined travel plans, deadly mosquitoes, pain-in-the-ass commuting, wet shoes (I hate wet shoes) and the possibilty of being stranded in the middle of nowhere during a superstorm (which happened to me on my birthday in 2006).  True to its name, Habagat calls for masculine virtues in order to us get by: strength, endurance, hard-work, patience, and self-control, as this period will surely bring about some test of nerves as well.

I'm planning to do a short personal ritual for this reason. I would not wish for the storms to leave us alone knowing that these are an inevitable and necessary part of Nature, although I would pray that they lay upon us lightly. I just want Habagat to teach me how to be strong but calm, enduring but adapting, tough but able to yield - like a bamboo tree bending in the wind.

Basbasan Nawa!


James Wilber said...

Despite the fact I do live in a more Northern climate I have to agree with your philosophy on this one. I am a winter person. I've always enjoyed the cold more. Midsummer to me only marks the onset of misery. This summer's heat wave here in the U.S. has only exacerbated it. I have come to just acknowledge Midsummer, not celebrate it.

We do have this problem in our urban society where some points in the wheel of the year don't hold much significance. I am a person who believes nothing is really against nature. In some ways, urbanization makes sense for our species and helps limits the damage we do to the environment.

Maybe not every Holy Day is meant to be a party.

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