I am back. I am not so vain to think I have been sorely missed. There has been a lot of wonderful writing to read, even when some polytheists whose writing I usually enjoy, have withheld their lettered creations from the world. I won’t be apologizing for my absence, for such a think would be incredibly dull and probably the last thing you were hoping for when and if I would return, if you were hoping at all.
My silence too has, in part, been induced by the super hero controversy. I was not offended or hurt, though many damaging things were said. The reason for this empty blog space was that while some of the questions and remarks were petty, many more were overwhelmingly complicated and profound. Questions about theological differences, the relation between myth and fiction, and how easy a religious state of mind may be strengthened or weakened through popular culture. These are questions that matter.
And thus I hesitated, wanting only to write something meaningful or at least noticeable in this mad rush of Pagan and polytheist writes to respond. The things that were lost’, that was my hypothetical title of this hypothetical blog post. It might have come sooner if I was offended more. Offence or anger might have had overcome my zealous perfectionism.
And while the Pagan Layman remained empty, I kept gaining followers. So now I write to you, my dear readers, for hospitably is a virtue. I write as if we are having a cup of tea in front of a good fire. And I find that the words come more easily then I expected. And instead of writing something big and important, I write of something small. I write of the joys of a good summer.
It has been two weeks after Lughnasadh and though more warm summer days are to come, I find that autumn’s melancholy has already struck. I look back upon this summer as if it is over. And for me, that first awareness of the shortening days, marks the start of the fall season. It is present in my mind even when the signs in the nature that is outside are not yet clearly visible. Over at The Allergic Pagan, John Halstead embraces this feast day as High Summer, not as its end, experiencing a mythological disconnect. He writes:
“Since it is the middle of summer, it is also the beginning of the end of summer. This is the moment when the flower of summer is blossoming at its fullest, and tomorrow it will begin to wilt. This day is like fruit that has ripened to the point where it is its juiciest and tastiest, but on the next day it will begin to rot. The meaning of this day, for me, is that pleasure is fleeting. We must enjoy life while we can, knowing that it cannot last forever. “
This is exactly how I feel at present, as if I only become aware what gift summer is when it is about the end. Yet I do not feel the disconnect that Halstead that describes when he says:
“The association of the Lughnasadh with mourning does not correspond with the actual seasonal conditions. According to the Lebor Gabala Erenn (“The Book of Invasions”), the god Lugh sang a song of lamentation for his foster mother, Tailtiu, on this date. The middle of summer is not typically thought of as a time for mourning. “
When we think of mourning, we moderns may think of dead things, of deserts and bare trees. We recall the utter despair of loss, its bleakness, and winter may come to mind. Yet, I connect to Lugh’s lament deeply, and especially so at this time of year. Lughnasadh marks the end of taking things as they come, an end to careless days of joy. Lugh was given in fosterage to Tailtiu until he could grow strong enough to challenge Balor. And when he finally defeats him, he looses his singular purpose and must embrace the wider responsibility of kingship. Loosing a mother figure forms another breaking point. There is no time to fully mourn this loss for the harvest time is coming, the boundless summer energy must be harnessed. This is a loss in and of itself.
When I think of Lugh giving this big feast in name of his foster-mother, I think of him honouring and celebrating summer one last time. Tailtiu gave her life to clear the land for agriculture. She died to secure a good harvest. and it is up to Lugh to use this sacrifice for good purpose. Furthermore, the place of her death became the site of the great assembly, symbol of kingship and its responsibilities. As such I feel that the myth of Lughnasadh perfectly fits Halstead’s description of fruit being at it sweetest and equally bitter sweetest.
I long for long July nights even more in September than I do in December when the memory of summer has faded and winter merry-making is in full sway, Those pleasant days in early fall are the best and worst. In Dutch we call this time in early September ‘nazomer’ – aftersummer, a word which can refer both to a second late summer as to being past summer proper.
Buckets of blueberries!
It has been an amazing year for blueberries. It has been a very warm and sunny summer (do you notice me talking already in the past tense?) and I feel blessed. Earlier this year, I reported them to missing and feared them to be gone forever. But this year I could just lie down underneath a bush and pick berries by the bucket without moving. Yet now almost all blueberries are gone, and only the memory of it is left. Bitter-sweet indeed. Even the promise of blackberries does not lift my longing for its blue cousin.
Days of love-making
And after a long time of involuntary celibacy, I spent a few wonderful days making love. But now my lover has gone to a different place, a different world even. And despite the wonderfully vivid memories and future’s hope, bitter-sweet again seems the most appropriate word.
Lengthening the shortening days
I think we want Lughnassadh to be high summer, we will it so, but still we realise that the summer is nearly over. Of course an inhabitant of a low-lying damp country such as myself may have some further tricks up her sleeve. I will be travelling to Sicily this autumn, away from autumn and towards summer. An Italian autumn may equal a Dutch summer in warmth and pleasure. So bye bye, melancholy, for now.