solstice

I’m posting a lazy post now. The summer solstice occurs this night, and I thought you need to know this is the time for spotting elementals! Listen to Steiner:

‘And thus it was that especially at midsummer people perceived the ruling and weaving of Nature in the summer nights, in the summer evenings. And what they felt then seemed to them to be a kind of summer dream which they experienced in reality; a summer dream through which they came especially near to the divine-spiritual; a summer dream by which they were convinced that every phenomenon of Nature was at the same time the moral utterance of the gods, but that all kinds of elemental beings were also active there who revealed themselves to men in their own way.

‘All the fanciful embellishment of the midsummer night’s dream, of the St. John’s night dream, is what remained later of the wondrous forms conjured by human imagination that wove through this midsummer time on the soul-spiritual level. This then, in all particulars, was taken to be a divine-spiritual moral revelation of the cosmos to man.’

Read more.

In a day or two, it’s midsummer’s eve. This is as important to Swedes as christmas. For me it’s simply enigmatic. Honestly, it’s the time of year when I feel the most culturally alienated. I have sometimes toyed with the idea of trying to watch it from afar. In the archipelago, for example, lots of people gather for the occasion, so in that sense it seems different than christmas, which — I guess — not many people celebrate with their neighbours. Allegedly, people dance around a pole, sing about small, funny frogs and get drunk. They probably get drunk first though. Just guessing. I think it’s on friday.

I figure I’d better be looking for elementals instead.

14 thoughts on “solstice

  1. Indeed!

    Små grodorna, små grodorna är lustiga att se……….
    .. Kou ack ack ack, kou ack ack ack,
    kou ack ack ack ack kaa.

  2. Midsummer’s eve is as important as Christmas?! Really? Is that true in all of Scandinavia? No wonder Tarjei was always so worked up about it. I always thought he was just taking a fit.

    “Midsummer’s eve” here is merely the occasion for an ugly heat wave.

  3. People do go absolutely crazy about it, so yes, it must be. For weeks, everything is about: what are you doing/did you do for midsummer. I used to have to invent something or evade the questions — it’s completely unacceptable not to celebrate it!!

    I always thought we didn’t in my family because my mother is from Finland. But I read on wiki that there’s midsummer celebration in Finland. Presumably the traditions are a bit different though. I now assume my parents just didn’t enjoy hopping around a pole singing about frogs. But, actually, I don’t know. Perhaps some people celebrate without the frog dance.

  4. So today is midsummer celebration. Or a great big nothing. I did see a midsummer pole. I enjoy the fact that even if the entire swedish population — I mean a 100% of it — celebrates this, the rest of the world does not. It’s nice to know.

  5. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to live abroad. At least you would be excused from knowing all their traditions perfectly. Being *born* here and *not* knowing is what’s so inexcusable.

  6. Exactly. Of course you have other holidays or celebrations, but no foreigner would be expected to know them perfectly from childhood. With midsummer, you are. That is, as someone born here.

    Anyway, I’m trying to educated myself.

  7. Of course we have the Fourth of July, and I guess you’d say that’s a big holiday, but it’s certainly not as big as Christmas. On the Fourth of July one has (or goes to) the beach, or a barbecue, and usually there’s fireworks. But it really doesn’t have a deep cultural resonance or meaningfulness – it’s a kick back and enjoy summer type thing, and it’s just one day.

  8. The supermarket I usually go to, a few steps away from where I live, is CLOSED today. It closed very early yesterday because yesterday was the day of celebration. Today is just the day after. But it’s closed. Probably rational — the city is entirely empty. Not one soul left. You can walk in the middle of the streets. There are no cars. Everyone — except a few confused tourists — is gone.

    But, yesterday, when I went home from the island in the afternoon — the amounts of people there! I’ve never seen so many people there.

    I’m trying to figure out how swedes see midsummer. It somehow seems hugely meaningful and emotionally fraught and today, of course, everyone is posting pictures from their (supposedly perfect!?) midsummer celebrations. And what you’re going to do and where you’re going to be and with whom are the big topics before — what you did, where you were, with whom are the big topics afterwards.

    I don’t know what to say. Saying you don’t celebrate it is like an affront: you must either be completely out of your mind or you avoid it because you think you’re better than everybody else. Or something. The fact that you just don’t know what to do is not a plausible excuse.

    Obviously, my brother, who’s more competent in most ways, has decided to teach himself what midsummer is — or at least, as far as I know, he’s been able to behave lite a normal swede on past midsummers. With his friends. I’m not sure young people, without small children, do all the things that are showed in the youtube movie. Perhaps the just barbecue something and get drunk. Perhaps it depends on what context they find themselves in (from what I could tell on the island yesterday, having to walk past the maypole before the celebrations began, it seemed as though there were old people and young people and children together). But I don’t know.

    It’s a big mystery, and I keep obsessing about things that remain unknown, things I don’t understand. I’m trying to understand midsummer from youtube videos, but I’m not sure I get what it’s about, much less the essence. I suspect it’s about experience, and to get the right feeling of that, whatever it is, you must get midsummer fed to you as a baby and a child. Like christmas.

    I think there’s also a layer of ‘nature mysticism’ to this midsummer thing (not all that far from Steiner’s ideas), and I’d wish to know more about that. Although that’s obviously not — I think!? — part of modern midsummer celebrations.

  9. That tug-of-war thing looks too sweaty for our climate … we sit around and fan ourselves and drink cold drinks. If we’re not at the beach, that is.

  10. In the Swedish countryside, we have either the sea or lakes. And they’re still quite cold in june! I suppose that’s the solution if tug-of-war gets too sweaty… (hardly the case this year though, it was quite cold!)

    I think the beer and the drinks are supposed to be cold. Vodka something or similar — I believe. Probably works without adding the tug-of-war…

  11. Well, it is fun to do. I have been part of it twice – once in Djursholm, up by Slottet, and another time out near Söderbykarl in Roslagen.
    Mind you, not being someone who drinks alcohol I probably didn’t get the full effect. But it was much nicer dancing round the pole than attending a kräftskiva, even though I enjoyed the singing.
    There is something special about walking in the city during the white nights, a special beauty in the light – or sitting on the beach all night and watching the sun come up only 4 hours after it went down.

  12. Ah, Roslagen is one of *the* places to be, I gather.

    Attending a kräftskiva is another swedish thing I’ve never done… I really need to do something about my ignorance. I don’t sing in any language, but that’s ok.

    ‘There is something special about walking in the city during the white nights, a special beauty in the light – or sitting on the beach all night and watching the sun come up only 4 hours after it went down.’

    Definitely! I spent three very light nights in the archipelago before midsummer — amazing. The sky is blue all night through. You see the sunset light coming from north-west moving sunrise light to the north-east, never disappears even though the sun is technically down, below the horizon. Thus it’s even lighter on the north side of the island than on the south side were we are.

    This time is magic and it’s over so quickly. Then: darkness, darkness, darkness and more darkness. I kind of understand the idea of having a midsummer festival. Which is another reason for my obsession with it…

    The are other lovely things about the light nights right now — these wild orchids are in bloom: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platanthera_bifolia

    The scent they emit during the night is absolutely fantastic.

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