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Midsummer to Lunasa - the season of hope

by Judy Harrow

At Midsummer, after half a year's increase, the light peaks and begins to recede. Now, on the down side of the Wheel, we begin to encounter limits. Our joy is tinged with wistfulness: this is as bright as it gets. The solar year has begun its long descent. At Midsummer, the winter begins to return.

Although we may not like them, limits are life-sustaining. Unlimited growth kills both individuals and ecosystems. Any system without limits is a system in runaway. By defining our boundaries, limits give us both identity and wholesome balance, and keep us from crashing out of control.

The need to do useful work is one such limit on humankind. We cannot play, rest, or meditate forever. Most of us draw a large part of our identity from the useful work that we do.

In the agricultural cycle, this is the time when farmers work without any immediate reward. Spring's bright promise is faded. Most of the blossoms have fallen now, but the fruits are not yet ripe. The potentiality is yet unmanifest, and its manifestation depends upon our ability to sustain hope in the face of uncertainty, to keep on keeping on. We can't just wait for the harvest. We must work for it, in the burning sun and the drenching rain, and despite the terrifying knowledge that drought, hail, disease or fire may snatch the harvest away. Hope sustains our work until the harvest comes.

The two great concerns of human life are said to be love and work. After Beltane, in the time of flowers and promises, love filled our thoughts. Now, in the season of hope is a good time to focus on some of the issues around work.

Work may seem like a four-letter word sometimes, and yet it fulfills two very different needs for us: self- support and the sense of accomplishment. Although these needs are not contradictory, their fulfillments are definitely independent of one another. They can coincide, but most often they do not. Here are some things to think about under both headings:

1. Right Livelihood

In our time and place, all healthy adults are expected to support themselves. As a result, a large part of our sense of dignity and autonomy comes from not being dependent on or beholden to other people. When we meet new people, we often introduce ourselves by what we do for a living or what we hope to do after completing school. For Witches, who are committed not to take pay for our religious activities, the need to earn a secular living becomes even more obvious. And yet, not all means of livelihood are "right."

Many occupational changes require that you go back to school. Taking some of the introductory courses at night is another way to both explore and get a head start on the change if you decide you really want to do it. Some new careers can also be explored through volunteer work.

2. Meaningful contributions

Self-actualized adults need to know that what they do matters in this world. We need a sense of accomplishment. To really focus in on this issue, two clear distinctions are required:

Priest/esses get a great deal of satisfaction from our religious work. For those of us who follow the Old Ways, that's all we get -- no extrinsic rewards follow. It's helpful, then, to remember that a sense of real accomplishment is an equally important need, and one that many day-jobs leave unfulfilled.

Since our religion is not at all organized -- and most of us prefer it that way -- there's no central authority to assess our talents and strengths and assign us to places where our work is most needed. The tasks of knowing oneself and developing one's own religious career devolves on each individual Witch.

Another way of saying this: we're not getting paid for this, nor are we being bossed. That leaves us free. We can do the things that we enjoy doing, and that we believe are really needed. We can do the things through which we continue to learn and grow. We can -- and we should -- be self-directed as priest/esses.

Here are some questions to ask ourselves as we reflect on our work during this season of hope.

[note: a lot of the information you will glean from answering these questions will also be useful as you make decisions concerning your secular career]

The work we do as priest/esses grows out of our spirituality and our magic. Without those roots, it cannot flourish, cannot bring forth sweet fruit. That would not be religion. At best it's religious bureaucracy. But those who think priesthood consists of meditating in a cave, ignoring the community and the world, are also missing a point. Religion means connection -- the connection of the Sacred with the world of form.

In Buddhist tradition, there are a series of pictures called the "ox-herding" pictures. Like our Tarot trumps, they have been presented many times in many different artistic styles, but the basic ideas stay the same. The ox-herding pictures depict the process of spiritual growth. One of them represents total merger of the self with the Sacred. It's not the last picture. There's one more to go. The final picture is called "returning to the village with helping hands." There, and here, and always, the circle is completed by service, by good work.

In July, we work and hope for the harvest that grows from Mother Earth's sweet body under our watchful care.

written by Judy Harrow
updated: January 19, 2000; 1998, 2000, by Judy Harrow
the address of this page is:

You may go on to:

Lunasa to Harvest

You may go back to:

Beltane to Midsummer

You may also go to:

Walking our Talk: the Seasons between the Sabbats.

or off site to visit Wychwood Temple, where you will find Doug and Sandy Kopf's excellent essay on the folklore of Lunasa

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