I’m a little late in getting this blog to press. The La Nina weather pattern has delayed the hot weather that normally foreshadows the entrance of summer, affecting the normal rhythms of nature that propel me to write.
The southern hemisphere summer and its associated Fire energies begin to make themselves known at the point midway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. This “cross quarter” day is November 7th. In the northern hemisphere, the equivalent date is May 5th. At least as early as the 14th century, and probably earlier, folk in northern Europe celebrated May 1st as the herald of warmer weather and the first hints of summer. The Gaelic people of Scotland and Ireland celebrated May Day as the festival of Beltane which translates to “lucky fire”, an interesting echo of the ancient Chinese view of summer as a resonance of the Fire Element.
One of the features of these May Day festivals was dancing round the Maypole. In this traditional dance, people would wrap ribbons around the pole by weaving in and out of one another in the dance. The celebrations would probably include drinking and cavorting which might lead to more intimate contact between the participants. We know that Maypoling was banned by the Puritans in 17th century England because of these “ungodly” activities, but was reinstated by Charles II, the merry monarch who was well known to enjoy all of these associated goings-on.
With the advent of modern psychology in the shape of Sigmund Freud, the Maypole acquired another symbolic reference: the phallus. Of course, Freud saw phalluses under every bush and every bed, but most historians agree that the Maypole was not one of them. Rather it was symbolic of the central point of reference of the four directions.
Here in Australia in modern times, we celebrate the arrival of summer in similar ways. It is the start of the cricket season, the annual signal that summer is here. (Coincidentally, cricket commentators refer to the stumps as poles.) Other summery events are barbeques and other outdoor parties which can stretch into the night with the later and later sunsets. It is also the start of the festival season when crowds of people get together – more socially distanced now of course, but still in groups. People begin to wear fewer clothes and show more flesh, casting some minds to closer contact.
Celebration. Fun. Dance. Playfulness. Socialising. Relationships. Sexuality. All of these are resonances of the Fire Element and ultimately of the Heart. Summer is the time when the Fire and Heart energies come to fore, like an instrument in a jazz band taking its turn to play its solo. Nature is encouraging us to pay attention to these Fire Element aspects of ourselves, that we may further flourish as humans.
I’ll be back in six weeks when we reach the zenith of the Fire Element, the summer solstice. In the meantime, go ahead, play with Fire!