The Seasonal Psychologist is a year-long series by Pagan Psychologist Betz King. Each piece corresponds to one of the 8 Pagan Sabbats, or holidays, while exploring ways to use the symbolism of the season for personal growth and in clinical practice.
I conceptualize both my personal development, and that of my clients, within the framework of our local 4-season landscape. Mostly this means a framework of trees, crops native to Michigan, and lots of plants, crops, and flowers. The Pagan path is a seasonal one, hosting 8 holidays called Sabbats. They parallel the movement of the sun across a year. Each holiday expresses a facet of the relationship between Light, Dark, and life. I use them as lenses of reflection, opportunities to contemplate the cycle of birth, growth, harvest and death that impacts all living beings.
As a Pagan psychologist, many of my clients have some form of an earth based belief system. This allows us to revisit treatment goals seasonally. The view from my office window is lush with trees. A simple glance outside provides the framework for our review; whatever the trees are doing becomes an invitation to consider the same within ourselves. The Oak Holly, whose strength peaks at Midwinter, begins to retreat with the warming temperatures and we are reminded that one season’s strength is another’s weakness.
Oh do not tell the priest our plight,
Or he would call it a sin;
But we have out in the woods all night,
A-conjuring summer in!
Midsummer, or the Summer Solstice, marks the time of year when the sun reaches its maximum elevation. It is the day with the greatest number of daylight hours, often called “the longest day of the year”.
Imagine that your entire existence depended on the favor of the Sun. With it, your crops would grow strong, and after the harvest, you could store food for the winter. With it, the days would be warm enough for your livestock to naturally mate and reproduce, thus providing you with meat, milk and skins. With it, there would be enough warmth and daylight to travel safely to distant lands for supplies and celebrations. Prior to our “civilized ways” we depended on the Sun, its light and warmth, for all aspects of our survival. Hence, the day that brought us the most sunshine was truly a day of celebration, as it brought powerful opportunities for expansion and growth.
Pagan Traditions frequently consider the Mother Earth to be fully at the zenith of Her strength, sexuality and fertility during this celebration. Crops are growing so quickly it is almost possible to see the growth from day to day. Buds, flowers and fruits are now visible; grain is forming on stalk and ear. While the harvest is clearly promised, it will not take place for some time yet. This is the midpoint of the growth cycle, and a time of both merry making and of hard work. Summer gives Mother Earth a chance to show off a bit, and she is up for the challenge. So many gorgeous plants, trees and shrubs show off their flowers, so many fruits and vegetables grow from seed to food in just a few short months, the life force than imbues all things is palpable and passionate. And the songs! The glorious songs of birds and frogs and bugs, seeking mates, celebrating sunrise, singing just to sing, as if a soundtrack for all that is growing and green!
Psychologically, the Summer Solstice is a time to revisit the “seeds” you may have planted last fall, or earlier this spring, and to contemplate what is now growing and expanding within yourself and your life. It is also a time to take stock of the ‘weeds’ and ‘invasives’ that have crept into your careful plans. Just as we prune back our trees and shrubs to encourage their growth, sometimes we must make sacrifices to achieve our goals and visions. What do the expanding hours of daylight show you?
Summer is also the best time to go outside and play, to reenact perennial rituals of food, family, friends and vacations. The extra hours of light that carry us into the evening illuminate not only lush vegetation and magical fireflies, but also the sights, smells and sounds of one’s village in full swing – cooking over fires, tending to gardens, playing games with neighboring villages, taking long walks and cool swims, hosting fairs and festivals and competitions – summertime is the easiest time to see the hidden Pagan rituals still present among us.
And even though energetically everything and everyone is going, and growing, Summer also teaches us patience as we wait for our crops to ripen, our vines to climb and our flowers to bloom.
This week, I will ask my clients what the bright light of Midsummer shows them. We will consider their overall health, the health of their crops (physical and psychological), and the tasks to be completed before the precious daylight hours begin to shorten again. When they are pleased with what they are manifesting, we will capture the exact recipes of self-care and hard work used. Where goals have grown wonky, or haven’t grown at all, we will problem-solve. We still have 3 months of good growing weather, there is room for corrections and do-overs, and there is always next year.
As you enjoy the many gifts of summer, the beautiful early mornings, the bright hot sun, the enlightened evenings, I invite you to stop and pause here and there throughout your day. Just stand still. Look, listen, smell… this is your manifestation, planned and unplanned. This is the zenith of your year, the brightest, the best! Find a way to get your bare feet into some sand, water or soft green grass, and let yourself feel the fertile power of the Earth. This is your home, and you are every bit as glorious as all that surrounds you. Slow down and take it all in. You are a powerful gardener, and your works of creation deserve appreciation and gratitude.
Happy Summer Solstice!
Betz King, PsyD, LP is an associated faculty member in MSP’s Master’s program. About her new blog series, she writes, “The Seasonal Psychologist explores my intersectionality as a Solitary Pagan and psychologist, through an integration of teachings and tools from both psychological and spiritual traditions.” Read more about Dr. King, including her American Priestess / Priest Training Program, here.