The Summer Solstice is a Time to Enjoy Our Victories
Today, June 21st is the first day of summer and of Cancer season, whose card is The Chariot. While our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are experiencing the quiet darkness of the Winter Solstice, we can rejoice in the boisterous energy of the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.
In addition to today’s Solstice, also known as Litha, Americans also honored Juneteeth on Monday. Juneteeth honors June 19, 1865, when some 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced to more than 250,000 enslaved black people that they were free — nearly 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
America’s legacy of slavery is shameful. So too is the latency between the decreed end of slavery and the implementation of freedom. The degree to which racial inequality still dictates our society is an injustice, and so, Juneteenth is not a wholly joyful celebration.
There is still much progress to be made, and yet, if we only focus on what is yet to be achieved, we ignore the full picture.
Our over-culture and our individual egos all cherish and spotlight the struggle towards attainment. We place a high value on working towards a goal, especially if it requires overcoming adversity.
But as soon as a victory is achieved, the critical mind jumps in to ask, “What’s next?” or “How can I be better next time.” Imposter syndrome and hypervigilant anticipation for the next shoe to drop are part and parcel of the ego’s conception of achievement.
The ability to rejoice in our accomplishments without any qualification is the theme of today’s reflection.
Juneteenth, Cancer Season, and the Summer Solstice are all opportunities to recognize and celebrate our achievements, and the Six of Wands is here to teach us how.
The Longest Day of the Year
The four seasons on the Wheel of the Year mirror the phases of the Moon. Like the New Moon, the Winter Solstice is a time for quiet reflection and planting intentions.
The First Quarter Moon is like the Spring Equinox, they are both invitations to double our manifestation efforts. At the Full Moon and at the Summer Solstice, we want to revisit our intentions, celebrate what we’ve already brought into being, and then jubilantly offer up to the divine our remaining desires.
Between now and the Autumn Equinox we get to explore this action of offering, trusting, and releasing. The Autumn Equinox is like the Second Quarter Moon, a time to receive and integrate our lessons and gifts. And then, as our Southern Hemisphere friends will experience today, it begins again on the shortest day of the year.
Before I began working with the Tarot, I didn’t follow the seasons or the Wheel of The Year. Occasionally I might hear on the radio that the Summer Solstice had arrived and that the days would start getting shorter. That was usually accompanied by a feeling that I had somehow missed out on some heightened summertime experience.
Of course, time is a human construction. We’ve all agreed there are 24 hours in a day, so no day is ever longer than the next. I'fascinatedm not a farmer, and I can simply turn a switch and let there be light. It’s actually in wintertime that I see the sunrise and sunset more often, so how do I explain that feeling of FOMO and regret?
I think it stems from the word ‘longest’.
As humans, we like measurements and extremes.
As a kid, I desperately wanted to break some world record from the Guinness Book, I thought my Christmas decoration chain made from red and green construction paper might qualify. It did not.
I am enthralled by the mysterious Colossal Squid. We know very little about this creature, but its eye has been measured at 27 cm across, possibly the largest eyes to ever have existed in the history of the animal kingdom!
I first learned about the world’s smallest primates from the poem Wislawa Szymborska: Tarsierthe. After reading, “A tiny creature, made up of two pupils and whatever simply could not be left out” I was immediately and forever fascinated.
We like to know and name things biggest, smallest, farthest, and fastest. We are hard-wired to understand the world around us through narrative.
Beginning, middle, and end.
Knowing what the farthest planet in the solar system is and naming the smallest atomic particle is a way to make sense of our own existence.
But the nature of existence, of time, of space, all evade linear narratives. There can be no beginning or end to infinity.
I think that’s why in the past discovering it was the Summer Solstice was a disappointing indicator that the daylight hours would wane, and summer would soon be over. If you have ever felt this way, I get it. And, how silly!
I think we all go through some portion of our lives like this. Unaware that nature is taking place aroundus until someone points something out, and before we stop to appreciate it, it is gone. It is the same with our own achievements. We study for the grade, we work for the promotion, and once it is achieved, we’re already looking ahead to the next brass ring.
And, that’s normal. It is not a problem. We are practiced at the chase, the hustle, because that’s the space we most often occupy. Graduations, weddings, and solstices are not everyday occurrences. They are special occasions, if we allow for them.
As anyone who has ever attempted to practice meditation can attest, being fully present with the breath in each moment isn't our natural state. Being present when that moment is an emotional apex, is an even greater challenge.
Of the Major Arcana cards, the Summer Solstice is most naturally attuned to The Sun. In this card, we see a joyful baby astride a white horse surrounded by sunflowers, and a golden banner.
This card reminds us that we were perfect as babies, and our value has never diminished. This loving and true message can sometimes feel confrontational because The Sun exposes us to being seen.
To gain practice in how to integrate the big themes of the Major Arcana cards, we look to the Minors, and the Six of Wands is an ideal teacher to instruct us on how to live in The Sun.
Similar to the baby in The Sun, in the Six of Wands, we see a figure astride a horse. In this card, both the rider and the horse are fully robed. The rider wears a laurel crown and carries a wand with another laurel wreath at its top.
Below him, we can make out three figures and five additional wands. One figure seems to be looking up at the rider, one looks in another direction and we cannot see the face of the third. We cannot see the expression on the rider’s face, and the horse looks almost coy.
Are the people on foot jealous of the rider, or are they celebrating him? What is happening under the horse’s green cloak? I think that the Smith Ryder Waite does a great job in expressing with this image how scary it can be to actually take a victory lap. We worry that we might make ourselves a target to be knocked off.
The Wands are ruled by fire. They are the suit of hustle, and so the experience of taking time away from working and hustling to be celebrated and peaceful is threatening. “Don’t rest on your laurels” is pretty much the only way we use the word and the concept of a laurel wreath these days.
The Light Seer’s deck does a great job of evolving the Six of Wands into a more joyful and instructive image. We see the laurel wreath hanging on a wand that’s lit like a torch, but reminiscent of a microphone. Spotlights shine on a woman on stage with outstretched arms. She is basking in the attention of an audience made of raised hands.
Imagine yourself seated in the front row of a David Bowie concert. Now imagine that he came onstage, only to demure your applause. Instead of picking up a guitar, he humbly asked each audience member for their name and thanked them individually for coming while next apologizing for taking up so much attention. Or, imagine someone in the crowd jumped on stage to sing. It wouldn’t be a concert.
We all need to be seen. We all must lead sometimes. If we play small, we deprive the world of our gifts.
Too often, when we know we’re preparing for an apex moment we cheat ourselves from the full experience out of fear. Fear that we might upstage someone, or become a target of ridicule. Fear that the gift of the moment will be followed by disappointment. If the longest day of the year immediately brings up the dread of winter, we cannot possibly have an experience of summer to miss.
Six Lessons from the Six of Wands
In honor of the Solstice, and to help bring appreciation and observation to this Cancer season, here are six practices from the six of wands to help you savor the sweetness of summer.
By applying these practices to your observation of nature, you’ll be practicing for your next big moment of personal victory.
1. Begin With the Breath
We enter and exit the world with our breath. It is the connection between body, mind, and consciousness. When we begin with an awareness and an observation of the breath, there can be no grasping. We can accept the beauty of the moment on the inhale and release any attachment to control on the exhale.
2. When you are the center of attention, center your attention.
In public speaking courses, students are taught to think about addressing one specific person in the crowd. When you are in a spotlight apex moment, the more you can bring your attention into focus, the more you will be able to receive.
If we use the Solstice for practice, it would not be realistic or pleasurable to simply follow the Sun all day. But if we pick a few specific times to focus on how the light hits an object, and how we feel in that moment, we will stay present.
3. Hold for applause
Whenever I watch a great performer, especially comedians, there is a real reverence that takes place at the beginning of a set and at the end. Comedians know best what it means to share themselves and risk criticism and ridicule. A comedian can pause for laughter, but it doesn’t always come and it’s not always at the same time. The laughter is the conversation, but the applause is the apex.
4. Your joy can inspire
Parades require floats and people on them. Your achievements belong to you, and so there is no way that anyone could take them from you. Your capacity to receive inspires joy, not jealousy. Humility is not the same as modesty. When you play big, everyone wins.
5. Being Seen is Your Greatest Gift
If you were an instrument, what would it be? No one but you can offer what you can. If your instrument is a bagpipe, but you’ve been playing in a string quartet, your audience is missing you.
The Solstice and The Sun card are invitations to step into the light with your authentic self. When you see yourself authentically, you must recognize your greatness. Being seen is an integral lesson to understand our own success.
6. Yes autographs, please!
Put it in writing. Apex moments are still just snapshots in a life. Today is ‘the longest day of the year, and it is still just 24 hours.
By watching the sunrise from my bedroom this morning, I brought my attention and observation to the Solstice. By authoring this post, I will remember this morning better.
We can deliberately stay present and mentally record our observations, and later put them into writing. Take photos, and sign your name on an offer letter from yourself. Record your achievements. You can learn from your success if you pay attention.
And there you have it! I hope that you are able to get outside and practice these tools as you savor the Apex of this day on the Wheel of the Year!