Although the last Wiccan holiday, the one at the Solstice, is called Midsummer, it is this Sabbat that seems to fall in the middle of the summer as most of us experience it. It is after August 1st that the school letters go out and shopping for the fall clothes begins. It is the beginning of the Dog Days, and often the worst of the heat and allergies.
The Dog Days are actually an astronomical reference. The sun moves into close proximation with the Dog Star Sirius. At least it used to when this term was originally coined. Our entire galaxy moves around a central core and so over time it shifts our solar system’s relationship to the other stars.
Not being a particularly athletic person, I’ve always been amazed that the hottest time of the year seems to also be associated with athletic contests. From the caber tossing festivals in Scotland to the Greek Olympiad August is the month for athletic competitions. I can barely breathe, much less move and yet this is the season for proving ultimate athletic prowess
In the days before air conditioning the hottest days were often good for baking. My mother always said “When it’s this hot already warming up the oven doesn’t make much difference.” Actually baking could make the house feel cooler as the oven produced a dry heat and reduced the overall humidity in the air. The yeast certainly rises faster on those warm August days.
I often think of this as the forgotten Sabbat. Between everyone’s summer vacations, all the county fairs, the Renaissance fairs and Pagan festivals it’s hard to find room in the schedule to get together and celebrate. Maybe that’s the point of the physical competition. People tend to find time when a sporting event is included with the picnic. Maybe it’s why tailgating is so popular.
The holiday is also referred to as Lugh’s day or Lughnasadd. It stems from a celebration of the end of the corn harvest. Or more probably the barley harvest in the Brittish Isles. There the contests were usually for a keg of beer, or barley malt. The yeasts don’t only work quickly in baking, it’s also a good time for certain stages of the brewing process.
August is a great month for pies. Many of the berries are peaking, especially in the northern climates. The early apples will be in. Even meat pies are good as a use for the stringier meat of the older animals and the pests (squirrels, rabbits, 4 and 20 blackbirds…), and they’re a welcome contribution at a picnic or pot luck.
So have a picnic and remember that those summer days are getting shorter as the harvest begins to come in. Enjoy the summer Olympics. Have some corn on the cob. Eat more pie.
Between the holiday and the heat I feel like I’ve lost a week. Those of you who follow me regularly will have noticed that I didn’t get this weeks blog posted on Monday. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say. It’s just that I didn’t feel like it. Monday after a holiday is difficult, because in a lot of cases it’s still a holiday. The virtues of living in America where everything is adjusted to accommodate the corporate culture.
With the 4th falling mid-week the holiday weekend was kind of neither and both. There were fireworks, public and private, on both weekends. There was the day off in the middle of the week. There was unbearable heat across most of the country.
I’ve never moved out of Minnesota for a reason. I don’t do well in the heat. Sure, when we have heat it’s especially horrible because of the humidity. Even at its worst a Minnesota heat wave is not July in Florida! In the southwest the heat is supposed to be more bearable because it’s dry. It’s true. 85 degrees is almost still pleasant in the southwest. However, anything more than 90 is pretty horrible for me regardless.
That midweek vacation day was cause for me to join some friends for an overnight in the woods. A little spiritual retreat to connect with friends and nature. We weren’t really roughing it. We stayed at a friends home. They have a lovely secluded spot a couple of hours out of the Twin Cities and across the Minnesota/Wisconsin state line.
Usually it’s delightful to be away from the noise of the city and out of cell phone range for a day or two. Usually the lack of air conditioning is compensated for by the shade of the trees and the fresh breezes. Not this time. It was just plain too hot! It was too hot to walk down to the creek to cool off. It was too hot to dig out the camera to take photos. It was too hot to think. When the time came to get back into the car and head home I was just a puddle of goo.
Thankfully my car does have working air conditioning. I felt like I’d “woken up” about an hour into the drive home with the fan on full blast. Of course it didn’t hurt that about then I hit the traffic delayed by city fireworks as people looked for parking and good seats.
It was surreal driving home with an occasional distraction of blasts of color and light in the distance. It would have been fun to have just been the passenger. Then I would have been able to watch the fireworks without having to pay attention to the road.
This was one of those times when I needed a vacation to recover from my vacation. Because I don’t really get one (it’s a mom thing) it takes a little longer to reorient and recover. So I feel like I’ve lost time. I should somehow have almost another week before this blog is due. It can’t possibly be Monday already. Or Tuesday. Or whatever day I finally get around to posting this.
Do you find time a little harder to keep track of in the summer? When you take a vacation? When you put excessive demands on your body?