A Word on Midsummer Solstice 2020
By Gudellri Alexandra Ravenscroft
Traditionally, the midsummer solstice is a time to honor the death of Baldr, the lord of light, warmth, and joy. So far, 2020 has been a year of witnessing the death of Baldr in our lives. Every month this year, a veil was lifted and something unimaginable has come out. It has tested who we are as people and as Heathens and called the very status quo into question, demanding accountability for all manner of injustices. I have no doubt that this will continue for the rest of the year. However, just because this season is missing the usual joyful trappings of summer does not mean it is a useless time.
The story of Baldr’s death
The cycle of Baldr’s life and death is a prominent feature in Forn Sidr. Baldr is the son of Odin and Frigg and he’s one of the most beloved gods among the Aesir, emanating light wherever he goes. When Frigg had a vision foretelling her son’s death, she tried to prevent it by asking everything in creation for oaths not to harm him. She was successful in procuring their promises, but she overlooked the young plant Mistletoe. Assuming that no harm could come to him, Baldr boasts about his invincibility and challenged the gods to test it. No matter how strong the blow or sharp the weapon, nothing could hurt Baldr. But disaster strikes when Baldr’s brother, Hod, takes his turn in the challenge. Because Hod is blind, he did not know what he shot at Baldr was Mistletoe.
While there are many different versions of Baldr’s death, this cyclical death and rebirth remain the same. We usually reflect on Baldr at the solstices. The slaying of Baldr at the hands of Hod is considered a representation of the changing seasons, particularly since Hod is a deity associated with cold and darkness: Each year Baldr is slain at Midsummer and returns from Hel’s realm at Yule.
What to do when light departs
This Midsummer solstice, I invite you to sacrifice the most important thing we have; our time and energy in service to each other and in service to our communities who are seeking reconciliation of injustices. If you feel called to direct action against these injustices, take up your shield and go – whatever your “shield” might be. Your “shield” is anything you are bringing to the movement: your person, your skills, your voice, your willingness to learn, and any other resources you have. Not everyone can be part of street protests but everyone can be part of the shield wall against injustice.
Black lives and Black Trans lives matter. And until Black lives are valued as much as non-Black lives, human life isn’t truly valued. The confrontation of oppression is an inherent right and we defend that right under Frith together. Whether you are experiencing racial oppression first-hand or through concern for your community, showing up is how we honor that Frith. If you go to protests as a guest, be prepared to show up with listening ears, open heart, and to help the Black community confront centuries of oppression perpetrated against them.
If you feel called to a role of healing, this role is greatly needed now. If you are a licensed professional, you can offer crisis services and support to those in need during this time of upheaval where hope can be hard to find. Making masks or delivering meals to those in isolation is also a way to aid against another crisis of our time: COVID-19. As we move into darker times, metaphysically and literally, leaning into compassion and empathy for our community is the best way to confront fear and despair. There is so much healing that is needed right now.
Finally, self-care in a time of escalating oppression is a revolutionary act. It is important to take time to care for your needs, rest, and heal as Baldr is doing during his stay in Hel’s realm. Don’t mistake rest for stagnation. Rest brings healing, examination, and can lead us to let go of harmful outdated perceptions.
Guiding light in the darkness
There are so many issues right now which require us to take personal responsibility for our education and transformation. During times of great strife, it is our collective deeds that define us as Heathens and as a strong community. It is by doing these things that we can reclaim our power as a dynamic force for the restoration of sacred relationships that we’ve lost. It is by prioritizing right-relationships that we guide Baldr’s light into our world.
Have a Blessed Midsummer,
Gudellri (Head Clergy)