art : nature : words
Indoor and Outdoor Art Therapist
Indoor and Outdoor Art Therapist
Saints and Sinners
In June, colours runs riot across the meadows, cliffs and dunes - the Sun inducing flowers to show themselves off to their full. Sparks of electric-blue demoiselles illuminate our riverbanks, whilst humming bumblebees weave their pollen-laden way from flower to hive.
All this life and activity feels like a natural celebration of the Summer Solstice. Paradoxically, the term Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol, meaning Sun and sistere, meaning to come to a stop or stand still. On 21st June, the Sun’s zenith does not move north or south as during most other days of the year, but it stands still at the Tropic of Cancer. (Whilst normally the hottest part of the year is yet to come, the current heatwave also seems to reduce activity to a standstill).
Most wild herbs are fully mature by Midsummer and this is the traditional time for collecting them to store for winter use. (In Wales, Midsummer is called Gathering Day).
This harvesting is epitomised by the gathering of St. John’s wort. St. John’s Day (June 24) close to the summer solstice, is the feast day that celebrates the reputed birthday of John the Baptist.
St. John’s wort has dark-green leaves that when held up to the light seem to contain translucent windows. These windows contain the oil for which this plant is famous. As the herb infuses, the oil turns blood red - the energy of the sun pulsing in the oil. One can view such a miraculous plant as the traditional equivalent of modern anti-depressants. But perhaps this is seeing its effect only from a narrow, medical model.
For those with seasonal depression, this bottled sunshine may aid their passage through the turning of the great wheel at its lowest point six months from now at the Winter Solstice. For some the vagaries of depression follow unpredictable calendars and timetables – their depression mixed with an over-abundance of energy and unrestrained activity.
Just as the St. Johns oil stores up the sun’s energy, in an ideal world we would all have a store of healthy emotions, memories and self-esteem to protect us from depression and other emotional challenges. However, locked away in the cold shadows may be the origins of our more difficult feelings. Expressing these feelings may be terrifying, allowing the wild person to roam can feel unsafe. A tension may exist between our need for wild self-expression and the internal rules we live our lives by. For while we instinctively need comfort and protection, we also need to express our rage, grief and despair.
The traditional masculine principle applied to the Sun at this time of year can be interpreted in different ways: the all-seeing Father versus the unfettered Wildman. Each has their positive and negative value. The authoritarian Father can also provide safety and containment to balance the Wildman’s unboundaried fire and need for mischief-making.
In many traditional fire celebrations held around this time of year, it was a permitted opportunity to seek wild abandonment . However, this was all contained within a ritualised setting. Today, taking leave of ones connection to the drudgery of life is all too easy through manufactured and concentrated substances – anything from food to synthetic drugs.
Balancing the two aspects of masculinity within us - the hairy Wildman and the respectable father – can be quite a challenge. In our adolescence we are hard-wired to challenge the rules, in an attempt to re-define ourselves as we move from child to adult. In adulthood, we live by unconscious internal rules that tell us what to do, how to act, who to love. Engaging with a therapist can provide a way to safely explore which of our unwritten rules are still useful to us whilst learning what are wild side really needs.
In a natural space of your choosing we invite you to make two masks out of natural materials:
the Wildman and the Father-figure. What aspects of yourself does each represent?
Leave a Reply.
Simon Wodward, Indoor and Outdoor Art Therapist