Midsummer is the time of the year when the Nordic heathen tide runs highest. Swedes erect Midsummer poles, a variation of a Germanic maypole, while Finns, Danes, and Norwegians light huge bonfires by the water, adding a warm glow into the bleak light of the nightless night. By the pole or the bonfire, a raucous party is held, typically with dancing, swimming, a sauna, and copious amounts of alcohol.
All over Scandinavia, Midsummer is considered a time sizzling with magic. The old traditions survive, though few take them seriously anymore, choosing instead to partake for fun or out of a respect for tradition. It’s especially a time of fertility, romance, and even promiscuity. Magic reserved for unmarried women takes the center stage: most know how a maiden can use wildflowers in order to see her future husband in a dream, or enchant a crop so that bread made from it works as an aphrodisiac. But other magic is also done in midsummer, for wealth, good crops, healthy livestock, and for divination.
Finland was converted into Christianity fairly late, and even then, the new faith was mostly one for townsfolk. For a long while, the influence of Christianity was seeping into the old ways of the country folk rather than replacing them. Paradoxically, the thin layer of Christian frosting — calling Midsummer St. John’s day, for example — helped Finns preserve the old ways, at least partially, until the present day.
But why is a practitioner of the Left-Hand Path even rambling about traditions, pre-Christian or not? Aren’t we supposed to be Antinomian, discarding the bonfires erected by those around us in order for our inner truth to burn that much brighter?
In this post, I write about three good reasons to appreciate, and to make the most of, tradition. For Northern Europeans, Midsummer makes for an excellent case for each of them, but they can be applied to the traditions local to where you are.
The First Reason: Nostalgia
LaVey was one of the many black magicians to appreciate how revisiting early experiences can be a powerhouse of magical efficacy. If your family celebrated in a certain way growing up, you can recreate that sense of awe and excitement and use it to your advantage.
The spellcraft of Midsummer is perhaps its most nostalgic side for me. I’ve been meticulous about doing my share of magic every year, for as long as I can remember; my earliest memories of Midsummer magic are from when me and my younger sister were 4 and 5 years old, respectively, and my sister was terrified after she had done a spell where one is supposed to see one’s future husband and… seen her grandfather! The magical side of Midsummer didn’t just turn everyone into a powerful wizard for one night. It also turned the landscape into a different, magical world. The most mundane blooming weeds became powerful magical ingredients. Fields and wells became locations with an odd quality similar to LaVey’s Erotic Crystallization Inertia, places with an eerily erotic air, where time stood still. I didn’t often get to celebrate at the waterfront, but when I did, I could see the glimmer of the bonfires on every shore and every island, far into the distance. That sight would make it seem like I was thrown into a different world altogether.
These days, when on a Midsummer night I walk through the fields to a hill where I often do my Workings, I can indulge in the same sense of awe in my surroundings. This sense of nostalgia reminds me of how the world is receptive to my magic. Which brings me to the second reason.
The Second Reason: Timing
The secret to accomplishment is pushing for results at the time of least resistance. You ask your boss for a raise when she’s happy after getting some great family news, not when she’s stressed out after a board meeting. Midsummer, like many other age-old traditions, is a great time for accomplishing many a feat. The notion that ‘the veil between the worlds’ is thin at Midsummer is a thoughtform that goes back for centuries, and probably for millennia. Don’t turn that thoughtform down for a dance.
The magical spirit of midsummer is easiest to tap into where midsummer is still actively celebrated, such as Scandinavia, but in its heyday the idea spanned wider than that. Think Shakespeare, who, in his Midsummer Night’s Dream, drew from a rich and ancient tradition of English folklore around what was thought of as “fairy time”.
Whether or not there’s any truth to such notions, these notions in themselves are powerful. Their existence makes the world — crafted not just of rivers, hills, photons and electrons, but also of sentient beings and their conscious experiences — more receptive to what we wish to accomplish. We can take advantage of that receptivity for any operative magic we wish to accomplish; for purposes of divination and self-discovery, we can partake of that receptivity.
The Third Reason: Honor
As an Antinomian, the Left-Hand-Path Initiate doesn’t stand for all the values and ideas of their host culture. They also actively oppose many of these values and ideas. While standing firmly against what one doesn’t believe in is valuable, it quickly exhausts its use if it is not balanced by standing for something. With commitment.
What values do you stand for? What are you committed to? Chances are, many of the celebrations of our host culture either attract or repel us according to what values we associate with them. Digging deeper, we may find things we can tap into under a surface we don’t necessarily relate to. The winter holidays are a good example: many enjoy their association with a sense of wonder yet are disgusted by the uncritical consumerism. In Finland, many of my friends are turned off Midsummer celebrations due to a distaste for inebriation — a loss, because Midsummer can be so much more than drunken debauchery.
For those Black Magicians whose values include a commitment to uphold, protect, and improve one’s community, communal holidays like Midsummer become feasts where this commitment is renewed and celebrated. For those whose values include a respect for the land, for its flora and fauna, midsummer offers an opportunity to reaffirm those values. Likewise for such values as seeing romance and sexuality as positive forces. Feasts that are celebrated by feats of magic, even if tongue-in-cheek, provide an opportunity to celebrate the potential for magic and self-discovery in the people around us.
With Midsummer fast approaching, I see myself sneaking out of the family celebrations, like I did as a child when I wanted to gather flowers for spells. I’ll go to the shore and listen to where I am. Will I hear messages from times gone and yet to come, and be reminded of my own timelessness? Will I hear my own Desires reverberating in my body, and be reminded of how to act on them? Will I hear the laughter of my loved ones in the distance, and be reminded by my commitment to them? Or something else entirely, for this is a time of Mystery?
And what will you hear, if you listen on that night?