The summer solstice is a day of great power in the pagan religions. There was a time when I would gather a few friends and celebrate this festival. I’m not sure if I could really call myself a pagan, definitely not a Wiccan (literally ‘wise one’), but I was fascinated by the religion.
Earth spirituality seemed a natural fusion of my desire for spirituality and a passion for environmentalism. I enjoyed the creative ceremonies that I participated in and the people who gravitated to these circles. They were Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, atheists and more. What we all had in common was a desire to elevate our own spiritual consciousness and energy together with the energy of the earth.
Exploring the Pagan year and life-cycle became a powerful thread in my first novel, A Gardener’s Tale (2000), which covers the festivals over a two-year period. The novel is also a social commentary on the breaking down of the British urban lifestyle and the demise of the British landed classes, as well as a criticism of how we treat people who are not necessarily gifted academically or ‘fit in.”.
A Gardener’s Tale was a wonderful journey for me. While the writing is rough, as reflects a first novel, it is a passionate description of a world that we are rapidly losing. Our world is vastly different today than it was when the book was written a decade ago, but I still believe that we must chart our destiny based upon a value-based spirituality that is inclusive and welcoming.
Shortly before she passed away, Vivianne Crowley, the famous Wicca leader and then High Priestess of Britain, wrote about A Gardener’s Tale.
“A beautiful and elegiac evocation of a timeless Britain and of a man of the ancient ways of the earth who brings peace and healing where the flames of persecution once burned.”
Though I look back nostalgically on the characters of A Gardener’s Tale with great affection, I cannot help feeling that the need to understand and bond with the world we live in, is as important today as it ever was. Perhaps, even more so.
Happy Solstice to everyone.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).