I am what I am

En tidlig Solhvervs-tale holdt ved højtidelighed på Himmelbjerggården.

Summertime is here. All around us everything is now in bloom, as Nature so abundantly celebrates herself – and thus invites all living beings to go and do the same; to thoughtlessly be just what they are and thereby play their parts in the unfolding of the World.

In a few days from now, it will be the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year – and then the Wheel will, first slowly and then rather rapidly, once again turn downwards, for us to be embraced by yet another Fall and Winter, just as we always are after a Summer that often seems so short. 

However, here we are, let’s not be all to rash with what is yet to come. 

Midsummer, that is where we are. Here in Denmark this season is traditionally marked by the celebration of Sankt Hans, the feast of Saint John, where people of all kinds gather around an open fire to celebrate the light and life of Summer by singing songs and listening to a speech, ideally delivered by someone who can put words to something that is of shared importance among the gathered ones. 

Today, at this early Solstice feast of ours, I find myself in the honorable, and delicate, position of this someone who has been appointed to speak. 

I will do that by drawing our attention to what is not here – that is to the element of a standard Danish Midsummer celebration which we have chosen not to enact.

It is the burning of the woman. On our fire there is no stuffed female figure. We have not gathered here to light up a witch, but to honor all that lives – and dies.

The contrast is very real. What is the purpose of a fire? Is it to kill and keep away that which we fear, or is it to celebrate, and to attract, that which we love?

It seems quite obvious that the second option should be the better one. However, human beings, at least as we know them now, clearly have the tendency to choose the first – to tightly armor themselves in fear and hatred by singling out and exterminating that which threatens to touch and reveal what is inside of them. 

In the leftovers of the North there is an iconic mythological story about this act of pointing out the witch as someone who must be destroyed because she is a threat to the continuation of an established power structure.

It goes something like this: Once upon a time all was nice and well in Asgaard. Odin was recognized as the one and only giver of wisdom and Father of all. Peace was a fact because authority was not a matter of discussion.

Then someday, or maybe some short night, a stranger appeared. They sensed from the beginning that this one was rather different from what they had been used to.

In truth: She was a force that could not be controlled – and thus, just by being what she was, she called out those around her to search themselves for something that they had almost forgotten in the eager fulfilment of their daily duties.

It was a restlessness of heart, a most remarkable sensation, pulsating through the veins – a happily insisting voice inside the flesh that sings: You are yourself a story to be told, a destiny that yearns to fly. 

For some it was a splendid pleasure to be near her, a truthful inspiration for another kind of living; for others she soon proved to be a most disturbing figure to behold – a cheerful declaration of resistance to exactly that kind of impersonal, all-fatherly order that they had sworn to serve and protect.

You see, this woman knew nothing of serving. She simply was herself and carelessly poured out her joy to everyone around her, not some kind of self-conscious act of high intentions and polished ideals, but as a mindlessly spontaneous wellspring from the deep. 

In short, she was a witch.

And so, they did what frightened souls will always do when they encounter that which cannot be contained. 

Imagine this: Around a roaring fire all the of servants of the ruling order are gathered to once and for all destroy their own uncertainty by burning she who has made them see the mess inside themselves. 

Pierced by spears and burned by flames, the pain is obvious. Her magic is not a technique to protect her from the hardships of existence. It is exactly the opposite: The art of witchcraft always was, and is, and will be to call out and intensify the real – and thus to escalate the self-destruction of all our little lies.  

And this is the essence: That woman did not die. That woman could not die and would not die. Her lust for life was greater than their will to kill – and thus we recognize her a mother of all witches; Nature herself, whose message is so simple that it always hurts the eyes and ears and fragile minds of those who claim to be above her. She says: I am what I am – and so are you, my child. No more, no less. Just let me be, exactly as I am, and I will teach how you live and love – by letting go, so everything can flow.

Wherever and whenever human beings gather, witches will appear. Over and over. They come as unpretentious witnesses of a gracefully sharp-edged truth of Life and Love, which is that nothing lasts forever – and that is exactly what makes everything so unquestionably real. 

This is the Gospel of Witchcraft – and thus the sacred core of Midsummer: Forget who you are, and just be what you are – a living body, called to love, and bound to die, for others to be nourished by your essence. 

This World is not an enemy. She is our mother – and rightfully claims her part as the womb we come from and the tomb to which we shall return.

Life is a never-ending wheel, a feast of beauty that always justifies itself – even when I am gone, and others take the stage. The dance is all that matters. 

And words are only words. The best thing is to sing, to sweat – and to be silent.