Midsummer Thoughts #1: Drought and Flood

Around each Sabbat I find myself talking it out with C on our morning walk. She sits in her stroller, looking up at me with wide-eyes (which I either interpret as criticism or adulation for my genius) being forced to listen as I pontificate and wheel her around the neighborhood.

Not an odd sight. Not at all. Does wonders for the Pagan/Witch image of eccentricity, let me tell you.

Anyway, this morning I was going on about Litha. Litha is that one of two Sabbat holidays that doesn’t really ‘click’ with me–the other being Ostara/Spring Equinox.

As I talked to C about the traditional meanings of Litha I began to compare and contrast the four season model (of which the Wheel of the Year is based) and South/Central Texas seasonality.

What we have is more of a two season model, warm/hot and cool. From March till October temperatures are generally warm, hardly ever dipping lower than 50 except for a few freak incidents. From November till February temperatures are cooler (‘cool’ being relative), and it freezes occasionally, usually in January and February (right before it warms up).

Most of the Sabbats work quiet well in warm/cool seasonality. A ghostly chill can be detected in the autumn breeze at Samhain, and the immediacy of spring is easily felt at Imbolc.

Litha/Midsummer/Summer Solstice/Whatever seems to be kind of lost. I understand the more cut and dry part of the holiday: it is the longest day and shortest night. The zenith of summer yet the onset of winter, etc.

But the more seasonal connotations don’t really jive here. It’s not a time of fertility. It’s actually a time of death. The harvest in our warm-season gardens has been coming in and reaches its peak. Soon, in July, most of us will be composting the last dying tomatoes, eggplant and squash. Whatever spring rains we have given way to drought.

Drought.

As C and I continued our stroll my mind worried over that word a bit. Drought. It’s a constant in Texas nowadays, each few years worse than the last. Right now Central Texas is in an ‘Exceptional Stage’ drought.

…Texas…is experiencing harsh drought impacts in both the short-term (up to 90-days) and the long-term  (beyond 90-days). For the March to May period, San Antonio reported only 0.88 inches of rain, the second driest such period since 1885, with the driest being in 1961, when only 0.52 inches of rain fell…Temperatures ranged from 6 to 10 degrees above average across the state, causing even further dessication of soils.

It’s important to note what drought is and what it does. Drought is “a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall; a shortage of water resulting from this” (Google Definitions). Drought accelerates erosion and the loss of topsoil. It increases risk of wildfire. The lack of water poses a threat to habitats and ecosystems, especially those that aren’t conditioned to regular drought.

In a farming state like Texas, drought combined with intense irrigation practices can wreak havoc by increasing soil salinity and draining aquifers. I wondered about the ranchers trying to feed their livestock on brittle grasses. As I drove across the state last weekend I marveled at field upon field of maize, corn and cotton. How were they surviving? Some looked the worse for it.

When I was a Christian ‘drought’ symbolized a time when God didn’t really talk to you. You were in a “season” of drought, in a “hard” place. A time of “suffering” perhaps because your relationship with God was “dry”.

What are the spiritual connotations to a Pagan? Especially an earth-centered Pagan? Is drought ever necessary?

I thought about the implications of a spiritual drought: I could see that if you felt your gods were ignoring you, or you were ignoring your practice, how it could snowball into undesired effects. Maybe bitterness and apathy arising like salt from parched ground. A dying off of important parts of self. Certainly, drought is destructive. The only benefit of drought I could find mentioned was…wait for it…more sunny days for golfers. So, drought doesn’t seem necessary the way that flooding can be for some ecosystems.

Flood.

Now, there’s a concept I haven’t really considered in spiritual terms, Pagan or not. As Texas is experiencing yet another drought, to the north people are contending with epic flooding.

Flooding is defined as “An overflowing of a large amount of water beyond its normal confines” (Google Definitions). Flooding is destructive, obviously: it destroys homes and communities, crops and ecosystems just as surely as a drought does. But it also has benefits that a drought does not. Floods can recharge groundwater, as well as increase nutrients in lakes, rivers and on floodplains. (Source) (Source)

For some reason though, the idea of spiritual flood is overwhelming and unpleasant to me. What is that even? A supernatural experience so vast that it overloads the circuits? There are only two that I can recall off the top of my head. The first was when I began to speak in tongues. The second was this past February when some weird shit went down as I was cleansing my house. Each time had serious, immediate ramifications. One was met with joy, at the time (tongues), and the other, fear (cleansing). The tongues incident propelled me even deeper into that branch of Christianity; the cleansing repelled me from magical practices for a while.

Flooding also brings to mind how over the course of history civilizations that depended on flood built to accommodate them. They didn’t try to fight it. The rains would come, the waters would rise. Therefore, they grew x-crop that could benefit; they oriented their calendars around a certain set of seasons (for instance, rain-flood-dry/harvest). They built the foundations necessary and expectant of such events.

 

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One comment on “Midsummer Thoughts #1: Drought and Flood

  1. Jax says:

    I had to laugh when you said that Texas only has 2 season; I’ve often said the same thing, except I usually call them “hot” and “not-so-hot.” (Although I’ve also said we have four seasons, “not-summer (Dec-Feb), summer1 (Mar-June), Tartarus (July-Sept), and summer2 (Oct-Nov)”.) And you’re totally right that for us the most deadly time of the year is August. Whereas in the north people freeze to death in February, in Texas people dehydrate and die from heat exhaustion in August. Nothing grows because the sun has killed everything. And I completely agree that it feels unnatural to spiritually celebrate the harvest when the world (my part of it, anyway) is dead. It makes an interesting case that for people who are interested in a faith practice tied tightly to natural cycles, maybe instead of looking at the history they came from, they should look at the native faiths of the area they live in. I think the Comanche Indians lived in central Texas (where I’m at). I wonder how (if?) they honored the seasons!

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