2017-06-25 / Insight

Start of summer a religious holiday for Wiccans

BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com


According to “Beth,” many Wiccans carry on with them small “pocket altars.” The collection of items, including a match and candles, a tiny knife used to cut away bad energy, a broom made of rosemary sticks, salt, a bundle of sage, an amethyst and the symbol of Hecate, the goddess of crossroads, is meant to provide good luck and comfort. 
Photo by Nicholas Pugliese According to “Beth,” many Wiccans carry on with them small “pocket altars.” The collection of items, including a match and candles, a tiny knife used to cut away bad energy, a broom made of rosemary sticks, salt, a bundle of sage, an amethyst and the symbol of Hecate, the goddess of crossroads, is meant to provide good luck and comfort. Photo by Nicholas Pugliese LAPEER — With Wednesday’s summer solstice, many Lapeer County people celebrate the official start of the summer season, however brief it may be in Michigan. But few consider it a religious holiday.

“Every Wiccan celebrates the solstice differently — it can be just going outside and enjoying the weather or making special food,” said a Lapeer County woman who follows the tenets of the Wiccan faith. To maintain anonymity, she chose not to use her real name, but will be referred to as Beth.

The summer solstice, or “Litha” as it’s called, is celebrated in nearly as many different ways as there are Wiccans to celebrate it. While Beth makes special food items — sunshine cake, which is a bundt cake made with oranges and egg whites, and honey lavender lemonade — others choose to meditate in nature, perform rituals similar to bonfires or simply dance and play music.

“To be Wiccan, you don’t have to practice it with a deity aspect. I don’t,” said Beth. “I love the summer solstice because it’s the longest day of the year, but for some it’s when the Sun God is at his highest power.” In traditional Wicca, the seasons parallel the lifecycle of the Sun God, who some believe is born in winter and reaches his highest power during the summer solstice before dying during Samhain, or Halloween. “Halloween is like the funeral,” said Beth. “A big part of Wicca is the wheel of the year in general.”

Beth said that the reason she wishes to retain her anonymity is because she works in Lapeer and has had issues with customers before.

“My family knows and I’m usually pretty open with it, but a lot of people have this idea that it’s associated with Satan or witchcraft and that’s not even a little bit true,” Beth said. “It’s about appreciating nature and doing good. The main rule is ‘Do No Harm.’” Beth is also an alumnus of Lapeer High School.

“I used to not be quite as wary about it until the thing at work happened,” said Beth. She recalled an incident she had with a particularly evangelical customer. She said the customer, who was of similar age, in his early 20s, was very aggressive with his religion when he found out Beth practiced Wicca.

“The funniest part about the whole thing was how ignorant he was about religion in general, saying a lot of incorrect things about all religions, not just Wicca,” she said. “He asked me if I want to go to hell for being Wiccan and I said ‘not really, I just want to make my plants grow nicely.’” The customer prayed for Beth loudly and publicly, “in the middle of work,” said Beth. “What bothered me was that I showed love and respect for his beliefs but when I shared my beliefs, he just threw it away.”

Beth said she first discovered the tenets of Wicca in books she found in her father’s library. “My dad was a history teacher and taught world religions,” she said. “He got me this big ‘dream bag’ which is basically just assorted rocks.” To a Wiccan, nature is significant, and different natural objects hold different properties.

To honor this year’s summer solstice, Beth said she just plans to enjoy her honey lavender tea and soak up the sun, which she said is pretty typical for a modern Wiccan. “People have this idea we actually dance around naked at night, and some people might do that but I’m not one of those people,” she said. “A lot of times, people are sad to find out that Wiccans are just normal people.”

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