Today is the time for one of my favorite holidays- summer solstice, a day devoted to Saule and her daughters. I don’t really have much planned, but I’ve already left her the first cup of coffee of the day and given her an offering of water, and later I’ll be lighting candles to her and her daughters Zemyna and Ausrine. Truthfully, she has more children than that, but I only have so much room on my altar. I’ll probably light an extra candle that’ll be for her other daughters.
…Truthfully, she has more children than that, but I only have so much room on my altar, so I’ll probably light a fourth candle for the rest of her daughters.
Saule’s been with me for a good two or three years at this point. My relationship with her started… maybe two weeks after my relationship with the Norse gods ended? I didn’t really take my time in moving from one pantheon to another, which is something that I sometimes regret but mostly don’t.
In retrospect, it would have been nice to pick and choose more carefully where I wanted to go religiously. But I was sixteen or seventeen, and making slow careful decisions wasn’t a huge priority. It still isn’t, if I’m honest with myself.
In my experience with Saule, she’s a very energetic deity. She’s a very cheerful deity too; she’s very encouraging, but also very hands off. She doesn’t try to control anything about my life; she doesn’t really ask very much of me, to be quite honest. I’m more than a little grateful; I’m still struggling to be and act like an adult, and I appreciate the time to figure out where I’m at.
Anyway. Here are some of the traits of Saule that seem particularly important to me:
Saule is associated with apples. Apparently, this especially applies to yellow ones, but I associate her strongly with red ones, myself.
She also has a boat. So mythologically, after she gets over debeskalns, the heavenly mountain, she ends up sleeping on a boat that takes her under the earth, over the underground sea, and back to where she starts the day. Kinda like Ra’s barque, I guess, except with more sleeping and rest and less Constant Threat of Universal Destruction. This boat is piloted by Perkunatele, who is a goddess that we really don’t know much about.
…At least, those of us who speak English.
In Lithuanian mythology, Saule is the mother of the planets. I’ve said this before, but it just seems so COOL to me that I’m going to say it again. The sun is the mother of the planets? Doesn’t that just make all kinds of sense?
In Latvian mythology, she and her daughters court Deivs and his sons. In Latvian mythology, she has approximately two daughters (father unknown). Dievs, the god of the sky and (probable) creator of Everything has two sons (mother unknown). These families court each other, but to my knowledge, no one actually marries.
In Lithuanian mythology, she and Menuo (the god of the moon) are separated. However, because they both love Zemyna, the earth, they’ve split their time in the sky in half so that both get to see their daughter.
I’ve always been uncertain about Menuo and Saule’s marital status. So, the rundown is that Menuo cheated on Saule with her daughter Ausrine* (goddess of the morning star), Perkunas sliced him into pieces for his betrayal of Saule, and the two of them parted ways after that.
However, there’s some indication that the two of them are still, in some way, married. Menuo is described as continuing to cheat on Saule with Ausrine, causing Perkunas to perpetually cut him into pieces as punishment. (He’s put back together by Ausrine, by the way. This explains the phases of the moon.)
And there’s also a really cute myth that describes eclipses as being when Saule and Menuo kiss. See, it gets dark because they throw a blanket over themselves so that Zemyna, their daughter, doesn’t see.
…But there’s also the possibility that I’m mixing myths from different areas of Lithuania together. SO. Keep your salt with you, guys.
Saule really likes coffee and hot drinks. This is in no way supported by any mythology or archeology. It’s pure UPG. But in my experience, she likes tea, and I gather that she likes coffee as well, so.
Anyway. That’s my piece for today. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope that your solstice is beautiful and enchanting.
*For the record, I’ve never seen any indication that Ausrine was Menuo’s daughter, and I’ve seen a little indication that she’s Perkunas’s daughter. So. I don’t think incest has much to do with the story, though I could be mistaken.
So originally, I was going to celebrate Earth day by doing something for Zemyna and Perkunas (the Baltic Earth Goddess and Thunder God, respectively). However, I decided to celebrate the Baltic pantheon during Easter instead, during which I did my whole Welcome Spring ritual (focused around Zemyna, Perkunas, and Patrimpas and during which I couldn’t stop thinking about Sobek which threw me off SO MUCH oh my god).
So getting that done, I decided that it made more sense to do something for Geb, because I really like the Earth god and I’ve wanted to do something for him for quite a while. Unfortunately, what I did was kind of thrown together, because I completely forgot about Earth day until the day before.
So. Earth day, I went to the lake and collected a bunch of rocks from the beach. They were all smelly and kind of gross, but they were super pretty, so I went ahead and soaked them in soap and water, washed them each individually, and then let them dry. Then I scattered them across my altar and used a tarot card (the hermit) to represent his Earthiness.
My ritual to the Divine Goose (I’m so sorry, I love silly epitaphs) was really, really simple, because I was honestly super tired from school and did NOT have enough energy to make it anything huge. Which, honestly, made me kind of sad, because I love rituals where you shower beforehand, and wash your hands in homemade natron, and just go ALL OUT with everything.
However, what I did was super satisfying all the same. I wrote a prayer, lit a candle, and talked to him for a moment. Then I puttered around while his candle burned out.
I think it’s really ironic that I’m celebrating Earth day when I do very little to actually help keep the earth clean. I mean, I recycle, but beyond that, it’s very minimal. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, because I really want to help keep the Earth clean, but I’m investing so much energy into school that I keep forgetting about literally everything else.
So. You know what I think I’m going to do?
I’m going to work on using more reusable bags when I shop. And I’m going to work on eating less meat (because, you know, the meat industry uses a lot of resources, and while I love meat, I can’t condone the destruction of rain forests).
We’ll see how well I actually hold to that. I’m not going to promise anything right now, because sometimes I get so exhausted that I just stop caring about my impact (I’m a bad person). However, Geb is important, and we kind of need the Earth to remain clean so that we can, you know, keep living on it.
Thanks for stopping by, and Happy (belated) Earth Day!
“The Egyptians called the night sky ‘a thousand are her souls’, expressing the belief that each star was the transfigured soul of a dead person. This, then, was the pattern for the afterlife that Egyptians believed in at the time of the pyramids. Could it also have been the belief of those who left images on the rocks of the eastern savanna some 1,500 years earlier?” Genesis of the Pharaohs by Toby Wilkinson, page 157.
I remember reading how Saule, the Baltic goddess of the sun, picks up the souls of the dead while she travels and carries them to the next world. I also remember reading another Baltic myth, in which the soul of the dead person literally claws their way up the sky mountain to reach the afterlife. There’s also an Egyptian myth speaking on how Nut would take in the souls of the dead, collecting them among her body.
My point? I believe that when I die, I’ll travel up into the night sky to join those that came before. The stars are my destiny.
It’s not something I believe will literally happen. In the same sense, I know that the sun is really not a woman pouring light out of a jug, but instead a constant explosion in the middle of space that will one day destroy the planet that we live on. And that the earth is not a man lying on his back, waiting for the day he and his wife will be reunited, but a mass of rock and magma and minerals.
But at the same time, I believe in the gods, and in some form of afterlife. This brings me into something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, which is the purpose of religion- why do I believe in what I do? Why am I not an atheist?
Part of what’s driving me is that I do live with an atheist, and her worldview is rubbing off on me. Which isn’t something I mind; honestly, I think the gods prefer it if we’re able to consider other viewpoints and see if they fit us better.
(And even if they didn’t prefer it, it still holds that alternative viewpoints are important to consider, regardless of what the gods might think of them.)
In any case. I’m still trying to figure out what religion does for me. I don’t really think that I need my gods to behave morally, and I doubt that they have any desire to control what I do.
And in many ways, I think atheism makes a lot of sense- particularly if you factor in that religious practice might have just been an evolutionary accident. In fact, there’s a theory that suggests that evolution did play a part in religious development.
It’s an idea that I think deserves a lot of attention, because it makes so much sense. It basically suggests that people evolved the ability to see other beings as having their own wills, being able to behave as independent beings. This allowed them to survive longer, because they were able to then discern more easily what those intentions could be.
(E.g., that’s a deer. I want to eat that deer. That deer doesn’t want to be eaten. Therefore it will try and run away, therefore I need to plan how to react to that deer’s reaction.)
This ability was then applied to things in motion that don’t have wills; rain, earthquakes, floods, and so on. Because the assumption was that these things had wills of their own, it was assumed that one could interact with them. Through that assumption, religion was born. You can read more about the theory here.
I think, though, there’s a little bit more to religion than just evolution and survival (though I do think that religion’s origins are likely because of evolution).
Part of the reason that religion appeals to me is that when you pray to a deity, you’re usually not praying to something that’s never been heard of before. You’re praying to a being that existed before you did, a being that other people that you will never, ever know have also prayed to, a being whose memory will exist long after yours.
For instance, when I talk to Apollo, I know that he’s a deity that was worshiped in ancient Greece. I know that he’s a being- real or imagined- that has influenced Western culture just by existing. I know that there are other people that I don’t know exist, and who don’t know that I exist, who also pray to him.
The idea of Him connects me to the idea of permanence- something that doesn’t actually exist, but that I continue looking for anyway.
Religion, through worship, connects us with the eternal- with ideas of gods and spirits that endure throughout thousands of years of history. Religion can help us connect with each other (when used correctly), and can be used as a reminder of those that came before us.
It suggests to us that the end of the world- death- isn’t the end. It gives me, personally, a little bit of a connection to the past (and the future, as well). It grounds me in where I am now, and reminds me that ultimately, what I do matters.
And, on a very personal note, it reminds me that I’m going to die. This is something that I try very hard not to forget. See, ultimately, I don’t want my time on earth to have gone to waste, and I don’t want to leave having done nothing to help make things better somehow.
On top of that, it also reminds me that I personally am a very small being in a very big world, and that it’s okay if the things that I do to make things better are also very small. Ma’at is supported by the multitude of small actions. And religion- at least, my practice of it- revolves very much around the small choices.
I practice religion for connection with other people, for reminders to do small important things, and to try and make peace with impermanence. I practice because I am a person that does a lot of little things, both good and bad, and it reminds me that I need to at least try to make the good things outnumber the bad. And finally, I may also practice just because my biology and culture both suggest that it’s a good idea.
Um. So if you were able to make sense of any of that, I’m deeply impressed. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this, and may the sun and stars always light the way before you.