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Solstice Mystery Play Summer 2008

People come out in procession, starting with the Herald bearing the banner of the Sun, then the Sun King, then the Oak King and the Holly King, then the Mourning Mother, then the choir behind. Choir sings the following chant:


Life harnessed

Bring the sun to us

Sacred harvest

You are one with us


South Caller: All hail the Standing Stone of the South,

Guardian of the Fire!

Whose name is the Coiled Dragon,

Whose name is High Noon

Whose name is Summer Solstice,

Whose name is Fervor.


East Caller: All hail the Standing Stone of the East,

Guardian of the Air!

Whose name is Hawk in Flight,

Whose name is Light of Dawn,

Whose name is Equinox,

Whose name is Wanderer.                         


North Caller: All hail the Standing Stone of the North,

Guardian of the Earth!

Whose name is the Great Bear,

Whose name is Midnight Star,

Whose name is Sleep of Winter

Whose name is Constancy.


West Caller: All hail the Standing Stone of the West,

Guardian of the Waters!

Whose name is the Salmon of Knowledge,

Whose name is Edge of Twilight

Whose name is Autumn Rain

Whose name is Yielding.


First Narrator: Hail and well met! We come together on the longest day, where for thousands of years folk have come together before. We stand where our ancestors stood. Yet what was it that they did? The ancestors of our faith came from many different lands, and the Sun meant a different thing in each one. What is the Sun to you? (Shills in the audience call out "Life" or "Warmth" or whatever.)

(Choir members begin to sing Mesopotamian chant low in the background.) 

Second Narrator: In the hot countries of the Fertile Crescent, the height of the Solstice was not a time of joy and fertility. The Sun's wrath beat the last few crops into a burnt, dry powder. The delicate flowers withered and dried, and new planting would have to wait for the fall season when the summer's heat had declined. Here the Sun was Adonis - gentle youth, lover of the Great Goddess, felled by a ravening boar and doomed to have his blood spilled on the earth. (Sun King comes forward and stands with his back to the audience, his arms lifted skyward.)

Third Narrator: In that time and place, small gardens were grown in pots on rooftops, called the Gardens of Adonis. They were set close to the sky, meeting the Sun, blooming with flowers in His colors ... and doomed to wither in the Solstice's heat.

First Narrator: Think of what you find beautiful that you know, in your heart, will never last. Think of what you find wonderful that must be enjoyed in the moment, while it lasts, for it will not last. Think of all that is fine and fleeting, and honor that in your heart. As the Mother bears the Garden of Adonis, take a flower and eat of it, and taste what you honor ... for these moments bring spice to our lives, but if we wait, they wither on the vine and are gone.

(Choir sings Song For Adon. Mourning Mother walks around the circle offering the pot of nasturtiums to everyone. The final one is offered to the Sun King, who accepts it. As the Mother approaches the Sun King, the choir ends Song for Adon and begins again the Mesopotamian chant, which gets louder and more ominous. He turns around, take the flower, and eats it, and then reaches out to touch the Mother. She reaches out for him as well, but at that moment he is speared from behind by two tusks. He falls, his fingers just missing hers. She stops, stricken, and falls to her knees.)

First Narrator: Now think of a time when you risked, and you failed. Think of a time when you threw your heart into something, and you lost it. Perhaps it was a failure of will, or love, or courage. Perhaps it was just the way of the world, which thwarts even the Gods in their goals. Cry for that moment. Mourn that lost thing, especially if you have never truly mourned it before.

(The Mother raises her eyes and screams and wails. The mourning women join in with her, and the choir sings the Mesopotamian chant very slowly and mournfully. They cover Adonis in sheer red cloth, and sprinkle ashes on him. The Mother and the mourners go about the circle brushing everyone with ashes, encouraging everyone to wail for their losses. Then the Mother comes to the bowl of water with the dipper and stops wailing. The mourners slowly quiet down.)


Second Narrator: Yet with any loss, sorrow passes. Grief passes. Pain passes. Yet the hardest thing of all to let go of is often blame. We blame ourselves, or we blame others, or we blame the world. This too we must let go of, that Adonis may be buried, and next spring live anew.

Third Narrator: Will you come forth, each of you, and forgive, and be cleansed?

(Each comes forth as the choir sings Summer Sunrise. The Mother asks them, AWho is to blame: yourself, or others, or the world?@ Depending on how they answer, she asks, "Will you forgive yourself?" or "Will you forgive them?" or "Will you forgive the world?" If they answer yes, she pours water over their hands and says, "You are cleansed of blame," or "You are cleansed of anger," or "Trust in the world again.")

Fourth Narrator: Many leagues away in a place wet and cold as Adon's bed was hot and dry, the Celtic peoples celebrated the Solstice as the changing of the year from the Oak King to the Holly King. (Narrators read  invocations.)

Hail, Green Man of the Summer!

Great Oak Tree of grandeur,

Tree of the gods of kings,

Royal emblem of Zeus,

Lightning's tree, struck from above,

Exploder of wrath, dying in flames,

Green shaft of the colossal Dagda,

Mighty‑thewed as jovial Thor,

Fuel of the midsummer fires,

Stout guardian of the door,

Throne of two‑faced Janus,

Your roots extend as far beneath

As your branches spread above,

Living avatar of the cosmic reflection.

Oak king, you who give your life

Every year at the midsummer,

Teach us when to stand strong

And when to gracefully yield.

We hail you, sacred Oak King,

Green Man of the Summer,

On this your day of greatest triumph.


Hail, Green Man of the Summer!

Holly tree of sharpest leaves

Like spearpoints in the forest,

With berries like drops of drawn blood,

You are the tree of weaponry,

The prick of an iron spear,

A swinging sword, the Green Knight's club

Which is a whole holly‑bush.

Charmed by Holda, whose tests

And trials in the underground world

Show the measure of our honor

And the length of our compassion.

Every warrior must have his rules

And bindings, else he turn rabid

And fall on those he protects,

And lose his vision of the humanity

Of other, lesser souls.

You teach us this lesson,

Tree whose color is beaten iron,

Tree of courage, of hellbent rush,

Flock of starlings that swarm as one

And seek their foe; executioner

Of the Oak King in his time.

We hail you, sacred Holly King,

Green Man of the Summer,

In this your time of greatest valor.

First Narrator: A battle is about to begin! Time to lay your bets - will it go well, or ill? What will you wager? Will you wager your pride, or your fear of something, or a deed yet undone, or unfinished? Lay down your bets, Ladies and Gentlemen! (Drum sounds as people make their bets and receive markers in turn. When that is done, the choir sings Longest Day as the two kings fight.)

Second Narrator: Some will have won, some will have lost, for that is the way of Fortune. Give your markers to the Oak King, for in six months time he will come to claim your debts, and they must be paid by then. (The Oak King rises and takes their debts in a bowl. The Holly King ceremonially claims one debt, which is chosen randomly.)

Call and Response:

All Hail the longest day!

We have slept away the shortest night,

We have watched the wheel turn

From early darkness to early light.

All hail the highest moment of the year!

Come forth Sun and shine upon us!

Let nothing cloud your brilliance!

Let nothing cloud your light!

Let all your veils of rain be cast away!

Come forth and give us life, O Sun!

We stand where our ancestors stood,

We hail you on the day they hailed you,

We follow in their footsteps!

Hail Apollo of the golden chariot,

Hail Lugh Sun‑Face of many talents,

Hail Ra who battles serpents each night,

Hail Amaterasu Omikami, mother of emperors!

Take joy in the morning rays!

Take joy in the noon heat!

Take joy in the sunset colors!

Take joy! Take joy! Take joy!

Third Narrator: Sing with us, and drink with us, and take joy! (Mead is passed around as the choir sings Oak and Ash and Thorn.)

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