Ah, Summer has arrived in the Deep South. It is hot and humid. Nighttime temperatures don’t drop below 700. We scurry from one air-conditioned environment to another. As a Winter Witch this is not my favorite time of year. However, I am also a Southern Witch. Even as I bemoan the weather, I am flooded with a wealth of memories of Summer time treats. Ice cold watermelon, and the seed fights with cousins that ensued. Boiled green peanuts that took all day, but were so worth the wait. Tomato sandwiches made with fresh tomatoes from the garden, still warm with sunshine. Corn on the cob, picked in the morning from our garden and then served with dinner. All washed down with gallons of cold sweet tea. Those treats were not available year round, but here in the Deep South, they were part of the Summer experience.
My Southerner heritage is a long heritage that goes back for generations. My father’s family, the Irish part, was roaming the forests of north Mississippi in the late 18th century. The Native Indian part, Chickasaw, was there long before then. My mother’s family, the English part, was settling the land I still live on by the end of the 19th century. The Native Indian part, Choctaw, was here long before then.
I am also a Witch. I am pretty sure that the highest percentage of my ancestors on both sides would be horrified by that statement. They certainly would never have considered themselves witches, or practitioners of magick of any type. Yet my encyclopedia of types of magick all started with things I learned from those very ancestors. Folk practices with long histories that those very ancestors taught me.
It was during the Summer that the highest percent of the folk magicks were passed down to me. Not in any formal way, but sitting on the porch, shelling whatever was coming from the garden to be canned for the coming Winter. The ladies talked about all the traditions of how best to preserve that wonderful food. And I listened. My grandmother’s steamy hot kitchen where the canning took place was also the site of many stories and traditions of how to keep the family fed and healthy throughout the year. My first lessons in herbalism took place in those locations. And I listened.
Until my parent’s generation both sides of my heritage were farmers, so I also learned a lot of folklore about planting practices and how to read weather. Here in the Deep South it wasn’t so much about enough rain, but when the rain would fall. Both wild foods and domestic foods needed the right amount of rain at the right time to ensure the sweetest harvest. The men talked about that a lot. And I listened. On hot nights, hoping to catch a breeze, those men sat on the porch and talked about animals as well as plants. They made plans for the hunting that would start in the Autumn. A lot of Woodland Lore got spoken during those talks. And I listened.
It wasn’t until many years had passed that I came to know that all those things I heard as a child were generations of wisdom about how to best care for the family’s nutrition and health. Everything from how many times to wash collard greens to how to follow a deer path through the forest was based on what the various ethnic cultures had learned about survival. It was specific to this Southern climate and landscape, so it all was spoken with a Southern accent. I am so grateful that I listened.
Litha, the Summer Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere, is when the God & Goddess commit to the preservation of the people. This year I commit to the preservation of my Southern heritage, as I practice the ages old magicks that came down to me from all those ancestors.
Now I must run. There’s a tomato sandwich and some sweet tea waiting for me. Blessed Litha to one and all!