Pantimes midyear solstice catching your breath

Luckier Than Angels: Finding the Fern Flower

Gods willing, we resume our new series starting from Wednesday July 01 2020, at 12h00 SAST, as previously.

In the meanwhile, here is something to entertain.

“The Kashubians, a Balto-Slavic people still living in parts of Poland, tell of the mysterious Flower of the Fern. It is, they say, bright red and blooms only at midnight in mid-summer, when the earth is ‘like a child that knows a poem.’ It lasts no longer than a few hours but it can be picked – with exercise of due care and a red silk cloth. And it may be carried home, provided that you avoid standing still and refuse to give an answer to any late wanderer who might happen to ask the way. You can be certain that he is not all he seems. Failure to observe these precautions invariably results in the disappearance of the flower, and can expose you to the risk of a hideous death at the hands of witches. But success in any attempt to carry the Flower of the Fern home before the first light of dawn guarantees health, happiness, and a long life. Botanists, in particular, have problems with this story. They are quick to point out that all ferns, by definition, belong to a group of nonflowering plants. A fern flower is a scientific impossibility. And it defies logic to suppose that anyone could know so much about something that nobody has ever seen. Yet the belief persists – and not just in Poland. Every culture, stubbornly holding to convictions that seem at first glance to be misguided and maladaptive, has its fern flower. I think such things are worth a second look. I suspect that many of them reflect a longer lasting, more natural kind of knowing. We ought, instead of simply dismissing unusual beliefs out of hand, be wondering why they are as widespread and resilient – and trying to find out what they mean. It is possible that a belief in the incongruous, despite lack of what science would regard as ‘sufficient evidence’, could in itself be a potent social force. In the course of human evolution, a change of mind, a new idea, can have as much survival value and adaptive significance as the mutation of a gene. In other words, we need our fern flowers, whether or not they exist.”            Lyall Watson, foreword to The Dreams of Dragons.

We have just passed the winter solstice. It was on Saturday night, 20 June, at 23h43. In the northern half of the planet, it was midsummer, the night to get your fern flower. Mythically, we are both in the North and in the South. We collect a moon flower, wherever we are, if we know where we are and have learned how to pay attention. Where were you on Saturday night? Did you carry your own dreams with you, in silk, without stopping, until you got home? Or were you distracted by the needs of other characters, who would prefer you answer to the world their way? Beware. They are not who they seem.

Archetypally, we do not ‘choose sides’ with images. We are both the one who collected the fern flower and we are blessed; and also the one that got tricked by the aspect who appeared to be lost, and so we lost our own way. Neither side is complete without the other. As we are close to the solstice, we are still in the energy orbit of influence of the turning point of the year.

This would be a propitious time to ask yourself: where am I being true to my own nature, and, despite what others say, I will honour that magical flower, a source of creativity; and where can I face myself and admit I am mistaken, I lost my way and missed a moment. And that’s ok. Because we are human and only an angel or a god could get it right each time. And that, paradoxically, is their burden. Gods and angels are always true to their nature and do not get to change and experience the unfathomable wonder of being alive with rediscovery, of the pleasure of reimagining something previously hidden, and to experience beauty, as it arrives for the first time, new each day.

May your midyear catch you by surprise.