On the above diagram, the highest point (summer solstice) has been indicated with a red vertical line and the letters "ss" for "summer solstice," while the lowest point (winter solstice) has also been indicated with a red vertical line and the letters "ws" for "winter solstice."
Many myths from around the world use this annual cycle and the interplay between the darkness and light to convey deep meaning of tremendous practical value for our lives.
In the Iliad of ancient Greece, for example, the struggle between the Achaeans and the Trojans embodies and mythologizes this great annual cycle, with the Trojans pushing the Achaeans all the way back to their ships (as Achilles withdraws from the battlefield) -- representing the triumph of darkness over light as we move towards the winter solstice -- before Achilles finally returns to battle and the tide begins to turn.
In a series of lectures preserved in the book Devil's Pulpit, published in 1857, the Reverend Robert Taylor (1784 - 1844) explains much of the symbology of the New Testament gospels and epistles using the same great cycle of the year.
In one such lecture, delivered on April 19 of the year 1831, Taylor argues that the words found in the famous passage of 1 Corinthians 13:13, in which the text declares "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity," we should understand a reference to the points of the spring equinox, the summer solstice, and the autumn or fall equinox, respectively.
Describing the upper half of the zodiac wheel as a great arch, Taylor explains:
Its pillars are Faith and Charity. Its keystone is Hope.
The husbandman must sow in Faith, live in Hope, and reap in Charity.
And why are those who cultivate the earth always called Husbandmen?
Because in allegorical language they are married to the Virgin of August, to whom they look continually, that she shall bring forth their children.
Faith is Spring, Hope is Summer, Charity is Autumn. (271)
The reasoning behind his argument is that planting the seeds in the ground (which takes place during the spring) is an act of Faith. During the summer, as we reach the summer solstice, the sun reaches its highest point, and looks down in Hope upon the fields which will (it is hoped) yield the harvest to come. And in autumn, as we reach the time of the harvest, when nature yields its bounty in a tremendous act of Charity (a word which signifies giving to those who are in need, and which is also translated as love in some later translations of the text).
After this point of autumn, when nature in Charity yields forth her bounty in an act of giving, the sun plunges below the celestial equator and begins to "go into hiding" (figuratively speaking), which Taylor sees as the origin of all the myths involving a "hidden god" (including the myth of Osiris, who is sent down to the underworld, or the myth of Adonis, or the myth of Persephone [to whom Taylor refers by her Latin name Proserpine] and many others around the world).
The myths almost universally portray this hidden god (or goddess) as one over whose loss we are to weep and for whose return we are to relentlessly seek (think about the story of Demeter [known as Ceres to the Latins] searching for Persephone, or the story of the entire world weeping over the death of Baldr in the Norse myths, for example).
Robert Taylor's celestial explication of the world's myths is extremely insightful and worthy of careful and repeated study. However, he tends to conclude (as he does in the series of lectures cited above) that the connection between the myths and the heavenly cycles (particularly the annual cycle) indicates that the myths are nothing more than allegories for the agricultural cycle of planting and harvest, with the recurrent motif of the "dying god" and the "return from the dead" being metaphors for the planting of the seeds in the ground (as if dead, but later to burst forth again into life).
In doing so, however, Taylor's analysis seems to overlook the tremendous power and practical applicability of the myths for our life in this present moment, even (and in fact, especially) in this modern day.
The wisdom contained in the world's ancient myths points us towards repairing our alienation from our authentic self, a schism which is discussed in numerous previous posts including this one and this one, and which is portrayed (I would argue) in the world's myths by the nearly ubiquitous pattern of mythical twins, who do not actually represent two different people but rather one person (each and every one of us).
This is the loss of contact with the divine force and the Higher Self, a loss over which we should indeed grieve, and reconnection with whom we should earnestly and relentlessly seek, even as Demeter searches unfailingly for her divine daughter, Persephone.
The myths most certainly do employ the great cycles such as the annual path of the sun through the zodiac signs in their metaphorical system, and these cycles do indeed relate to the rhythms of the natural world, including the planting of the seeds (in Faith) in the spring, and the growing of the increase of the earth (in Hope) in the summer, as well as the yielding forth of the fruit and the grain (in Charity) in the bountiful autumn time. But the myths of the world do not employ their incredible system of celestial metaphor only to tell us about the mysteries of the cycles of springtime and harvest. These great turnings of the cycle show us the way to find the hidden god who has been lost, and from whom we have been separated -- and in doing so they show us how to find ourselves again.
In a very real sense, the myths are about overcoming the trauma of the loss of our own self, and recovering that vital connection so that we can be made whole and harmonious again. And beyond that, this reconnection involves a reconnection with the wider natural world and even with the invisible world -- the realm of the gods -- from which we are meant to draw assistance and guidance as we go through this incarnate life (a truth which is abundantly demonstrated in nearly every single myth and fairy tale around the globe).
And that is a very Hopeful message indeed.
Thus, as we arrive at the very pinnacle of the year (and the keystone of the arch), we can profit from Robert Taylor's explication of the meaning of the admonition that even now abideth Faith, Hope, and Charity -- and we can spend some time considering the position of Hope within that cycle, which is where we are now as we reach the summer solstice of 2019.
For previous posts published on the summer solstice day of years past, see also: