The Summer King & Winter King Come Forth

We welcome our Summer King, Nate Kelso, and our Winter King, Stew Wilson!

A message from our Summer King

Hello my darlings.

If you are a little surprised to see me here as your Summer King, I don’t think it will be more so than I am myself. I’m not entirely sure how and who I managed to hoodwink into letting me run my own petty Kingdom, but if you don’t let on I think I might get away with it.

To say we’ve had a difficult last year and a half is a gross understatement —of something for which no overstatement is really possible— and so I shan’t try. Let’s leave it at “it’s been shit”, and figure out where we’re at for now: the end of what has been, if I do say so myself, a not-bad summer on balance. We’ve had more than the usual allotted five days of Scottish summer sun, and a lovely deluge of water here and there to keep the soil moist. There’s a glut of courgettes in the allotments, some whopping apples dangling ominously on the trees and we’re all, slowly, beginning to reach out tender tendrils across our city and the world towards each other once again.

It’s coming to that time, though, where people are starting to say things like ‘aye the nights are fair drawing in’ and ‘hey, it’s only four months to the next year!’ …You know who you are, hmph… But no matter how much we might groan and roll our eyes it doesn’t make it any less true.  It’s time to start gathering, to coorie in, to get the box sets ready and craft projects planned. 

I’m not a fighter.  I don’t want to fight Winter – it’s as natural as any other season and we need that rest, that quiet time, to rebuild and recoup. Besides, he’s a lot bigger than me and I don’t know if I fancy my chances.  What we do need, however, is to be canny – so we can more than just survive and eke our way through the dark months and that, my lovelies, is where I see my place as Summer King:

Your gentle ceremonial master of collectively getting-our-act-together in the face of apathy, exhaustion, burnout, insecurity and the world at war with itself.  We need to ‘Do The Things’, darlings, but they can’t make us be serious about it all the time.  We need to build our support structures and networks to last but our many hands will make that so much easier and all the more structurally sound – a mycelial-esque collective project of survival interwoven under our urban forest.

We need to talk, too. We need to look at who and how we exist and interact with each other and how we make ourselves more sustainable, personally and as a whole. There’s joy in summer plenty and a spot of overindulgence now and again but that relies on being ‘back to auld claes and porridge’ after so we don’t over-stretch our resources in the tougher times.

I’m here for you my summer seedlings, let’s get ready together.

And a message from our Winter King…

My lords, my ladies, and all those noble souls who are as annoyed as me that the titles of nobility include no gender-neutral or non-binary terms of address,

Some among you thought I would make a good King. I will do my best to live up to the high expectations you have of me. After all, Winter is still to come.

As things have opened up over the Summer, a lot of us have felt able — not just allowed, but psychologically ready — to Do All The Things. We’ve reconnected with friends, started drumming, gone on trips, and slowly came to the same realisation as Diogenes as he emerged from his barrel like a less-furry Oscar the Grouch: that the outside world and the people it contains maybe aren’t entirely s**t. Most of us still have things we aren’t yet ready to do, as the situation is nowhere near over, but we’re doing more than we were. It’s incredible.

It’s also exhausting.

I am not here to praise a locked-down life! I bring instead a time to recover, to take a breath after the sudden rush of the recent Summer. My Winterlings, I say to you, it is right and good to read a book while the rain falls outside. I say to you, it is a noble thing to paint or write or craft. I say to you, connect with your nearest and dearest over a box set or playing Mario Kart. I say to you, take time to become friends with yourself once more.

As your Winter King, I bring a different perspective on the dark season. People talk of the dead of Winter, they say I herald the end of Summer and the death of Summer’s Court. Lies and slander, say I! Winter is the end of a chapter, not the end of a book. It is something we face by changing, not ending. That may be a hard transformation, but it does not have to be one between living and dead. Swallows do not die come November, and grow fully-formed on telephone wires in May. Bears do not die when the snows come, and emerge newborn adults when the frosts thaw. Trees shed their leaves to endure the Winter; they may look dead, skeletal branches silhouetted against snowy ground, but they will blossom again.

My Winterlings, I bring you as well this wisdom: we are none of us solitary creatures. My Winter is a time of gathering together in the dark, sharing stories or songs or secrets. A time when we open up to one another in a more intimate space. I will bring us together, help us through the transformation, and make us into people who can not just survive the Winter, but thrive in it!

Photo of Nate copyright Dan Mosley for Beltane Fire Society, photo of Stew copyright Ashley Erdman for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.

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