"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Midsummer Musings

Friday, June 28, 2013

Midsummer Musings

The kids are out of school and we're enjoying these first weeks of summer by sleeping late, playing tourists in Seattle, and going for short trips, most recently to Oregon for Astoria's Scandinavian Midsommer Festival, where I met up with some "extoots" for a few meals and long talks. Despite our various ages and stages of life, we felt instant comfort with each other. It was a great feeling.

It occurred to me that this is why immigrants seek each other out in their new countries. As an exile among exiles, there is no need to explain the customs of "the old country," or the reasons for leaving, or the challenges of acclimating to a new culture. Of course, it's fun to do so, so you spend a lot of time laughing about all of these things, comparing sect to sect (who knew that some OALC call ALC "Lips"?) and gaining new insights into the ongoing riddle of your existence.

Curiously, the Scandinavian Festival itself did nothing for me. Other than the Sami stuff, the costumes, music, dancing, and merchandise held scant interest. Even the familiar foods—Swedish meatballs, lefse, prune tarts—held little appeal. And while the sea of Nordic faces was warm and welcoming, it felt peculiar to be among so many pale people . . .  I've been away so long I've reacclimated to the multi-ethnic reality that is my city.

From Wikipedia:
The celebration of Midsummer's Eve (St. John's Eve among Christians) was from ancient times a festival of the summer solstice. Some people believed that golden-flowered mid-summer plants, especially Calendula, and St. John's Wort, had miraculous healing powers and they therefore picked them on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southward again. In later years, witches were also thought to be on their way to meetings with other powerful beings.
On Friday evening, there was a "hex-burning," apparently a Danish Midsommer tradition in which revelers throw crudely-made dolls (hanks of straw bound by yarn and black cloth) into a bonfire (the bonfire was a trash barrel in the parking lot). When I asked what this ritual signified, I was told that it was "throwing away bad luck," but when I saw this gentleman hosting a large straw witch about to meet her doom, I wondered if more was going on. When I came home, I looked it up, and discovered the ritual commemorates the witch burnings of history. Creepy!

A more modern justification can be found here, in psychological research that indicates there is value in the act of writing down negative thoughts and throwing them away (or "moving" them to an onscreen trashcan). The findings are not surprising. Ritual is effective because it concretizes the imaginary, but of course, it is only effective for those who surrender to it. The desire and ability to do that is highly situational.

Maybe we make our own luck. I certainly felt lucky, leaving Astoria with new friends, happy memories, pants that still fit (having passed on all but a few prune tarts), and the resolve to plan an extoots reunion. Perhaps next summer in Minneapolis? It could coincide with Finnfest, August 8-10.


  1. Free, having an 'extoots' get together in conjunction with the Finnfest sounds like a great idea. Getting together and sharing our common experiences is a type of therapy in itself. I sometimes kick myself for having had the bad luck of having been born into a tyranical Laestadian home. You mentioned the various meanings behind the mid-summer rituals such as the bonfire and witch burning. Perhaps we should have our own 'extoots' bonfire and keep plenty of garlic and Wolf's Bane handy in case one of the religious Pharisees shows up to 'rebuke' us. However, the real 'antidote' for tyrannical Laestadianism is actually the TRUTH which is a type of fire in itsef. Old AP

  2. Many of the witches in the Early Colonies were supposedly Finnish, bringing their knowledge and skills with them from the Old Country. I can just imagine all that lore being mixed up with early Christianity in the Far North, which, I guess, is why LLL mentions Little People in his sermons. The book, "Finnish Magic", refers to this, I think.


  3. I didn't know that, SISU. Another title to add to my ever-growing list of stuff to read. I just learned that a Siidastallan is also being planned in Minneapolis next August in conjunction with Finnfest.

  4. I reread the message I posted, and it's misleading. "Finnish Magic" discusses witches but not LLL. I was drawing my own conclusions about magic in Northern culture and LLL's references to creatures in the earth. SISU

  5. Hi Free, haven't posted in AGES so this is a trial balloon to see if I still can! I would LOVE an ex-toots "union" (can't be a "reunion" since we haven't gotten together in the flesh yet, have we?) and I would make a major effort to go, esp if combined with Finnfest.
    Do get Finnish Magic. It is fascinating.
    I've been catching up, reading the posts by 24 and the recent one on Making it Safe. One of the things I will never understand is why the OALC "protects" perpetrators from civic consequences, as if asking forgiveness somehow gets them off the hook for jail time. (I was told by an active OALC relative that a cousin I grew up with from birth "should be in jail" for what he did and his father, my uncle, was a molester from his teens and when finally caught in his very old age, the authorities were still not notified.) Bah, humbug.
    But this is, of course, one of the many subjects that is strictly off limits for discussion, which contributes to perpetuation and virtually ensures that victims will not get help. Having said that, I can say that I myself did not ever experience anything remotely resembling abuse and was unaware of what was actually going on "under our noses." So I, like most of us, lived under the illusion that such "sins" existed only out in "the World." Bah humbug, again. This does not contribute to a healthy community. I have to say, I am grateful to have escaped, to be free to think, to "be me." Many Blessings to you all. Many Trails Home

  6. Good Morning Trails! Good to hear from you again, and we are still awaiting your visit!

  7. I would love to attend an extoots reunion.


  8. Yes! I would also try my hardest to get to a union.
    -my view

  9. I would love to attend a get-together, especially in the Minneapolis area. I would be honored to meet everyone who helped make my journey possible. I have much gratitude and thanks to all who helped me through their own posts and replies to my posts. You really did make a difference in my life and deserve to be acknowledged for it.
    Life is good! The family (my mom especially) seem to have "caved" and if not accepted the fact that I left, then accepted the fact that I'm doing this and they have to live with it if they want me in their lives. Though it was rough in the beginning I really am proud that they've adjusted as quickly as they have, as it's made life so much easier on all of us.
    So, a big THANK YOU to all who've impacted my life and I would love to meet more of you some day!

  10. Good to see you back, Trails! And great to hear from the rest of you that a shindig would be welcome.

    24, so glad your family is adjusting and things are going well.

  11. LLLreader--count me in. I want to be there and will start making plans.

  12. Flora says: Already know I can't make it due to prior commitment, but really like the idea of meeting you all and hope there will be more planned for future dates.

  13. Loved getting together at lunch w/ all you "Extoots"! Even though I grew up in the ALC I sure felt alot in common. Even knew alot of the same people, and who alot of your relaltives are. Many families went between the OALC and the ALC, some still do I believe!