I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s summer solstice — the longest day of the year — and all the pagan rituals that came with it. But as you rinse off the goat hair and patchouli oil, remember that it’s not entirely now a gentle but depressing decline towards winter. Rather, there is still cause to halfheartedly cheer, as today is the traditional celebration of the second-longest day of the year, the day after summer solstice, known as Second Mostice.
Second Mostice is less commonly celebrated than summer solstice, mostly because it’s fairly ridiculous, but the holiday does go all the way back to pagan times, as these things tend to do. Do you know what else goes back to pagan times? Celebrity ballroom dancing, except with fewer sequins.
Legend has it that Second Mostice was first observed by a Northumbrian Pict named Gorn of Deepoutcroft, thus named because when it came to choosing sides for the tribal softball team, he was always the last Pict.
“The last Pict”….
According to oral tradition, while his fellow tribesmen and the Druid priests were dancing and singeing their beards around their solstice bonfire, Gorn was off somewhere practicing the nose flute, which is part of the nasal tradition. Thus, he missed the entire solstice celebration. This is what happens when you base your calendar system on how long the sun’s been up.
When Gorn arrived at the location of the Solstice festivities and realized that he had missed out, he decided to take the sacrificial bull by the horns and celebrate the second-longest day of the year, shouting, “Druid to me one more time!”
“Druid to me…”
While most of the revelers were merely too hungover to bother going home, Gorn mistook their sleepy presence as an endorsement, and started referring to himself as Gorn of Partyhearty, which of course, like most self-imposed nicknames, didn’t stick, but nice try, Gorn.
From this first celebration comes the Second Mostice traditions of gathering indifferently around smouldering ashes, making the best of a mediocre situation and generally being ignored.
Other Second Mostice traditions include feasting on foods that have just passed their best before dates and cheering for professional sports teams that have lost in the championship finals. (Go Warriors!)
While Second Mostice rarely shows up in literature, Shakespeare did refer to it in his seldom-produced follow-up to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, entitled A Mid-Afternoon Nap, in which the mischievous sprite Puck magically transforms the bumbling carpenter Bottom into a slightly less bumbling carpenter.
In modern media, the spirit of Second Mostice lives on at this time of year in the summertime release of vastly inferior movie sequels.
The traditional toast of Second Mostice goes, “May the road incline slightly to meet you, may the wind always be a wee bit to the left, and may you be in heaven half an hour after the buses stop running.” And then you raise a glass that is 1 percent empty.
If you meet someone who tells you she’s lost 70 pounds, you should not say, “You look great. I mean, you must feel great. I mean, you must feel better about yourself. Healthier, I mean. Because that’s a lot of weight to be carrying around. 70 pounds. That’s a lot to lose. That’s half of me!” This has nothing to do with Second Mostice, just an embarrassing thing I recently said.
Ultimately, Second Mostice is a time to reflect on being runner-up, second best, pretty good, a bit of an afterthought. Some people also refer to this as Canada Day.
So enjoy your Second Mostice and what remains of this reasonably long period of daylight. As the saying goes, “Eat drink and be so-so, for tomorrow there’s leftovers.”
A version of this piece originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.”
Finally, my Kickstarter campaign to help publish my novel has reached its goal. Thanks to everyone who had a hand in what has been an enjoyable exercise but with probably far too much of me up close on video.