Litha or Midsummer occurs during the Summer Solstice. It is the longest day of the year and the shortest night, this is the peak of the Solar year and the Sun is at the height of power. Across the land flowers are in full bloom and the crops are reaching maturity as the harvest quickly approaches. Litha is a time of joy, happiness and celebration. Today we will discuss the history and lore of Litha and how you can celebrate with us at home.
HISTORY AND LORE
Litha or Midsummer is the Pagan celebration of the summer solstice. It is one of the four cross-quarter days and one of the four lesser Sabbats. It is the longest day of the year and the shortest night – on this day the light overpowers the darkness for the last time in the wheel of the year making it the perfect time for rituals of renewal, protection, and power.
In eastern European lore it is on this day in the story of the twins known as the Oak King and the Holly King, the two brothers battle and the Oak King yields to the Holly King who begins his reign as the darkness of winter and the longest night approach. In the Pagan community we refer to the day as Litha, meaning the opposite of Yule, or as Midsummer, because in the Celtic year Summer officially starts at Beltane and ends on Lughnassahd with this day falling directly in the center of the two.
Like with many Pagan celebrations there was eventually created a Christian counterpart. For those of the Christian faith this the celebration of John the Baptist. The Christian church began this yearly celebration after realizing how ingrained the festivals of this day were within the newly converted Ex-Pagan community. In the 7th century, a Saint by the name of Eligius warned them against these pagan solstice celebrations believing them dangerous and sinful. So began the Christianization of Midsummer which eventually became the feast of Saint John the Baptist, unlike other saints’ days which usually occur on the day of their martyrdom, this feast is celebrated on the day of his birth. It is one of the few saints’ days that will be celebrated regardless of if falls on a Sunday whereas typically the practice is to suspend the feast.
RITUAL AND OBSERVANCE
Beltane and Spring have given way to the maturity and heat of the Summer and so too do the God and Goddess. The Goddess is mature and glowing as her belly has grown large from the seed the God planted at Beltane, soon she will give birth. She is the apex of Motherhood and the earth is potent with her life giving energy. The God also changes during this time, he is the Father and slowly he begins to turn towards the realm of shadow.
Many of Litha’s traditions center around fertility and celebrate the bounty and maturity of summer. Fire/rebirth being the central element of the Sabbat we often celebrate through rituals that burn, purify and shed. It is believed that herbs and plants harvested during Midsummer yield stronger energies and special power.
Easy ways to celebrate at home:
- Berry or fruit picking! Many U-PICK farms are opened across the northern hemisphere this time of year and this is a great family friendly way to celebrate summers bounty.
- Bake a fruit pie.
- Make arts and crafts using natural materials gathered from outdoors. Flower crowns, witches ladders or wickerman dolls are common examples.
- Celebrate with friends and family around a balefire by jumping the fire (or cauldron) and through song or dance.
- Light a candle and keep it lit in a window throughout the day and into the evening, meditate on the flame or say a Litha prayer over the candle.
- After the sun begins to fall below the horizon light candles or a balefire and allow it to burn out on it owns.
- Watch the sunset and meditate on the light of summer as well as the coming darkness.
- Pick and hang herbs for drying.
- Go on a walk around your neighborhood or a hike through the woods and observe the maturity of the plants and full bloom of the summer flowers. (Don’t forget to bring a bag and pick up garbage you find along the way!)
- Host a barbecue or cook on an opened fire.
SYMBOLS: Fire, oak trees, sun dials, sun wheels, swords, fruits, shells
COLORS: White, gold, yellow, red, orange, blue, green
ANIMALS: Robins, cattle, dragonflies, horses, sea creatures
GODDESSES: All mother goddesses, Gaia, Venus, Astarte, Freya, Demeter
GODS: Apollo, Ra, Ares, all Sun gods.
INCENSE: Sage, mint, basil, pine, roses, lavender
CANDLES: White, red, orange, yellow, gold, blue, green
PLANTS: Sunflowers, peony, roses, honeysuckle, daisy, hibiscus
STONE: emerald, jade, bloodstone, topaz, clear quartz
ALTAR DECOR: Fresh cut flowers, herbs, seashells, blades, oak
FOODS: Smoked meats, spicy foods, fresh fruits, mead, honey, wine, fresh vegetables