Litha – Summer Solstice – Midsummer – June 20th – 22nd (in the Northern Hemisphere) or December 20th – 22rd (in the Southern Hemisphere) : This is the longest day of the year and the shortest night. The sun is at its zenith and is at its highest power magically. This is the time of the Sun God in all His glory. A time for celebration of passions and success. Re-dedication to the Goddess and God can be done at this time. It is the time when the Sun casts three rays and lights the world. For Wiccans and many Pagans, this is the time when the Oak King (the Rebirth of the God or Divine Child) is overcome by the Holly King (Death Aspect). The Earth’s powers are at its peak at this time.
Historically, Summer Solstice has been observed all over the world in virtually every culture. The Greeks, Romans, Norse, Celts, Aztecs and Jews all celebrated the longest day of the year. It has been celebrated as a fire festival or a solar festival or both, though there were also sometimes a water element to the observances. So, though there were usually bonfires, there were often pilgrimages to sacred wells or bodies of water also. Many of the people of the different cultures did circle dances around the bonfires.
It is said that the Druids of ancient times gathered sacred herbs on this day, and many Pagans in these modern times will often harvest plants for use in magic, healing and cooking. It is also considered to be a good time to commune with the fae or faerie people.
The word solstice comes from the Latin: sol for “sun,” and stitium meaning “to stand still.” To the ancients, it may very well seem that the sun stood still in the sky this day. They very often prayed to various sun gods or goddesses on this day. Also, in many cultures the sun and fire are important aspects in their celebrations. At Stonehenge and other similar stone circles all over the world, the giant stones mark off the various Solar positions including the Summer Solstice.
Early pagans depended on the land in their area to provide them with their food, unlike many of us today who eat foods from all over the world, not just what is raised in the area that we live in. Most of the ancients’ holidays centered around the planting, growth and harvest cycles of the plants that they depended on for their food. Thus, they prayed to their various gods and goddesses for plentiful harvests.
This day marked the end of the planting season and the beginning of the earliest of the harvests, so, it was a time of great celebration and seen as an excuse to rest from the never-ending work of growing and finding food. It allowed them a time to catch their breath and enjoy the fruits of their labors before returning to the needs of their survival.
Historically, Summer Solstice celebrations took different forms in different cultures. Flowers, herbs and growing plants were often a part of the celebration as well as the sun and fire. In ancient Greece, this was the time when it was thought that the Titan Prometheus was said to have given the gift of fire to human beings, thus humans were able to create a civilized society. The Greek year began on the first new moon after the Summer Solstice. In ancient Rome, Summer Solstice was considered sacred to Juno. Juno, the wife of Jupiter, is the goddess of women, childbirth and marriage, which is why June is the month, which was named after her by the way, has always been the favorite month for weddings. The Full Moon in June is known as the Honey Moon (sound familiar) and many people get married during this time. Who hasn’t heard that the best time of the year to get married is June, on or close to Midsummer.
In ancient China, the Summer Solstice was considered to be a Yen (female) holiday, with its counterpart being Winter Solstice (male). The celebrations were for fertility and the renewal of the earth. Offerings were burnt to carry their prayers up to the heavens.
There has been much debate amongst Pagans and Wiccans as to whether or not the ancients celebrated the Solar festivals (the solstices and equinoxes). However, there are scholarly evidence that says that they did. But Gerald Gardner suggested that these festivals were actually imported from the Middle East at a later time.
The word Litha is thought to come from the Saxons which is thought to come from their word for the month of June, meaning “light” or “moon”. The Germanic tribes celebrated the sun’s triumphant rise with huge bonfires. In Finland, the Summer Solstice was a joyous occasion because of the light after the long darkness and was called Juhannus. The Vikings held meetings at Summer Solstice to deal with legal matters and resolve disagreements. They also built huge bonfires and made pilgrimages to sacred healing wells. In Iceland, some of these traditions are still observed.
Of the Celts and Druids, much of what we know is secondhand as most of what they wrote down was destroyed by the early Christian church. But it is believed that the Druids celebrated Summer Solstice as the marriage of heaven and earth. They harvested sacred herbs, such as mistletoe berries, which they later used for healing and magic. (By the way, never ingest mistletoe leaves or berries. They are poisonous.) They burned oak, which was their sacred tree, on Summer Solstice. The ancient Celts were thought to use the light and energy of the sun of the Summer Solstice to banish demons and evil spirits. They too lit bonfires on this day. Couples would jump the flames (not recommended) for luck and to determine how high the crops would grow.
The Goddess at this time is in her Mother aspect, pregnant with child. The God is generally seen as being at the peak of His virility and power. But as the sun sets on the Summer Solstice He begins to fade and later dies on Samhain.
Gods of this Sabbat are : Apollo, Horus, Aten and Lugh. Goddesses of this Sabbat are: Hestia, Juno, Sulis Minerva, Amaterasu and Sunna or Sol.
For modern Pagans, this is a great time for picnics and barbecues; swimming and taking hikes in the woods are also great activities. Invite your friends and family to join you. Let the children stay up late and celebrate the coming night with sparklers.
Very powerful magic can be done on this day. Litha is practically the classic time to perform magics of all kinds. This is a time of high male energy. Healing, love magic and protections are especially suitable. This Sabbat is often focused on fertility, abundance, prosperity, success, community, hope, divination and good fortune to reflect the enthusiastic growth going on around the area of the celebrations.
Bonfires tend to be very popular for Litha rituals at night, but not everyone can have a large bonfire in their area. You could however use a table top brazier or even a fire safe pot like your cauldron. Even a large candle can be used. Just remember to observe fire safety for your area. Decorate your altar with solar symbols, fresh flowers, in-season summer produce and crops that maybe you’ve grown yourself or that is grown locally. It is best to celebrate outside for this Sabbat if you possibly can.
This is a great time to recharge your ritual tools and your dedicated ritual space if you have one. Hold a drum circle and/or perform the spiral dance as part of your ritual. Remember your neighbors and those in your community and donate time to service to them. Don’t forget to spend time with your family. I’m sure there are plenty of activities you can do with them. Start a new line of study within your Pagan path. Meditation is also something that is recommended. Meditate on darkness and light that is in your life and in the world.
Leaping the ritual fire (though not recommended) if you’re celebrating outside, for purification, renewed energy and luck for the coming year, is traditional. An alternative to this is to run between two bonfires or to run around the one bonfire. Father’s Day falls close to Litha so a ritual honoring the men in your lives is also appropriate. Rituals celebrating the Sun and the God is also good at this time.
There are many things you can do with your children for Litha. Find outdoor activities you can do with your children or grandchildren. Nature walks are great at this time. Introducing and sharing the wonderful world of nature with them is a great way to celebrate family. Now is a great time to show them the plants they helped plant earlier in the spring. Doing family friendly rituals is something else you can do with them. Introduce the Four Quarters and Elements to them in a fun way that they can understand and relate to. Point out things in their own back yard that represent the Four Elements and Quarters. And of course, you can find some outdoor crafts for them, like making a sundial and then teaching them how to use it to tell the time. Gathering flowers to make a centerpiece for the table is also something that many children will enjoy.
It is a good time to do things for the environment, like planting trees, recycling, etc. You can also exchange magical gifts at this time. Visiting sacred wells and springs are also suggested and quite popular for Litha.
A spell you can do for Litha is to make a small cloth pouch (though a paper one will also work) filled with herbs for your purpose and intention. Mentally pour all your troubles, problems, pain, sorrows and illnesses, if any, into this petition as you construct it. Tie it shut (fold paper into a small square) with a red string. Place it on the altar to burn it during the ritual.
Also, the ashes from the Litha bonfire can be carried as an amulet for protection. You can either put the ashes into a pouch or mix them with some clay and shaped to be worn or carried.
Divination is often performed to see who the person would marry and when. Young women and girls tend to be especially curious as to when and who they would marry.
For your altar, candles are a favorite and quite appropriate for this Sabbat. Use some kind of Solar symbol like a circle or a disk. The oak tree is sacred to the Druids and Celts so you might consider putting something of the oak tree on your altar like and oak wand or leaf or acorn. For your altar cloth choose something with the colors of the Sun or even with Suns on it.
Red, maize yellow, orange or gold are the colors for this Sabbat. Fresh fruits and vegetables are standard fare for Litha. This is also a time to commune with field and forest sprites and fairies. Litha herbs are mugwart, vervain, rose, chamomile, lily, oak, lavender, ivy, yarrow, fern, elder, wild thyme, daisy, sandalwood, frankincense and carnation.
Incense for Litha
3 parts Frankincense
2 parts Benzoin
1 part Dragon’s Blood
1 part Thyme
1 part Rosemary
1 pinch Vervain or Catnip
Use for Litha Rituals or at that time of year to attune with the season and the Sabbat.