Litha Summer Solstice

Litha Summer Solstice Midsummer Celebration Spiritual Harvest Litha, Midsummer, Summer Solstice

June 21, 2010

June 20 - 23 in the Northern Hemisphere and December 20 - 23 in the Southern Hemisphere
The first day of summer; actual date varies from year to year based on when the Sun enters Cancer.

The Summer Solstice, also known as Litha, Midsummer, and St. John’s Day, is a celebration of the arrival of summer and the longest day of the year. Litha celebrates the ending of the waxing year, the beginning of the waning year, and a battle between light and dark. It is a time of great magick. With the Sun reaching its peak on Litha, and beginning to weaken now, Midsummer is the time to embrace the balance between fire and water; between our own passion and fiery will, and our loving, compassionate side; a time for us to navigate our path between our strength and determination, and our empathy and understanding. Shakespeare captured this time perfectly in his fantasy play, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Though Solstices and Equinoxes are often referred to as the four Lesser Sabbats, the term ‘lesser’ has nothing to do with this joyous, hope filled Sabbat. As the Wheel of Life continues to turn, with The Sun at its peak before beginning its decent into darkness, at Midsummer we rejoice in being of service, sharing, and giving back to Mother Earth. It is a time of preparing for the harvest season – both the agricultural harvest, as well as our personal and spiritual harvests.

As we turn the Wheel, we set sail across the sea of time in search of the Isle of Light and rebirth. We have planted the seeds of our own changes, and to grow we must accept even those fears that have hindered our evolution. For contemporary Wiccans and Pagans, this is a day of inner power and brightness. Find yourself a quiet spot and meditate on the darkness and the light both in the world and in your personal life. Celebrate the turning of the Wheel of the Year with fire and water, night and day, and other symbols of the triumph of light over darkness. This is a great time to celebrate outdoors, especially if you have children. Take them swimming or just turn on the sprinkler to run through, and then have a bonfire or barbecue at the end of the day. Let them stay up late to say goodnight to the sun, and celebrate nightfall with sparklers, storytelling, and music.

A time of strong magick and empowerment, this is traditionally the time for joyous rituals such as handfasting, home and baby blessings and dedications, love magick, and powerful communication with Nature Spirits, the Fae, and Fairie folk. At Litha, the veils between the worlds are thin and the portals stand open, also making this an excellent time for divination magick.

The Fairies, Fae, and fairy-folk reach their peak during this season and fill our hearts with warmth and love, laughter and gratitude. They work overtime now to help point us in the right direction and see things in a different light as we begin preparations for harvesting our ‘spiritual gardens’. Preparations for personal and spiritual harvesting include sharing with the community, giving to others, and performing random acts of kindness towards those less fortunate. Just as we pay homage to the Lord and Lady on Midsummer Day, we must pay homage to the fairy-folk on Midsummer Night.

This is a time of brightness and warmth; abundance and fertility. A time to embrace and experience the pleasure of the lush, green Earth and the richness of Nature in full bloom.. The power of the sun at Midsummer is at its most potent, and the earth is fertile with the bounty of growing life. The Oak King has been vanquished by the Holly King and the Goddess performs her Midsummer dance to the Sun.

With the Sun entering Cancer, a water sign, this is one of the best times for gathering your magickal water for the upcoming year to use on your altar and in spells and rituals. It is also the time to gather our ‘spiritual water’ that will replenish and rejuvenate us through the coming season. This is also the traditional time of year to harvest magickal and medicinal herbs.

History, Mythology and Folklore

Litha has often been a source of contention among modern Pagan and Wiccan groups, because there's always been a question about whether or not Midsummer was truly celebrated by the ancients. While there's scholarly evidence to indicate that it was indeed observed, there were suggestions made by Gerald Gardner, considered by many as the founder of modern Wicca, that the solar festivals (the solstices and equinoxes) were actually added later and imported from the Middle East. Regardless of the origins, many modern Wiccans and Pagans do choose to celebrate Litha every year in June.

Many Pagans view the Summer Solstice as the day that the Goddess is at the height of Her power. She is obviously pregnant with the God at this time, having been impregnated by Him at Beltane. This is the God She will give birth to once more at Yule, the Winter Solstice.

The Romans, who had a festival for anything and everything, celebrated this time as sacred to Juno, the wife of Jupiter and goddess of women and childbirth. She is also called Juno Luna and blesses women with the privilege of menstruation. The month of June was named for her, and because Juno was the patroness of marriage, her month remains an ever-popular time for weddings.

This time of year was also sacred to Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The matrons of Rome entered her temple on Midsummer and made offerings of salted meal for eight days, in hopes that she would confer her blessings upon their homes. It was believed by these ancient people that the God and Goddess celebrated their Great Union during Beltane at the beginning of May. It was thought that it would be bad luck to hold a wedding in May because the bride and groom would be competing with the Gods for attention. So, weddings by tradition were held in June, and June remains a popular month for weddings today. The bride and groom would be given things to eat and drink made of honey to encourage love and fertility over the first month of the marriage, hence, the honeymoon.

In many Wiccan, Witchcraft and Pagan traditions, this time of the first harvest represents the pregnant Goddess and honors the Sun God. The God takes His place as Father Sun and The Goddess, in turn, becomes Mother Earth. The grown Sun King embraces the Queen of Summer.

The Oak King and the Holly King

Litha is a time at which there is a battle between light and dark. Stories of the Oak King and the Holly King are only two of the many legends associated with this Sabbat.

In some traditions, The Oak King, who represents the waxing year, is seen as the ruler of the year between winter solstice and summer solstice, while the Holly King, representing the waning year, rules from summer to winter. At each solstice they battle for power. At the Winter Solstice, or Yule, the Oak King kills the Holly King, and then reigns until Midsummer, or Litha. Once the Summer Solstice arrives, the Holly King returns to do battle with the old king, and defeats him. The Holly King then rules until Yule.

In some Wiccan traditions, the Oak King and the Holly King are seen as dual aspects of the Horned God. Each of these twin aspects rules for half the year, battles for the favor of the Goddess, and then retires to nurse his wounds for the next six months, until it is time for him to reign once more.
Often, these two entities are portrayed in familiar ways - the Holly King frequently appears as a woodsy version of Santa Claus. He dresses in red, wears a sprig of holly in his tangled hair, and is sometimes depicted driving a team of eight stags. The Oak King is often portrayed as a fertility god, and occasionally appears as the Green Man or other lord of the forest. Ultimately, while these two beings do battle all year long, they are two essential parts of a whole. Despite being enemies, without one, the other would no longer exist.

Vibrant blues, yellows, reds, golds and greens are the colors of this Sabbat, and Songs, Chants and Poetry relating to the Sun and the Ocean are excellent for Litha celebrations.

Correspondences and Associations

Colors: blue, yellow, green, red, gold

Deities: Vesta, Juno, Hestia, Apollo, Amaterasu, Aten, Horus, Huitzilopochtli, Lugh, Sulis Minerva, Mother Earth, Father Sun, any and all Sun and Solar deities, the fey and fairy-folk

Herbs: Rue, Roses, Vervain, Trefoil, St John’s Wort, Chamomile, Lavender, Mugwort, Basil, Cinquefoil, Fennel, Lemon Balm, Mullein, Nettles and Thyme

Oils: Lavender, Rose, Orange, Frankincense & Myrrh, Heliotrope, Wisteria

Stones: Amethyst, Malachite, Golden Topaz, Opal, Quartz Crystal, Azurite-Malachite, Lapis Lazuli

Decoration and Celebration ideas

Try to set up your Midsummer altar outside if at all possible. If you can't, that's okay -- but try to find a spot near a window where the sun will shine in and brighten your altar setup with its rays. This sabbat is all about the sun celebration, so think of solar colors. Yellows, oranges, fiery reds and golds are all appropriate this time of year. Use candles in bright sunny colors, or cover your altar with cloths that represent the solar aspect of the season. Decorate your altar with symbols of the triumph of light over darkness - and that includes using other opposites, such as fire and water, night and day, male and female, yin and yang, sun and moon, circle and square, etc.

Altar cloth: green or white
Candles: blue and yellow
Decorations: roses, fresh herbs, a basket of summer flowers and seasonal greenery, wreath of roses and wildflowers
Incense (mixture of Chamomile, Lavender, Mugwort, and Rose petals

Ritual, Party and Celebration ideas:

Songs, chants and poetry relating to the Sun and the Ocean are excellent for the Litha Sabbat celebration.

Everyone wears flowers in their hair

Tie tiny bells to your wand with colored ribbons to appease the fey and use it to cast the Circle

Meditation ritual - - - Do a breathing and gratitude meditation as you sit in Circle

Protection ritual - - - put garlands of St. John’s Wort over doors/ windows & a sprig in the car for protection

Fertility ritual - - - women walk naked through gardens to ensure continued fertility

Create a new potted herb garden

Grab your camera and head for the hills or favorite local nature spot. Photograph herbs, flowers, trees and other verdant vegetation. Gather a few fallen twigs along your journey. Print a photograph to place an your altar and create a frame with some twine and the twigs you gathered. After the ritual, hang your altar photo in a favorite spot as a visual reminder to tend to your ‘spiritual garden’ throughout the year.

Gather wild herbs or flowers on a hike, trip to the lake, or a walk through the park. Use your gathered goodies to prepare your Summer Solstice altar wreath or hairpiece. Remember to never ingest any unidentified herbs or flowers and always wash your hands well after handling.

Lord and Lady Dance - - - Create a Lord or God figure (Lady or Goddess figure if you are male) out of fallen and gathered twigs or sticks. Dance in the center of your Circle with your God/Goddess figure while singing your favorite power-raising chant. As you dance with the Lady/Lord, gently weave gathered flowers or herbs into Him/Her by twining them into the sticks. As your power grows and the chant becomes a wordless Cone of Power, dance closer to your altar and place the God/Goddess figure in the center. Lift your arms, invoke your Diety/Elemental of choice and chant ‘Set Sail’ as you send the God along his journey towards the night. Pick up your altar wreath if you have one, or cup your hands in front of your eyes. Through the circle of your wreath or cupped hands, gaze upon your God/Goddess figure chanting ‘I see with clear vision, knowing the mystery of the unbroken circle’

Spiritual Harvesting

Journaling in Circle
Two of my favorite things to do in Circle, and those I deem essential to my emotional, spiritual and social survival, are meditation and journaling. Having raised enormous magickal energy during ritual preparation and casting, and enveloped by the power and protection of my Circle, I have the time, space, privacy, freedom, faith and insights necessary to conduct these personal, spiritual and Higher Self rites. Bring your journal and a comfortable pillow into Circle. Seated on the pillow with your journal on your lap, hold the pen or quill in your dominant hand; facing your altar, lift the pen and say something like “May the perfect truth for me be revealed at the perfect time in the perfect way. May I become enlightened enough to see what is revealed, and brave enough to embrace and manifest these insights. So mote it be.”

Write a page about what Spiritual Harvesting means to you and meditate on your new understanding

List your three biggest fears on a piece of parchment. Fold the paper 3 times and hold it in your hands for 3 minutes. Then cast the paper into your cauldron fire to banish these fears. As you watch them disintegrate, invite acceptance, enlightenment and courage into your life to replace them.

Jot down the answers to a few personal questions… there is great power in the written word!
Ask yourself…
What have I planted this past year? (physically, spiritually, environmentally, and socially)
What can I do to prepare to harvest what I’ve planted?
How have I been (or can I be) of service to others?
What can I do to help someone less fortunate?

Write a gratitude list

List 3 ways you can be of service to humanity and Mother Earth and then choose one and act on it this season. Here are a few ideas to get those creative juices flowing….
1) Donate time, money, old clothing/household items to a local homeless shelter
2) Spend an afternoon gathering up donations from local family, friends and neighbors and then take them to a local battered women’s half-way house.
3) If you are home-bound, make some phone calls or send some emails to friends, acquaintances and family members. Offer them simplified information and easy ways to send their own donations to a local free-health clinic or food bank.
4) Spend a few hours researching local and global social, environmental and spiritual causes. Prepare a sheet of paper listing your choice for the top 5 causes. For each of your top 5 (or top 10 or 20 if you’re ambitious!) include a brief summary of their purpose and goals, contact and donation information, address, phone number, website, email, and types of preferred support (money, time, goods, etc.) Make 10 copies of this list. Post one copy on your refrigerator and send the other 9 to friends or strangers, either with a note of explanation or anonymously. Make a commitment to follow up with those 9 friends within the next thirty days to see if they have had the opportunity to review the list and offer support.

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