Litha – Celebration of the Summer Solstice

Litha – Celebration of the Summer Solstice
By Jennifer Bones

The summer solstice has long been a time of celebration and festivity for cultures dating back to ancient times and stretching through the present day. For those of us on the Northern Hemisphere, this day falls approximately on June 21st. During this time the Earth is tilted closest to the Sun giving us greater exposure to the Sun’s light and, subsequently, the longest day of the year.

The themes of Summer Solstice are sex, love, creativity, energy, luck, health and wishes. “Solstice” comes from the Latin “sol” meaning sun, and “sistere,” to cause to stand still. As the summer solstice draws near, the noonday sun rises higher and higher in the sky each day. On the day of the solstice, it rises an imperceptible amount, compared to the day before, thus appearing to “stand still.” In the magical sense, Summer Solstice brings us to the halfway point of the Wheel of the Year. The sun is in full reign, reaching a peak in the sky and shedding beams of truth. The brilliance of the sun allows us to see things clearly, banishing shadows and releasing the past.

This day has special meaning to all societies. For those who follow Faerie Magik, this is an especially meaningful event as it is said that all the faeries come out to celebrate this day with all the creatures of the forest. An elaborate feast is held with endless goblets of ale, festive music and dancing. If you’re familiar with faerie lore, you won’t be surprised to learn that these Summer Solstice parties are clothing optional and last until the wee hours of the following morning. Shakespeare centered his faerie-packed tale of love and trickery, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, around this mystical day.

Of the modern religions, it is the Pagan & Wiccan societies that celebrate this day with the most passion. This holiday is most commonly known as “Litha” (the ancient Germanic name for Summer) and it is believed to be the time when the Sun God is at his strongest. He is also the God of the Forest and is often depicted as seated at on a green wood throne. During the time in which Christianity and Paganism was merging, images of the Sun God wearing masks made of leaves were included in the architectural features of many early churches. This God has become more commonly known to modern Wiccans as The Green Man.

Herbs are at their most potent state during this time. Now is the time to gather and dry your herbs for use during the rest of the year. Be sure not to wait too long past Litha or the plants will begin to seed and lose potency. Gather roots as the Moon wanes and leaves & flowers as the Moon is waxing. Thank each plant as you harvest it, keeping in mind our debt to Mother Earth and Her children.

The many sacred stone circles found around the globe (e.g. Stonehenge) were believed to have been built to celebrate this time. On a practical level any agricultural society would hold this time in very high regard. Not only does this longest day of the year offer a welcome break, it also marks the transition from cultivation to harvest. The significance of this day was not only practical but also held a much deeper, spiritual meaning. If you are lucky enough to live near a sacred stone circle plan a picnic and bring whatever supplies needed for your individual spells and rituals.

Alternatively, one can create their own stone circle by selecting stones that you are able to feel a vibration from or are otherwise attracted to and placing them in a circle. Choose eight large stones and place them equidistant at each spoke of the wheel. Fill in the spaces with smaller stones. Cast your circle as you normally do prior to performing any spellcraft.

This is the time of year to write down any wishes you have and tossing them, along with a Litha inspired offering into a well, spring, or cauldron. For example, simply hold a small stone along with a special feather or sprig of herbs in your right hand and meditate on the wish (or reasons to be thankful). Once you have filled up the stone with your meditation, toss it with intention into the water. If a cauldron was used, empty the contents into a stream or other body of running water when the spell is complete.

Litha has long been a time for unadulterated joy and pleasure. Lengthy and detailed scripted rituals seem to contradict the spirit of this season. Rather, we should celebrate with intention but with an open heart. Focus on how grateful one should be that the Sun continues His tireless journey each year providing so much to all of us. Pick a few themes (below) and simply set out to have a great time. Rise early with the Sun and plan a bonfire for later that night to further lengthen this day. In other words, party ‘till you drop!

The following themes and recipes are utilized in Pagan ceremonies, rituals, and spells:

Herbs – basil, chamomile, daisy, elder, pine, St. John’s wort, tyme, yarrow, frankincense, fennel, lavender, and lily

Essential oils and incense – frankincense, lemon, lavender, sandalwood, lotus, jasmine, rose, wisteria, and myrrh

Colors – yellow, white, red, blue, green, tan

Decoration – anything reminiscent of the sun (yellows, reds, oranges), dried herbs, potpourri, fruits, summer flowers

Gemstones – any green stone (e.g. emerald)

Foods – mead, fresh fruits and veggies, lemonade, cookies and cakes decorated to honor the Sun, and of course plenty of ale

Spellwork – Litha is the perfect time for any magick but is especially good for Animal Protection and Marriage & Vow Renewal spells

Litha Incense – 2 parts Sandalwood, 1 part Mugwort, 1 part Chamomile, 1 part Gardenia petals, several drops of Rose oil, several drops of Lavender oil, several drops of Yarrow oil

Orange Honey Butter – 2 Tablespoons grated orange zest, 3 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, ½ cup unsalted butter, softened, 1 – 2 Tablespoons honey, Combine ingredients and chill until ready to eat. Yum!

Easy Honey Mead – This recipe can be considered cheating but if you’ve ever tried to make honey mead at home, you’ll appreciate this recipe’s simplicity. First heat 1 part water with 1 part wildflower honey until the mixture is smooth and the honey’s completely incorporated. Sprinkle some rose petals into the mixture and let it cool. Strain the mixture (optional). Mix 2 parts honey water with 1 part grain alcohol and serve chilled over ice. (Alternatively, mix 1 part honey water with 1 part vodka).

Jennifer Bones is a long time practitioner of the Nature / Pagan religion. Her writings span from spiritual fiction to historic studies of women’s issues. She is owner and manager of her current website, http://goddessgiftshop.com

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See also: Pagan Holidays – The Wheel of the Year