What is Litha?
Also known as Summer Solstice, Litha, Alban Hefin, Sun Blessing, Gathering Day, Feill-Sheathain, Whit Sunday, Whitsuntide, Vestalia, Thing-tide, St. John’s Day. Midsummer or the Summer Solstice is the most powerful day of the year for the Sun God. Because this Sabbat glorifies the Sun God and the Sun, fire plays a very prominent role in this festival. The element of Fire is the most easily seen and immediately felt the element of transformation. It can burn, consume, cook, shed light or purify and balefires are still figure prominently seen at modern Midsummer rites.
Most cultures of the Northern Hemisphere mark Midsummer in some ritualised manner and from time immemorial people have acknowledged the rising of the sun on this day. At Stonehenge, the heelstone marks the midsummer sunrise as seen from the center of the stone circle.
In ancient times, the Summer Solstice was a fire-festival of great importance when the burning of balefires ritually strengthened the sun. It was often marked with torchlight processions, by flaming tar barrels or by wheels bound with straw, which were set alight and rolled down steep hillsides. The Norse especially loved lengthy processions and would gather together their animals, families and lighted torches and parade through the countryside to the celebration site.
The use of fires, as well as providing magical aid to the sun, were also used to drive out evil and to bring fertility and prosperity to men, crops, and herds. Blazing torches were carried around cattle to prevent disease and misfortune; while people would dance around the balefires or leap through the flames as a purifying rite. The Celts would light balefires all over their lands from sunset the night before Midsummer until sunset the next day. Around these flames the festivities would take place.
Astronomically, it is the longest day of the year, representing the God at full power. Although the hottest days of the summer still lie ahead, from this point onward we enter the waning year, and each day the Sun will recede from the skies a little earlier, until Yule, when the days begin to become longer again.
Holly and Oak King
In many Celtic-based traditions of neopaganism, there is the enduring legend of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. These two mighty rulers fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season. At the Winter Solstice, or Yule, the Oak King conquers 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.
Symbolism of Summer Solstice:
GodddessRededication to the Lord and Lady, beginning of the harvest, honoring the Sun God, honoring the pregnant.
Symbols of Summer Solstice:
The sun, oak, birch & fir branches, sun flowers, lilies, red/maize/yellow or gold flower, love amulets, seashells, summer fruits & flowers, feather/flower door wreath, sun wheel, fire, circles of stone, sun dials and swords/blades, bird feathers, Witches’ ladder.
Animals of Beltane:
Wren, robin, horses, cattle, satyrs, faeries, firebird, dragon, thunderbird.
Herbs and Flowers of Summer Solstice:
Anise, mugwort, chamomile, rose, wild rose, oak blossoms, lily, cinquefoil, lavender, fennel, elder, mistletoe, hemp, thyme, larkspur, nettle, wisteria, vervain ( verbena), St. John’s wort, heartsease, rue, fern, wormwood, pine,heather, yarrow, oak & holly trees.
Foods of Summer Solstice:
Honey, fresh vegetables, lemons, oranges, summer fruits, summer squash, pumpernickel bread, ale, carrot drinks, mead.
Incense of Summer Solstice:
Sage, mint, basil, Saint John's Wort, sunflower, mistletoe, oak, rowan, and fir.
Colors of Summer Solstice:
Blue, green, gold, yellow and red.
Stones of Summer Solstice:
Lapis lazuli, diamond, tiger’s eye, all green gemstones, especially emerald and jade.
Activities of Summer Solstice:
Bonfires, processions, all night vigil, singing, feasting, celebrating with others, cutting divining rods, dowsing rods & wands, herb gathering, handfastings, weddings, gathering of mistletoe in oak groves, needfires, leaping between two fires, mistletoe (without berries, use as a protection amulet), women walking naked through gardens to ensure continued fertility, enjoying the seasonal fruits & vegetables, honor the Mother’s fullness, richness Druidicand abundance, put garlands of St. John’s Wort placed
over doors/ windows & a sprig in the car for protection.
Spellworkings of Summer Solstice:
Nature spirit/fey communion, planet healing, divination, love & protection magicks. The battle between Oak King, God of the waxing year & Holly King, God of the waning year (can be a ritual play), or act out scenes from the Bard’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, a rededication of faith, rites of inspiration.
Deities of Summer Solstice:
Goddesses-Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Venus, Aphrodite, Yemaya, Astarte, Freya, Hathor, Ishtar, all Goddesses of love, passion, beauty and the Sea, and Pregnant, lusty Goddesses, Green Forest Mother; Great One of the Stars, Goddess of the Wells
Gods- Father Sun/Sky, Oak King, Holly King, Hurn, Gods at peak power and strength.