Litha – Celebrating The Summer Solstice
“Litha” is the name given to the Wiccan Sabbat celebrated at the Summer Solstice. This is the longest day and shortest night of the year, marking the pinnacle of the Sun’s power to fuel the growing season. From here on out, the Sun will set a little earlier each night until Yule, and so we recognize and give thanks for its warmth.
Though it’s typically celebrated on June 21st, the exact moment of the Summer Solstice varies from year to year. This is due to a slight misalignment between the Gregorian calendar and the actual rate of the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. The Solstice also occurs at differing local times, so depending on where you live, it may fall the day before or after the date listed on any given calendar. For this reason, a date range of June 20-22 is often cited in sources on the Wheel of the Year.
As the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky, the God is now in his full power, and the Goddess of the Earth is bringing forth the greatest abundance of the year. The crops are reaching their full maturity and the forests are bursting with lush growth. In just a few short weeks, the harvest season will begin, but for now, we pause to celebrate the manifestation of what was planted in the early weeks of Spring. The warm sunlight is a welcome contrast to the cold and dark of Winter, and we bask in its comforts. There is a focus on the Element of Fire in honor of the Sun God, but recognition is also given to the Horned God of the forest and its wild animal life.
Litha was a day when farmers would ask the goddesses and gods for blessings on their cattle and crops. At Litha, the Horned God and Mother Nature are at their peak. Mother Nature is heavily pregnant waiting to give birth in winter. The goddess represents the earth; her womb is the fertile soil in which the seed is planted and grows, and her pregnancy is the ripened crops that bring life to the people. Here the Horned God represents male sexuality and the seed that is planted. As the Sun, he nurtures the crops while they grow. Any deities of the sun, harvest, animals, fertility, and the earth are worshiped at this time.
Litha is the season of expansion when the crops burgeon forth. We forget winters cares and spend our days basking under the brilliant light.
This is the time of lovers and gardeners. The rutting fervor of Beltane has deepened into the passionate eroticism that grows when partners become familiar with one another rhythms and moods. It is the love between those committed by heart as well as body. It is also the love of parents for their children (be they two- or four-legged!). Everywhere we look, ripeness spills out from field and forest.
The Goddess at Litha
At the Summer Solstice, the Goddess is the Generous Mother, Freya, Flora, Habondia, she who gives life and fruitfulness to all her children. Everything in nature is generous – otherwise, we could not live. The apple tree makes hundreds of apples every year, when only one seed in one apple would be enough to reproduce the tree. Bees make honey so that the hive can survive the winter, but they keep on working all summer long, storing enough to share. Life could exist without climbing roses, striped butterflies, songbirds, raspberries, or wildflowers, but the Goddess keeps making new forms of beauty for us to enjoy.
The Goddess at Summer Solstice gives us not just what we need, but extra. We can feel close to her by being generous, giving more than were asked to give, and doing more than just our fair share. That way, we make abundance for all.
The rose is the Goddess symbol at this time of year. Roses bloom abundantly in June, and we can take joy in their sweet scent and the lovely colors of their petals.
The God at Litha
All through the first half of the year, since his birth at the Winter Solstice, the God has been growing into this life in the visible, tangible world. Now, at the Summer Solstice, he transforms. The daylight is longest and strongest at this time, but now the power of night must begin to grow again. Everything and everyone who fulfills their purpose must change. The God dies in this world in order to be born into the Other-world. Before, he was awake in this world and asleep in the Dreamworld. Now he becomes the Dreamer, asleep in this world but awake in the world of dreams and visions, the seed of what will come to be in this world. He becomes the Messenger, carrying our hopes and prayers to the spirit realms.
The God is also the partner of the Goddess, bringing abundance to all of nature. He is Lugh, the Sun God, and he is the ancient power of life who was known simply as the Good God, Keeper of the Crops, provider for his people.
At the Summer Solstice, the family altar can be covered with flowers, especially roses. On or around the altar, you might also place things you have completed and let go of, or are trying to let go of. Add any fist fruits of the season and, of course, images of the sun, sunflowers, and other symbols of the holiday.
You might have a special section on the altar for things to give away. Take one thing off your won altar and bring it to the family altar, or find something special to contribute. Let the things stay during the holiday season to soak up blessings, then give them away before Lughnasadh rolls around!
The Colors of Litha
Gold and green are two of the most Prevalent colors of this time of year. Not only do they represent the sun and the verdant forest, but they represent the colors of Faerie Fire Magic. Other color accents include sea green and red (especially when red roses are added to the altar).
Incense, Herbs, and Woods
Incense should be full and robust – rose, violet, fir, and cedar are good. Tangerine, frankincense, and frangipani also work.
If you want to work with herbs at this time, St. Johns Wort is one of the most popular associated with Litha. Also connected with the holiday: basil, parsley, mint, thyme, violet, dragons blood, fern, vervain, and lavender.
Activities You Can Do To Celebrate
- Go berry picking. Have the children chose their best berry and throw it back into the berry bushes as they thank the Goddess and the bushes for the fruit.
- Make a Wicker Man and burn him in your Litha bonfire
- Burn the remnants of your Yule Tree or Wreath in the bonfire or try using Wreaths of Vervain and Mugwort which were burned in ancient times at the end of the festivals to burn away bad luck.
- Many families placed roses on the altar, as this is the Goddess flower for this time of the year. Try this yourself for a beautiful and fragrant decoration.
- Leave out milk and honey as an offering to the Fae folk
- Have a mock battle between the Oak and Holly King. Remember that this is part of the cycle and as the wheel turns the Holly King will rise again at Winter Solstice
- Put a ring of flowers around your cauldron or around a bowl full of mugwort
- Hang a bundle of fresh herbs out to dry and use them to spice up a Litha feast of cooked summer vegetables
- Light a white candle and place it in front of a mirror. Say your own Litha prayer over it, and then let it burn out
- Make a charm to hang around your neck with a seashell
- Jump the balefire or cauldron
- Offer a gift of lavender to the Gods in a bonfire. Pass St. John’s Wort through the smoke and then hang the herb up in the house for protection.
- Make your own Stonehenge at the beach like you would a sand castle
- Have an outdoor breakfast picnic to welcome the Solstice
- Stay up and watch the sun go down on the longest day of the year!
- Draw a picture of the sun at sunrise and sunset
- Try fire divination, stare into the coals of your bonfire as it settles or look for forms in the leaping flames.
- Create a ritual to bring healing and love to Mother Earth
- Dispose of those qualities that trouble you: project them into a burn-able (a bunch of dry twigs, paper, etc.) and thrust the mass into a cleansing fire
- make staffs
- make dream pillows
- make herb craft items like wreaths
- make a witches’ ladder
- Make a Catherine Wheel, or frame of sticks and withies (slender, flexible branches) with flammable material among the spokes. At the climax of your ritual, ignite the wheel and send it rolling down a hillside into a pond or lake. (obviously, the hillside should be stone, bare earth, or covered with moist vegetation–no dry grass or underbrush!)
Garden fresh fruits and vegetables are made into a variety of dishes and eaten by Pagan’s who choose to celebrate this day.
Herbs and Flowers:
Mugwort, Vervain, Chamomile, Rose, Honeysuckle, Lily, Oak, Lavender, Ivy, Yarrow, Fern, Elder, Wild Thyme, Daisy, Carnation.
Lemon, Myrrh, Pine, Rose, Wisteria.
An Ideal time to reaffirm your vows to the Lord and Lady or your dedication to following the old traditions.