Litha: Summer Solstice
By Oberon Zell-Ravenheart & She’ D’Montford
Litha (LITH-ah), also called Midsummer or Summer Solstice, occurs around June 21. Litha is the name of a Saxon Grain Goddess corresponding to Greek Demeter or Roman Ceres, and her festival is one of joy, abundance, and play. Called Alban Hefin by the Celts, Midsummer was Christianized as
Several Native American tribes mark Summer Solstice with seasonal rites and rituals, such as the Sundance, performed by the Sioux tribe. The
Midsummer’s Eve represented the apex of the God’s life. Variously called the Oak King, Jack-in-the-Green, or Pan—with the lower torso, cloven hooves, and horns of a satyr—he was the archetypal Wild Man of the wood, and the King of the fairies. Following their King on a romp through the countryside made this night second only to Halloween in its importance to the Wee Folk, who especially enjoyed playing tricks on a fine summer’s night. If you wished to see Fairy folk, this was (and is) the best night to do it. You only had to rub fern seed onto your eyelids at the stroke of . Carrying a bit of rue in your pocket or wearing your jacket inside out can protect you from spiteful Fairies. If you can’t do that, and you must travel on Midsummer’s Eve, you must stay on the old straight ley lines until you get to your destination—otherwise you may be lead astray by the Fairy folk and get lost forever.
On this longest day of the year, picnicking, swimming, and water play are customary, as are bonfires and fireworks lit after sundown to provide light to the revellers and to ward off mischievous Fairy folk. Cakes are shared, in which one piece contains a bean or other marker; the one who gets it is considered “dedicated” and required to jump the flames three times. Throughout Europe lovers clasp hands or toss flowers to each other across the bonfire, or leap through it together before disappearing into the woods and fields (“searching for the Midsummer grass”) to make love under the stars. This celebration is specifically in honor of the great Earth Mother who nourishes us with her bounty from her ever-flowing cauldron, but we may also honor the Sun Father at this time. Litha is a festival for families, marriage partners, and children. The rituals commonly celebrate the marriages of the gods, so this is the best time for marriages, and also a time for future visions and Fairy favors.
At Your House
Litha is a classic time for magick of all kinds. Celebrate nature’s sacrifice and renewal, and make changes in your own life. Make a protective solar talisman to put up on your door. Nurture your crops, and harvest magickal herbs from your garden. Decorate your altars with summer flowers and sun images; use a white altar cloth and candles, and fill your chalice with water. Some sort of fire on your altar is important, so use candles or votives. Include fresh fruits as a reminder of the Earth’s bounty. A symbol or picture of Earth on your altar is a gentle reminder to honor her. Add flowers of gold, orange, and yellow; roses are traditional.
Litha is also a special time for honoring and blessing animals, so bring your pets and familiars into your Circle and give them special treats and attention.
Since Litha is just before American Independence Day on July 4, you can often buy fireworks at this time (unless they are illegal in your state, and/or you live in a very dry area with high fire danger in the summer). My favorites are fountains, which can be safely set off at a beach, around a campfire, or on the driveway. These have the colored sparkles and special effects of the high-exploding skyrockets, without the dangers of shooting them into the air. Each firework can be set off as a spell, naming the purpose before you light it. Be sure to keep a water hose handy just in case any sparks get away!