Litha the Summer Solstice

The summer solstice is the time of the longest day of the year and is the end of the light half of the year. This is when the sun is at its peak of power and the Goddess is heavy with pregnancy. This is concurrent with the fields filled with ripening harvest and the cattle growing full with offspring. This is a festival observed by most cultures of the world. It is known by many names such as Litha, Vestalia (roman) Gathering Day (Welch) and the Feast of Epona (Gaul).

In India this was the principal festival of the year – likely because the success of the harvest was the most important factor of Indian life. Fertility rites continue to be offered to nurture the ground and wombs to prevent failure. While the mother Goddess is heavy and nurtured, this is the observance to celebrate the Sun God – and his approaching Fatherhood. This was done with fire rituals and fire magic. Fire is the most readily seen element of transformation: it burns, cooks, gives light and heat, and purifies.

Customs and Traditions

  • Protective amulets were made prior to the festivals and purified and empowered at the festival fires.
  • Herbs were generally harvested and dried at this time for use during the coming year. These herbs were used for magical, medicinal and cooking use (note if you decide to gather in the wild – know what you are gathering. Plants can be toxic to the touch, by sap, when consumed or when burned). Herbs have a variety of properties and uses in teas, oils, tinctures and incense.
  • Some cultures (such as the Teutons, Celts, and Britons) gathered sticks to be used for walking staffs, wands, or staves. These were generally gathered of trees considered sacred.
  • This is the Sabbat most often celebrated during the day – because it honors the Sun. The festivals usually began at sunrise and continued throughout the entire day while the sun was up.
  • The faerie folk are empowered at this time by the energies of the sun so children and small animals were closely guarded to not be spirited away. Driving children and small animals around the fires was thought to protect them from the faerie (the song “Go Round the Mulberry Bush” comes from this). A way to appease the faerie is to leave libations of bits of food, butter, milk, wine, etc out for them. This should be done from your meal table before eating commences.
  • Animal blessings were conducted at this time and can continue today with livestock or our pets.
  • June weddings is an ancient custom derived from the practice of not marrying until a woman was pregnant (the result of Beltane rites). Beltane was not the time for mortals to marry, as it was sacred to the marriage of the God and Goddess. The many aspects of a traditional marriage (throwing rice, carrying over the threshold, white, etc) are all rooted in ancient pre-Christian customs.
  • This is also a time when divination and vision questing are best performed because of the ease of access to the other realms. Prophecy, dreaming, psychic divination are prevalent in many cultures. St. John’s Wort or Mugwort (non-toxic) placed under the pillow will aid in the dreams.
    Midsummer represents the battle of the Oak King and the Holly King (the robin and the wren). The Oak King is slain and the Holly king reins until the battle renews at Yule.

Modern folk can still celebrate by gathering with friends, grove, coven, and family for a celebration to include many of the ancient customs adapted to our modern lives.