Litha is when the power of the solar cycle is at its peak. There is more light than there will be at any other time along the Wheel, and the energy will never be higher. Occurring midway between the Spring Equinox and Fall Equinox, it is also known as Midsummer. Litha is a solar festival, a fire festival. It is a celebration of nature and all that is growing around us. At this time, we focus on fertility, abundance, prosperity, success, and good fortune - mirroring the enthusiastic growth surrounding us. The sun has reached its zenith and is at the height of its power magically as well. This is the time for activity and forward movement.
Earlier in the year, we imagined and planted seeds for things to come to pass, and now is the time to DO instead of think. Litha is your signal to go, go, go,...just like the fledglings leaving the nest. Set your plan of action and get into motion. Use the power of the energy around you to motivate you to achieve things you’ve set out to do. You may stay up later or get up earlier, for the days are longer and have more sustainable energy. As we know the only constant is change and so this is also a tipping point, the energy will soon begin to wane as we move into the dark half of the year. So revel in the energy of this time, dance with it, move with it, welcome it into your magickal work.
This is also the time of lovers. The sexual fervor of Beltane has deepened into the passionate eroticism that grow when partners have become familiar with one another’s rhythms and moods. It is the love between those committed by heart as well as body. It is also the love parents have for their children.
Being the longest day of the year and the shortest night, the Summer Solstice has been observed in virtually every culture in the world. The Greeks, Romans, Celts, Norse, Aztecs, and Jews all celebrated this day in their own ways. Empowerment, increase, abundance, love, and joy have been themes of Midsummer in many cultures throughout the world for thousands of years.
In Celtic traditions, June is the month of the Oak - a symbol of strength and vitality. In Pagan mythos, the year is split between the old and wise Oak King, who rules from the Winter solstice to the Summer Solstice, and the young, energetic Holly King, who is supreme from Midsummer to Yule.
It is also a most auspicious day to commune with the Fae or faerie people, for it is an “between” time, when one season transitions to another. The Fae are drawn to sweet smelling flowers, honey, and nectar and other elements readily available at this time of year.
Goddesses and Gods:
At the Summer Solstice, the Goddess is the generous Mother, Gaia, Freya, Flora,.....she who gives life and fruitfulness to all her children. Everything in nature is generous ,,,,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….and the Goddess keeps making new forms of beauty - a rich diverse tapestry of biodiversity. The Goddess at Midsummer gives us not just what we need but extra. We can feel close to her by being generous, giving more than we’re asked to give, doing more than our fair share. That way we make abundance for all.
Gaia is the ancestral mother of Earth, whose very name comes from the Greek meaning land, or Earth. She goes back to the beginning. So said the Greeks, who probably adopted this earth goddess from the people who lived in Attica before they migrated there. As conquerors, the Greeks could not eliminate Gaia nor her worship and so incorporated her into their own mythology, naming her as the most ancient of goddesses, the one who existed before anything or anyone else. Gaia had parthenogenetic powers, and so was able to produce life without a mate. She gave birth to mountains, seas, rivers, living beings...until she felt desire. To satisfy it, she bore Uranus, the heavens, and their nightly mating caused Gaia to bear many more beings.
She is the Divine personification of the Earth and all her abundance. She teaches us to live from a sense of abundance, that the universe will provide for all her children. She creates wealth, both emotional and financial and gives to all who ask. In truth, there is more than enough for all her beings, it’s just human greed that makes it seem that there isn’t. And remember abundance means having all you need, not excess. and when we connect with her energetic vibration we honor her code that “All is One and We are One with All.”
The triple goddess, who can manifest as Maiden, Mother, or Crone, is in her Mother aspect at Litha, pregnant with the child of her consort, the God. The God is strong and virile at the peak of his power, reflecting the glory and power of the sun above. He is 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. And soon he will sacrifice himself so that the land will flourish and crops continue to grow. For everything and everyone who fulfills their purpose must change. He teaches us not to carry the dead in the branches of our tree, to release our historical baggage so we might live fully in the present and revel in the power of now.
Symbols and Correspondences:
All of the flower kingdom is reaching its peak, wide open, full of color, surrendering their perfume.
The rose is the Goddess’s symbol at this time of year. Roses bloom abundantly in June, and we can take joy in their sweet scent and beauty. But roses also have thorns. They remind us again, that wherever we are, we know nothing lasts forever. We do not live in the unchanging twilight realm of Faery, but in the living, dying, fading, and growing realm of Earth. Whenever something is completed we must let it go. And so this tipping point of the summer solstice is also a time to practice giving things away, letting go of what is completed and done. Letting go of something doesn’t mean just getting rid of it. When we let go, we also allow someone, something to change and grow and become different.
Traditionally people stayed up all night on Midsummer's Eve to welcome and watch the sunrise. Bonfires were lit on tops of hills, by holy wells, at places held sacred, to honor the fullness of the Sun. At Litha the bonfire really represents a reflection of the Sun at the peak of its strength. The chosen wood would often be Oak and aromatic herbs were scattered into the fire. People danced around the fires and leapt through them. Blazing herbs from the sacred bonfire were used to bless the animals. Blazing torches were carried sunwise around homes and fields. Coals from the Midsummer fire were scattered on fields to ensure a good harvest.
Tree worship has always played a large role in Midsummer festivities and trees near wells and fountains were decorated with colored cloths. The Oak King who has ruled the waxing of the year represents strength, courage and endurance, and the Oak has always been particularly significant at Litha. The Celtic name for Oak is 'Duir' which means 'doorway' - we are crossing the threshold, entering the doorway into the second, waning part of the year.
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. All herbs are reaching their peak at this time of year and thus the fullness of their healing and nurturing potency. Giving a bunch of herbs as a gift on Midsummer Day is wonderful
Mistletoe was and is highly revered by the Druids. It is regarded as particularly potent when it grows on Oak, the noblest of trees, growing between the worlds of Heaven and Earth. Although it is more commonly associated with Yule and the Winter Solstice, it was often gathered ceremonially at Midsummer when it is regarded as being at the height of its power.
Our lovely bees are now making honey. Midsummer full moon is known as the 'Honey Moon' for the mead made from honey now available. This is often part of handfastings performed at the Summer Solstice. Mead is regarded as the divine solar drink, with magical and life-restoring properties. Drink to celebrate and toast the life-giving abundance of the Sun.
Colors of Midsummer:
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). The natural world is full of color at this time. Choose blue for the sky, green for the grass, yellow for the Sun. Or red, orange and purple to honor all the blooming flowers. Or choose the colors of the four elements - red, blue, green and yellow. We've been discussing this one amongst ourselves and generally agree that what matters is that you choose and work with the colors that speak to you at each Festival - what matters a little more is that you then work with those colors consistently every year.
Ideas for Your Altar:
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 first 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 own 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!
Add Oak leaves, oak leaves and more oak leaves. All the abundance of all the herbs, flowers and grasses that are so very available at this time. Candles in Sun colors. This is a shrine to honor the Sun - Sunflowers!
Share Cakes and Ale:
A common element amongst wisdom traditions and spiritual practices is the communal sharing of
food and drink as a sacred act reconnecting us with the Divine and our Divine essence and celebrating our
abundant blessings. Cakes and Ale is actually an old English idiom meaning “the good things in life.”
Cakes and Ale Recipes For Litha
A traditional favorite, Elderflowers peak at Midsummer. Pick them in the fullness of a sunny day, ideally on Midsummer's Day. The Elder is sacred to the Mother Goddess and is often called the Witch's Tree, the Elder Mother, or Queen of the Trees. It is protective with wonderful healing properties. It aids transformation, change and renewal, and we are at a major turning point in the Wheel of the Year, so the gift of Elderflowers is welcome.
8 litres water
1.25 kg sugar
8 large elderflower heads
4 tablespoons mild white wine vinegar
Do use screw top bottles - large plastic bottles used for soda are perfect. This stuff will fizz and if not bottled tightly it can explode! I keep mine in the garden so should the worst occur it isn't going to make a mess all over the kitchen or larder... Before you begin make sure the elderflowers are clean - no little wandering insects or bugs.
Boil the water and dissolve the sugar into it (Fairtrade is good)
When the water is cool, add the elderflowers, juice of two of the lemons and slices of the other two, plus the vinegar.
Cover with a clean cloth and leave for a day.
Strain through a fine sieve or piece of muslin, carefully squeezing the flowers to extract as much flavor as possible.
Store in clean screw top bottles.
Leave well alone for 10 days or so. Drink within a month. Enjoy and give thanks to the Spirit of Elder.
Bees are so special, and make that golden nectar we know as honey - a reflection of the life-giving Sun. Honey itself is full of life-giving properties, and a Honey Cake is a perfect way to celebrate Midsummer, or to give as a gift. Make it with locally produced honey if you can. But wherever the honey has come from, think of the land and blossoms and bees that made it.
225 gms Butter
250 gms Honey
100 gms Dark Muscovado Sugar
3 Eggs, beaten
300 gms Self-Raising Flour
Cut the butter into pieces and heat slowly, adding the honey and the sugar. When fully melted, turn up the heart and boil the mixture for one minute. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Add the beaten eggs to the cooled honey mixture. Sift the flour into a large bowl and beat the liquid honey mixture into it until you have a smooth batter.
Pour the mixture into a round lined sponge tin and bake in a preheated oven at 160C for about 50 mins - or until the cake is well-risen and springs back to the touch.
Cool on a rack and glaze with a few tablespoons of warm honey.