Litha, aka the Summer Solstice, is almost here—time to get naked and light a big fire.
Summer and the Summer Solstice are finally here!
Also called Midsummer, Summer Solstice marks the high point of the sun’s arc across the sky in the Northern Hemisphere.
At Litha we are treated to the longest days and the shortest nights of the year. Bewtween June 19 – 21, it rises and sets at the same point on the horizon three-ish days in a row. Hence the word “solstice,” from sōlstitium, a phrase that is part Middle English, part old French and part Latin. It means, loosely, “sun” (sōl) and “to stand still” (stitium).
The solstices and equinoxes are called Quarter Days by some Pagans. For groups like the Celts, this was a lesser holy day. The Celts were a mostly pastoral society, much more concerned with the rhythms of animal mating cycles. The minutiae of the sun’s movements were nearly inconsequential to them. But for societies like Scandinavian heathens and Teutonic pagans every subtle change was tracked as closely as possible. Miscount the days of the sun’s course, and your entire crop or herd could be in jeopardy.
Even though the heat of Summer is yet to come, many Witches, Pagans, and Heathens consider this day and this season to be the zenith of their Sun deity’s potential.
Whether this is a god, like the Aztec Huitzilopochtli, Mithra from Persia, or the Canaanite Ba’al, or a goddess, like Amaterasu from Japan, or Sekhmet from ancient Egypt, many of these deities come into their power now. Some do this by either passing a test, others by killing off their predecessor and taking their force into themselves.
In the Western witchcraft traditions, the “god” idea is often divided into two forms; the Holly King and the Oak King. So at the summer solstice, the Holly King fights and kills the Oak King. The Holly King rules over the waning year until they meet again at the winter solstice. And what they are fighting for is the love of (or the opportunity to knock boots with) the Goddess, who is eternal. That’s why we see holy weddings taking place at this time of year; Isis and Osiris, and Orpheus and Eurydice, Jarilo and Lada, and a host of others. Even the June Full Moon is called the “Honey Moon.” Sound familiar?
Themes of water and fire permeate Litha.
And while this is undoubtedly a time to focus on all the solar and light deities, many of the great water deities, like Oshun, the massive ocean goddess from Nigerian Yoruba, and Cerridwen and her overflowing cauldron from Welsh mythos, also have holy days at this time of year.
Our astrology of this season reflects all this symbolism nicely. Gemini, the sign that marks the end of Spring, is the sign of The Divine Twins and the union of opposites, illustrated in the myth of Castor and Pollux. Then comes Cancer, a nurturing water sign. Finally, Leo, a leadership-oriented fire sign. We see a beautiful example of this metaphor in the relationship between the mortal John the Baptist and the divine Jesus, who were like brothers, from very different mothers. June 24 is St. John’s Day in the Catholic Church, and December 24 is Christmas, the Mass of Christ. Could this relationship be a version of the witch’s Holly King and Oak King?
How can we celebrate Litha and Summer Solstice as modern Pagans?
Modern peoples around the world still recognize Litha as a point of reverence. Eating, drinking, and making merry are all acceptable forms of worship. So is going skyclad—or naked—in your rites, if at all possible, and letting your body revel in the warmth of the sun. Many Renaissance-era witches would wander through their gardens and fields naked, “leaping on their broomsticks” to encourage the crops to grow as high as they jumped. Getting hand-fasted or married is also appropriate. If you can’t start a giant bonfire on top of a hill as your ancestors may have done, keeping a candle burning for the 24 hours of the solstice will do nicely.
But if you wanna be a real badass, take a giant wooden wheel, wrap it in heather and straw, drench it in tar, set it on fire, and roll it down the most prominent hill you can find. In Seattle, the steepest hill we have is East Roy Street. I hope the good people of Madison Park are ready for some old-time religion.
LITHA PLANT HELPERS
Marigold, St. John’s wort, Red Carnations, Yarrow, Fern, Daisy, Heather
LITHA STONE HELPERS
Amber, Carnelian, Sunstone, Moonstone, Mother-of-Pearl
THEMES FOR MEDITATION
- Think of all the energy you radiate. How do you share your gifts?
- We all have the capacity to nurture. What does nurturing look like for you?
- Explore the wild expanse of reality and of your own spirit. What will help you progress on your path?
Power, Transformation, Healing, Fertility