Wheel of the Year: Litha – Pagans Celebrate the Longest Day of the Year
Litha, aka the Summer Solstice, is almost here—time to get naked and light a big fire.
What is Litha? Also called Midsummer and Pagan Summer Solstice, this Sabbat 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. Between June 19 – 21, the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West at the same points 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, Summer Solstice 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 hottest part 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 Litha deities come into their power now. Some do this by passing a test, others by killing off their predecessor and taking that force into themselves.
In the Western Witchcraft traditions, the “god” idea is often divided into two forms; the Holly King and the Oak King. At the Summer Solstice, the Holly King fights and kills the Oak King. The Holly King then rules over the waning year until they meet again at the Winter Solstice. And what are they fighting over? 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?
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?
Themes of Water and Fire permeate Litha.
This is undoubtedly a time to focus on all the solar and light deities in our pantheons. However, we are also entering Cancer Season, a cardinal Water sign. Many of the great water deities, like Yemoja, 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. And, as we learned with our Divine Twins, Gemini – the sign before Cancer – and its ruling planet Mercury, both oversee mariners and maritime activities.
How can we celebrate Litha and Summer Solstice as modern Pagans? What are some Rituals for Litha?
Modern peoples around the world still recognize Litha as a point of reverence. Rituals for Litha include eating, drinking, and making merry as 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.
Power, Transformation, Healing, Fertility
Marigold, St. John’s wort, Red Carnations, Yarrow, Fern, Daisy, Heather
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?
Litha Season Work
Spinning The Wheel weekly Podcast
Join me for my weekly audio ritual through the Season’s astrology, holy days, and lunar work!
Patrons had early or exclusive access to these works.
We are crossing the threshold into Summer. Summer is a 3 month season focused on committing to some of the experiments we started in Spring… In Litha, we receive a sense of what work needs our attention, and we assemble the tools we will need to do our work. We also come back to the spiritual heart, and get comfortable with what and who we want to hold close. Cancer, a cardinal sign dedicated to initiating emotional processes… read more here.
Between our foggy rain-forests and our icy glaciers, finding a moment to revel in the “baking heat” of Summer can seem almost impossible in the Pacific Northwest. However, it was living up here that taught me to love Summer and Litha Season.
In Summer, folks in the PNW kinda lose their shit… read the rest here.
June 2023 Tarot Circle – Fire in the Tarot
In this workshop we cover: The Suit of Wands, Fire Cards, and Looking for Fire symbols in the Tarot. We also conduct a group reading for Litha Season.
This class was recorded 6.27.23 and is available for Patrons subbed at the Venus ($9) and higher level. Join and get access here.
High Priestess Card – Tarot Circle Livestream
The High Priestess – 40 Sure Fire Tips For Pulling Back the Veil. At the beginning of Summer, we explore the power, holiness, and capacity of the Oceanic High Priestess. Charged with protecting the border between here and there, this figure guides us through an initiatory experience of awakening to our own Power and Depth. Join my Patreon at the Venus ($9) level or higher to get access to this recorded class. Join and get access here.
Gemini Divine Twins Holy Couple
Gemini – Divine Twins/Holy Couple
As we move into the last four weeks of Beltane Season we encounter Gemini, the sign of The Divine Twins. We can find the concept of The Divine Twins around the world. It is a powerful concept that, like its astrological equivalent, Gemini, takes on many forms. The Twins are depicted as two beings. Men, women. A man and woman. Two figures with multiple genders, or are beyond gender. Moreover, they are often interchangeable, with interchangeable genders, roles, and powers… Read more