Celebrating Litha and Summer as a Witch in The Pacific Northwest
Between our rainforest and our 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.
We may have brief interludes of warmth, but they are couched between weeks of rain or overcast skies. But when we are graced with those golden moments, our bodies soften and our our hearts swell. We do our best to create time for dancing in the glittering rays of Sol. Many of us switch to a semi-outdoor lifestyle. We roll in the grass, run amongst the trees, pick flowers, and make love in the warm night air. In short, folks in the PNW kinda loose their shit during Summer.
Coming around to even liking Summer was a battle for me. I grew up in Las Vegas Nevada and absolutely hated the sweltering, oppressive heat. Even in the dead of winter, it was 75 degrees at 3AM. It seemed like the only times I ever felt cold was when I headed up to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where you could find snow year-round. I learned to live at night, seeking shelter in air-conditioned apartments with blankets over the windows to keep out the heat and light. Add to this I have a mild sun allergy. I basically hid from the Sun for the 15 years I lived there.
As a Witch, I was acutely aware of the contradiction in my practice of worshiping the Sun as a concept, but literally doing everything I could to avoid the Sun in the physical reality. I wanted to be able to throw my arms wide at Spring Equinox and leap in joy at the Sun’s return to Earth. Or drink deeply from the overflowing cup of the Sun at Summer Solstice and wallow in the unabashed flood of power. But mostly I stayed away, and I knew my practice suffered for it. So when I moved north, I wondered how things would shift.
As I live in the NorthWest, the more I come to appreciate the subtle changes the Sun and Earth go through as They shift from dark to light and dark again, from barren to cornucopia to stillness again. If anything, I’m more in sync than I have ever been with the ancient rhythms, knowing now the eager – at times almost desperate — anticipation for the Light.
When summer finally comes to the PNW, our sunsets don’t arrive until 10PM, and the sky begins to grow light a little after 3:30 AM. We all sleep a little less, and an odd sort of delirium sets in, giving a psychedelic, timeless quality to the season. Everyone is a little more gregarious, a little more generous with their time, more lusty, less uptight, less reserved, a little less concerned with tomorrow. Summer up here feels much like the moment on the trampoline where you hover in mid air. It’s magical, dizzying, fleeting. And then suddenly, there’s a chill in the air, the days shorten, and you find yourself falling back to earth with the changing leaves.
I can imagine just how exceptional a job it must have been to be a Sky-Watcher. Imagine noting every fixed star’s passing, counting the days through a seemingly endless Winter, until the moment when you could announce to your community that Light and Dark were equal. And then the dark would give way to light and the Sun spills out its grail of warmth and light and heat and the plants come back, and the animals begin to have babies, and the riotous growth of Nature starts to take hold again.
Looking back I think my practice didn’t change so much as it filled out. In retrospect, I see I was not working the Wheel of the Year. I was skipping all the processing, lessons and gifts that Beltane, Litha, and Lughnasadh had to offer. Instead of trying to find all that heave and thrust in the Solar portions of the year, I was saving my action and passion for Samhain, when I should have been welcoming in Death and transition.
Life in the Pacific Northwest as a Witch has taught me to not only treasure the Sun but to take advantage of it. There is a genuine urgency to utilizing the momentum and energy of Litha because it is ephemeral. In the Solar arc of The God energy, this is the high point in its power. While the Goddess is constant, The God waxes and wanes, and here at Litha, we see Him in his full glory. Gone is the consideration of potential that we meditate on during the spring holidays of Ostara and Beltane, we are now in the season of doing and producing. There are many symbolic actions one can take at Litha; purification, sacrifice, re-dedication to one’s tradition, handfastings. But for me, the one concept that rides over all of them is production. Bringing all those ideas and experiments out of the “what if” phase and into the “here it is!” phase.
Though there is much focus on Summer Solstice with Summer, the zenith of the season is celebrated in the greater sabbat Lughnasadh or Lammas, known as The First Harvest because summer is the season of abundance and manifestation. We won’t have much to harvest if we are still considering what to produce! This paradigm requires us to make a decision and see it through to completion, whatever that may be. It also encourages us to be in a position to act when the moment presents itself. It can be stressful to think about trying to get every little detail in your life nicely in place in anticipation of these moments. I can assure that has happened for no one, ever. But the more we are doing our personal work — dealing with our different selves and trying to find peace, health and balance— the more likely we are to be able to take some advantage of those moments when they come along.
So, strike the iron while it’s hot! Pick a thing in your life and see it to completion. Produce a thing; a song, a painting, a series of photos. Finally, update your resume and send it to 10 places you wish you were working. Learn something and do/play/make it for some friends. Go pick berries and make a few jars of jam. Don’t think this must be your new way of life, tho you may be actually opening the door to some new adventure. Just enjoy the process of seeing a thing through and get ready to enjoy the bounty of the experience, if nothing else you’ll have some good stories about that one time you decided to learn how to make kombucha and almost blew up your kitchen.