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Summer Solstice, also called Midsummer or Litha, in similar symbolism to Full Moon, is the culmination of the Sun's cycle. This is the longest day of the year; the Sun is at the height of his light and power. The Goddess reigns as Queen of Summer.
The young maid stole through the cottage door,
And blushed as she sought the Plant of pow'r;--
'Thou silver glow-worm, O lend me thy light,
I must gather the mystic St. John's wort tonight,
The wonderful herb, whose leaf will decide
If the coming year shall make me a bride.
|Litha is the solar festival that marks the longest day of the year, with the sun rising and setting at its most northerly points. The summer quarter of the year runs from Beltane to Lughnasadh , so Litha stands at the midpoint of summer.
Litha celebrates the height of the sun's power and the abundance of summer. Nature is alive, and fields and fruits are growing towards harvest, but the blessing is mixed, for once light reaches its apogee it can only decline. Litha is a fairly modern term for the summer solstice, and it may be derived from an Anglo-Saxon word for 'moon' that referred to the sixth and seventh months of the year. The Druidic name for the festival, Alban Heruin or 'Light of the Shore', is very appropriate for this turning point of the year, lying at the midpoint between 'Light of the Earth' and 'Light of the Water' (the Druidic terms for the equinoctial celebrations).
In the past, midsummer fires were lit for purification, protection and in the hope that the sun could be kept powerful for long enough to ensure a good harvest. People would leap over these fires in the belief that the crops would grow as high as they could jump. Drumming, dancing and singing were common, making this festival a noisy and social time. The full moon in June is known as the Mead or Honey Moon, and mead is a traditional drink for Litha, just as June is a popular time for weddings and hence honeymoons.
Litha honors the apex of Light, sometimes symbolized in the crowning of the Oak King, God of the waxing year. At his crowning, the Oak King falls to his darker aspect, the Holly King, God of the waning year (days grow shorter after Litha). In terms of the God and Goddess cycle, the God is made King through his marriage to the Queen at Litha.
Just as the winter solstice festival was appropriated by the Christian church to celebrate Christ's birth, so the popular summer solstice festival was taken to mark the birth of one of the church's most important saints: the cousin and baptizer of Jesus, John the Baptist. Other saints' days correspond to the supposed dates of their deaths, but John's is unusual in marking his birth. Saint John's Wort is a flower of traditional importance to midsummer celebrations.
Litha is a time to consolidate your strengths and clear away negative thoughts and energies. It is a time to be joyful and full of life, while at the same time mindful of the waning of the light from now until Yule .
The Litha Sabbat is a time to celebrate both work and leisure, it is a time for children and childlike play. It is a time to celebrate the ending of the waxing year and the beginning of the waning year, in preparation for the harvest to come. Midsummer is a time to absorb the Sun's warming rays and it is another fertility Sabbat, not only for humans, but also for crops and animals. Wiccans consider the Goddess to be heavy with pregnancy from the mating at Beltane - honor is given to Her. The Sun God is celebrated as the Sun is at its peak in the sky and we celebrate His approaching fatherhood - honor is also given to Him. The faeries abound at this time and it is customary to leave offerings - such as food or herbs - for them in the evening.
The cycle of fertility has been expressed in many god-forms. One pair of these - which has persisted from early Pagan times to modern folklore - is that of the Oak King and the Holly King, Gods respectively of the Waxing Year and the Waning Year. The Oak King rules from Midwinter to Midsummer - the period of Fertility, Expansion and Growth; while the Holly King reigns from Midsummer to Midwinter - the period of Harvest, Withdrawal and Wisdom. They are the light and dark twins, each being the other's alternate self, thus being one. Each represents a necessary phase in the natural rhythm, therefore both are good. At the two changeover points, they symbolically meet in combat. The incoming twin - the Oak King at Midwinter, the Holly King at Midsummer - "slays" the outgoing one. But the defeated twin is not actually considered dead - he has merely withdrawn during the six months of his brother's rule.
Symbols to represent the Litha Sabbat
are such things as fire, the Sun, blades, mistletoe, oak trees, balefires, Sun wheels and faeries. Altar decorations might include Summertime flowers - especially sunflowers - love amulets, seashells, aromatic potpourri and Summer fruits. If you made Sun wheels at Imbolc, you should now display them prominently. Hang them from the ceiling or place them on trees in your yard. You may also want to decorate them with yellow and gold ribbons and Summer herbs.
Colors associated with the Summer Solstice:
include white, red, maize yellow or golden yellow, green, blue and tan. Altar candles could be either a combination of blue, green, and yellow --- or red and gold. Stones to use during Litha include all green gemstones, especially emerald and jade. Other appropriate gemstones are tiger's eye, lapus lazuli and diamonds. Animals associated with this Sabbat include robins, wrens, all Summer birds, horses and cattle. Mythical creatures include satyrs, faeries, firebirds, dragons, thunderbirds and manticores.
Plants associated with Midsummer:
are oak, mistletoe, frankincense, lemon, sandalwood, heliotrope, copal, saffron, galangal, laurel and ylang-ylang. Herbs associated with this Sabbat are chamomile, cinquefoil, elder, fennel, hemp, larkspur, lavender, male fern, mugwort, pine, roses, Saint John's wort, wild thyme, wisteria and verbena. Traditionally, herbs gathered on this day are extremely powerful. Incense for the Litha Sabbat Ritual might be a combination of any of the following or simply one of them by itself... frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, lemon, pine, jasmine, rose, lotus, or wysteria.
Traditional Pagan foods for Litha:
include fresh vegetables of all kinds and fresh fruits such as lemons and oranges. Other standard fare may be pumpernickel bread as well as Summer squash and any yellow or orange colored foods.
Flaming foods are also appropriate. Traditional drinks are ale, mead, and fresh fruit juice of any kind.
On Midsummer Night, field and forest elves, sprites and fairies abound in great numbers making this a great time to commune with them.
Litha is considered one of the best times to perform magicks of all kinds, for it is considered a time of great magickal power.
Especially effective magick and spells at this time include the performance of those for love, healing and prosperity.
A wreath can be made for your door with yellow feathers for prosperity and red feathers for sexuality - intertwined and tied together with ivy. This is also a very good time to perform blessings and protection spells for your pets or other animals.
You may want to choose to include your pet within your cast Circle at this Sabbat celebration, and even present him or her with a special gift (such as a tiny pentacle to attach to his or her collar).
I have done this and found it very rewarding and heartwarming.
Nurturing and love are key actions related to Midsummer.
If you haven't yet done so, Litha is a good time to perform your
Self-Dedication Ceremony... or - if you have been practicing Wicca for a while you may choose to perform a simple Re-dedication/Affirmation as a part of your Sabbat celebration.
Ritual actions for Litha might include placing a flower-ringed cauldron upon your altar, plunging of the sword (or athame) into the cauldron, balefire leaping (outdoors) and the gathering and drying of herbs.
Herbs can be dried over the ritual fire if you're celebrating outdoors.
Leap the bonfire for purification and renewed energy.
Ritually, use mirrors to capture the light of the Sun or the flames of the fire. Some things that are considered taboo on this holiday are giving away fire, sleeping away from home, and neglecting animals.
Midsummer Ritual Mead
2-1/2 gallons water (preferably fresh rainwater blessed by a Wiccan priestess or priest)
1 cup meadowsweet herb
1 cup woodruff sprigs
1 cup heather flowers
1 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup barley malt
1 oz. brewer's yeast
Pour the water into a large cauldron or kettle. Bring to a boil and add the meadowsweet herb, woodruff sprigs, heather flowers, and cloves. Boil for one hour and the add the honey, brown sugar, and barley malt. Stir thirteen times in a clockwise direction and then remove from heat.
Strain through a cheesecloth and allow the mead to cool to room temperature. Stir in the brewer's yeast. Cover with a clean towel and let it stand for one day and one night. Strain again, bottle, and then store in a cool place until ready to serve.
Midsummer Ritual Mead is an ideal drink to serve at Summer Solstice Sabbats, as well as during all Cakes and Ale Ceremonies and Esbats.
3/4 cup softened butter
2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Cream the butter in a large cast-iron cauldron (or mixing bowl). Gradually add the brown sugar, beating well. Add the eggs, lemon juice, and rind, and then beat by hand or with an electric mixer until the mixture is well blended. The next step is to stir in the flour and pecans.
Cover the cauldron with a lid, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
When ready, shape the dough into one-inch balls and place them about three inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake in a 375-degree preheated oven for approximately eight minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks until completely cool.
This recipe yields about 36 cookies which can be served at any of the eight Sabbats, as well as at Esbats and all other Witchy get-togethers.
May the Lord and Lady bless you all with lots of love, prosperity, health, and well-being!