First thoughts on Litha: a celebration of the Summer Solstice

A diagram showing the solstices and equinoxes.

Litha is usually celebrated between 20th and 23rd of June.  It is the Midsummer festival, celebrating the longest day of the year.  The specific solar event of the Summer Solstice happens in a moment of time and this year 2020, it falls on Saturday 20th June at 22:43 BST.  That is the precise time that the hours of daylight and night-time are equal.  After that we in the northern hemisphere begin a slow descent into shorter days and longer nights, although the hottest part of the year is still to come. 

The Solstice is a pivotal time of stillness and balance, when day and night, sun and moon, the physical and spiritual blend together and is one of three ‘Spirit Nights’ (with Beltane, Samhain). The boundaries are blurred; otherworld beings, spirits and the fae visit; leave offerings of milk and honey to prevent mischief!

Agriculturally, crops are in full growth. They are reaching the pinnacles of maturity and coming closer to the harvest time. Most wild herbs are fully mature by Midsummer and this is the traditional time for gathering magickal and medicinal plants to dry and store for winter use. In Wales, Midsummer is called Gathering Day in honour of this practice.

St John's Wort - A herb of Midsummer
St John’s Wort – A herb of Midsummer

How can you have better balance in your life?  Do you have clear or blurred boundaries?  How are you enjoying the peak of your powers?  What have you grown to maturity?

Second thoughts on Litha: The God and Goddess

The God and Goddess of Midsummer surrounded by their bounty.
The God and Goddess of Midsummer surrounded by their bounty.
The Sun God

The God, in his solar aspect is at the pinnacle of his powers before he too, begins a slow descent through dying at Mabon, his death and later rebirth at Yule, and so the wheel keeps turning.  Yet, for now, he still has much to do.  Before that, he is crowned as the Sun God and assumes his responsibility to the land, as consort to the Earth Goddess. Both deities are at the peak of their young, vigorous strength, creativity and fertility and bring joy, abundance and celebration.   

The Holly King and the Oak King

The dual nature of the God battles to gain power.  Now the mature Oak King battles with his twin, the Holly King, who presides over winter.  At Midsummer, the Holly King wins the battle and gradually takes the year into the darker, waning, cold and decaying half.  They battle again at Yule, when the Oak King wins to rule the bring light, life and brightness into the world.  Although others may see this fight as being held at Mabon and Ostara, the two equinoxes.

The Sun leaves Gemini (mutable Air) and enters Cancer (cardinal Water) the sign of the crab and of the dark devouring Mother/Goddess, who starts the journey of the defeated King into the Underworld to await rebirth.  

The Goddess pregnant with the Sun God

Even as the earth ripens its bounty, the Goddess is now pregnant with the God Child who will be born at Yule.  There are no breaks in the wheel of the year as it continually turns through, birth, maturity, dying, death, decay and birth again.

What responsibilities are you answerable for?  Where on the turning wheel do you see yourself?  What is within you, waiting to show itself later?  What do you need to grow and protect to bring forth later?

Third thoughts on Litha: Things to do

  • Celebrate unions of all kinds
  • Charge magickal tools, tarot cards, jewellery, crystals etc. (if they require sun energy, but not if they flourish with moon energy)
  • Decorate with bright orange or yellow e.g. candles. Crystals, flowers
  • Drink Mead
  • Eat Honey
  • Gather Herbs
  • Honour both God and Goddess
  • Light a Bonfire (safely!)
  • Light a Citrus Incense
  • Light Candles
  • Make a Divination or scrying to discover how to direct your own power/energy and to what
  • Make a Midsummer Honey Cake (recipe below)
  • Make Charms for success, protection, health and anything needed potent energy
  • Make elder flower champagne (recipe below)
  • Meditate on the Sun and draw in his energies into your body and life
  • Meditate with the Earth Goddess or with the dark Goddess in the Underworld
  • Visit an Oak tree
  • Welcome and watch the Sunrise on solstice morning

You might like to use Litha to do any of these to improve your life:

  • Be Empowered by the sun and in turn Empower others
  • Bless the Bounty of the Earth and do not squander it
  • Bring a project to Completion
  • Build your Life Force and use it for the greatest good
  • Celebrate all the good things in your life, people, animals, plants, environment, work, health…
  • Do your workings that need Potency, Power, Strength and Vitality at his time
  • Even at this time of plenty and vigour, remember that Nothing Lasts Forever
  • Give Healing to yourself, others, animals, environment etc.
  • Go to a Hand-Fasting or re-new your vows to your life-partner
  • Increase Fertility in all its aspects in your life
  • Let your Inner Radiance shine through
  • Make a list of all the Abundance you have in your life and be thankful and grateful

You might like to add these, or their representations to your seasonal sacred space:

  • Associations: Bonfire, Flaming Wheels, Processions, Candles, Labyrinth (inner journey through fears)
  • Animals: Bee, Bull, Cattle, Horse, Robin, Spider, Summer Birds, Wren
  • Mythical Creatures: Dragons, Faeries, Firebirds, Manticores, Satyrs, Thunderbirds
  • Colours: Gold, Green, Oranges, White, Yellows.
  • Goddesses Mother Earth, the Mother, Pregnant and Dark goddesses, Aine, Aphrodite, Arachne, Ariadne, Arianrhod, Artemis, Ariadne, Astarte, Athena, Danu, Freya, Hathor, Ishtar, Kali, Isis, Juno, Venus
  • Gods: Apollo, Bel, the Dagda, Father Sun, Father Gods, Gwydion, Green Man, Helios, Holly King, Lugh, Lugh, Oak King, Ra, Sol, Sun Deities, Zeus, Thor
  • Element: Fire
  • Food: Honey, Lemons, Oranges
  • Drink: Ale, Mead, sweet Wines, fresh Fruit Juice, Herbal Teas
  • Herbs: Basil, Chamomile, Cinquefoil, Copal, Elder, Fennel, Fern, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Lemon, Mint, Mugwort, Rue, Saffron, St John’s Wort, Thyme, Vervain, Verbena, Yarrow
  • Spices: Frankincense, Sandalwood
  • Trees: Laurel, Mistletoe, Oak, Pine, Roses, Wisteria, Ylang-Ylang,  
  • Stone Circles: Stonehenge, Callanish in Lewis, Ring of Brodgar in Orkney
  • Stones: Amber, Citrine, Diamond, Emerald, Gold Tigers Eye, Golden Topaz, Heliodor, Malachite, Opal, Pyrite, Quartz Rutilated, Sunstone
  • Symbols: Spear (God), Cauldron (Goddess)
An altar celebrating Litha, Midsummer
An altar celebrating Litha
Elderflower champagne and elder flowers

Elderflower Champagne Recipe

Collect the flowers as near to Midsummer’s Day as you can.  Elder is sacred to the Mother Goddess and is protective healing, as well as aiding transformation, change and renewal.  Ideal for this time of the year. 

Ingredients: 8 litres water, 1.25 kg sugar, 8 large elderflower heads (cleaned), 4 lemons, 4 tablespoons mild white wine vinegar

  • Boil the water and dissolve the sugar into it 
  • 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 flavour as possible.
  • Store in clean screw top bottles, glass or plastic; this drink will fizz and if not bottled tightly and can explode! Keep it somewhere that if the worst happens it does not spoil anything.  
  • Leave it for 10 days and drink within a month. As you enjoy it, give thanks to the Spirit of Elder.

Midsummer Honey Cake

Bees gathering nectar on a yellow flower

Bees and their honey reflect the life-giving energy of the Sun. Honey has many medicinal properties.  When you make this cake give thanks to the sun, earth and the bees for providing the honey.

Ingredients: 225g Butter, 250g Honey, 100g Dark Muscovado Sugar, 3 Eggs, beaten, 300g Self-Raising Flour

Cut the butter into pieces and heat them slowly, adding the honey and the sugar. When they are all fully melted, turn up the heat and boil the mixture for one minute.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  (If too hot the eggs will curdle when added and if too cold the mixture will solidify.)

Add the beaten eggs to the cooled mixture. Sift the flour into a large bowl and beat the liquid mixture into it until you have a smooth batter.

Pour the batter 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. Enjoy and give thanks to the bees, the grains and the hens and the God and Goddess for their bounty.

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