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 History/Culture: Some Call It Litha - Midsummer/Summer Solstice

HolidaysBlue1Moon
AlienLove Editor

Litha (pronounced LITH-ah) occupies the opposite place on the wheel of the year from Yule. It is celebrated on the Summer Solstice, which falls between June 20th and June 23rd, when the Sun enters zero degrees Cancer. It is also celebrated on the fixed date of June 25th or Old Litha. It is thought that the ancients began holding Druidic celebrations of Summer Solstice at Stonehenge around 2183 BCE.

Litha is a time of abundance, and energy abounds! Can you feel it in the air? Midsummer marks the time of year when the day is longest and the night is shortest. Light is triumphant - take time to absorb some of the Sun’s warming rays. Be joyful and enjoy the fullness of the Earth and her bounty, for after this the sun once again begins slowly to wane – yet there are still many days of long light ahead before thoughts of winter return.

In Pagan tradition, it is the time when the Sun God has reached the pinnacle of his strength. He is often pictured as the Lord of the Forest, wearing masks of leaves and foilage, or perhaps sitting upon his Greenwood Throne. At this time of year the Goddess is with child, having conceived at Beltane. Her body is nurturing the future King, just as the Earth is nurturing the crops that will feed us through the coming winter. So, Litha is much related to nurturing and love. ...



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Other Names, Celebrations

The Druids celebrated Midsummer as “Alban Heruin” or “Light of the Shore” at this turning point of the year. It fell halfway between “Light of the Earth” and “Light of the Water.”

Other names for this holiday include: Alban Hefin (Anglo-Saxon); Sun Blessing; Gathering Day (Wales); Vestalia (Ancient Rome); Feast of Epona (Ancient Gaul); All-Couples Day (Greece); La Festa dell’Estate or Summer Fest (Italy); The Day of Cerridwen & Her Cauldron (England); The Day of the Green Man (Northern Europe); and in Ireland the day honors Aine of Knockaine, a faery goddess.

In some traditions this is when the Oak King, representing the Waxing Year, ruling from Midwinter to Midsummer, and the Holly King, representing the Waning Year, who rules from Midsummer to Midwinter, do battle. The Oak King is victorious, but is wounded, his time is ending and his power begins waning. The two are twins and as the year turns, one symbolically kills the other. However, the brother or other-self is not thought of as dead – just withdrawing to the underworld until his time comes again. The Oak King represents a time of fertility, growth and expansion, while the Holly King represents the time of harvest, withdrawal and wisdom.

Magic

Litha is considered a good holiday for performing magic and purification rites. It is thought to be a powerful time, when healings and magic for love and prosperity are most fortuitous.

Protection spells and the bestowing of blessings on pets and animals, are also common. A pet may be welcomed into a Circle at this time, or perhaps given a small gift.

Midsummer is also the traditional time for harvesting magical and medicinal herbs. They are supposed to be cut with a boline or scythe by the light of the Moon, while the harvester chants something appropriate for the use that will be made of the plant. An offering should be left for the rest of the plant - be sure not to harvest more than 1/3 of any plant’s leaf, stalk or root, and work gently so that the plants may remain healthy and be available for the next harvesting.

The Sun at Midsummer is entering the water sign, Cancer and this is thought to be a good time for gathering water to be used in spells and on your altar in the coming months. Lady Bridget says she often goes to the ocean on this day to gather salt-water. She offers flowers, nuts, and/or three coins for prosperity and in appreciation, before taking the water, and perhaps adds an unmatched earring, an old silver chain or ring to appease the water Goddesses. The same can be done before taking water from a local stream or river. Rain from a thunderstorm (common in Vermont of late) is also very powerful, as the lightning energizes the water. The wilder and more intense the storm, the more energized the water. Collect water in glass or porcelain containers, particularly avoiding metal. Store on a table or shelf rather than the ground, so as not to lose the energy by “grounding” it. It is recommended that magical water be kept no longer than six months, then returned to its source.

Traditions

The Ancients lit fires for protection and purificaiton, and to ensure that the sun would stay strong and powerful, thus ensuring a good harvest. Trying to encourage the crops, those celebrating leapt over these Midsummer fires, jumping as high as they could – believing that the crops would grow as high as they could jump. Dancing, singing and drumming were common ways to honor this holiday.

Lighting a fire and keeping it lit until midnight is supposed to bring good luck to the home and it’s inhabitants.

Litha is thought to be a good time for performing Re-dedication/Affirmation or Self-Dedication Ceremonies and for doing divinations and healing rituals. Dreams are said to be more lucid at this time.

Midsummer Night’s Eve is considered special for those of the Faerie faith, and a good time for communing with your local forest and field sprites and faeries. Leave out offerings of herbs and food for the faerie folk. Some believe that if you step upon a flower from a St. Johns Wort plant on Midsummer night by accident, you will find yourself transported to the realm of the Fey.

The full moon that occurs in June is called the “Honey Moon.” June has long been a popular time of the year for weddings and honeymoons.

Gods and Goddesses of Midsummer

There are, of course, many deities associated with Midsummer, just as there are many different traditions and cultures who honored this time on the Circle or Wheel of the Year.

Gods: Oak King and Holly King, Lugh and Goronwy, all Father Gods, Sun Gods, Gwydion, Llew, Ra, Sol, Zeus, Apollo, Thor, and Prometheus (who was said to have stolen fire from the Gods to bring to humanity).

Goddesses: Mother and Pregnant Goddesses, Aphrodite, Astarte, Freya, Venus, Athena, Artemis, Isis, Dana, Juno and Goddesses who rule over passion, beauty and love.


Wishing You The Many Blessings of This Day,

Blue1Moon



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

References:

“Litha Lore”
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/spiritwolf/litha.htm

“The Daily Bleed: A Calendar Better Than Boiled Coffee, Timeline, Chronology, Labor, Radical, Arts, Literature…” produced by Recollection Used Books
http://www.eskimo.com/~recall/bleed/0621.htm

“The Simple Facts - Midsummer: Summer Solstice, Alban Hefin (Caledonii)”
http://www.fortunecity.com/greenfield/tigris/567/id20.htm

“Litha Introduction” by Lady Bridget
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/5606/litha.html

“Litha”
http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Corridor/3621/litha.html

************

[20 June 2015 - originally posted 2005]





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