Litha / Midsummer / Summer Solstice (June 20)

     The summer solstice is celebrated by many cultures under many different names.  It marks the longest day of the year; a time in which the sun has reached its peak in power.  Though it is called midsummer, those in the Northern Hemisphere recognize it as the first day of summer.  This is because the European growing season has reached its midpoint close to the middle of June.

     So why do we call it Litha?  The word comes from an English historian in the early 700’s named Bede.  Litha was not a holiday, but a period of time roughly coinciding with our months of June and July.  Bede gives a definition for the word Litha, “gentle or navigable, because in both those months the calm breezes are gentle and they were wont to sail upon the smooth sea.” (Mankey).  It has been suggested that the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, though based on ancient practices from mostly European counties, was formed jointly by Gerald Gardner and Ross Nichols and building from the work of Robert Graves and Margaret Murray (Duir).

     The Celts called midsummer Alban Heruin “Light of the Shore”.   The Christian church marked midsummer as a feast day in honor of St. John the Baptist, dubbing it “St. John’s Day”.  Enyovden is celebrated in Bulgaria as one of the most magickal times of the year.  Bulgarian folktales say that on the day of Enyoden the sun reaches the end of its journey toward summer and must turn around for the winter.  It pauses briefly before setting out on the return journey and shakes and dances in the air.  To see the sun during this time was very special, for it is said that you will be blessed.  It’s also said the sun bathes in streams and lakes at this time, creating healing waters.  The plant life receives a blessing too, making their medicinal properties much more potent (Baeva).

     Some traditions tell the story of the Oak King and the Holly King who do battle twice a year to dictate who will rule the land.  At Yule, when the sun is reborn and soon to grow stronger, the Oak King overcomes his nemesis and rules the lands.  It is at Litha when the Holly King rises up to reclaim his throne and rule the darker months of the year.

     At Litha the Sun God has reached his peak strength.  He pauses for a moment in full glory to celebrate his power.  This is a day when we reflect on our own strengths and appreciate those things that we’ve worked so hard for that are now coming to fruition.

 

 

 

     The trees are lush and green, our gardens busy as they produce for the table, and our flower beds are bursting with color.  That which we planted physically, mentally, and spiritually in the spring is flourishing; a sure sign that our hard work is paying off.  We spend a good deal of time outdoors celebrating the warmth and sunshine with picnics, barbecues, nature hikes, and trips to the beach.  Though there is still work to be done before the harvest, we take time out to honor the season and all its splendor.

     Because our herbs and wild flowers are in bloom, this is an excellent time of year to restock your supply of medicinal and magickal plants.  Many witches believe that plants should not be collected unless you have been given permission by the plant deva and some believe you should leave an offering at the collection site.  It’s a good practice not to take the entire plant, but to leave some for wildlife while allowing the plant to continue to grow.  It is suggested that your herbs and plants be cut with a boline; a white handled, sickle bladed knife.  Herbs should be hung in a warm dry spot where they will be undisturbed.  Take care when identifying and harvesting wild plants.  You should never burn or ingest a plant you are not properly educated about and some wild plants are hard to identify.  Always consult your physician before using herbs or plants for medical reasons.

     Like Beltane, Midsummer has also been celebrated with bonfires and fireworks, symbolic of the strength of the sun and longest day of the year.  Typical of most other celebrations, there is music and dancing, feasting and drinking. 

     However you choose to celebrate the turning of the wheel, the Muses wish for you joy and good blessings!

 

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Baeva, Vihra.  “Enyovden (Midsummer’s Day) – the most magical time of the year”.  Bnr.bg. 24, June, 2015.  Web.  19, May 2016.  <http://bnr.bg/en/post/100572410>

Duir, Alexa.  “The Eightfold Wheel of the Year”.  Manygods.org.uk.  2003.  Web.  19, May 2016.  <http://www.manygods.org.uk/articles/festivals/wheel.shtml>

Mankey, Jason.  “Names of the Summer Solstice”.  Patheos.com – Raise the Horns.  19, June 2014.  Web. 19, May 2016.  <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/panmankey/2014/06/names-of-the-summer-solstice/>