Summer solstice is here! The sun blazes through the skies on high, shining down upon us with powerful light! Litha is here and the time for the light to wane draws ever near! Midsummer: It is a time most people are just beginning to acknowledge the entrance of the summer season, with June 21 being the official calendar date for the start of summer on the Gregorian calendar. For anyone who is not pagan or a practicing witch, the notion that summer begins in May might give them pause … how is this so?
Many pagans and witches celebrate the beginning of our summer season at Beltane (May 1st and 2nd), while the same season winds down at Lammas (August 1st and 2nd). This is one of our SUN-SATIONAL holidays! (yes, you did read a strange but fun misspelling, all for a lovely playful effect!) And it makes a lot more sense when we call the sabbat midsummer, doesn’t it?
The promise of midsummer and all the life it brings is long awaited…
Here comes the returning of the light and the warmth we so prayed for in the darker months of the year. Six months prior, in the darkest days of December, we remember the promise of light given to us on Winter Solstice. It is on Winter Solstice that the Oak King defeats the Holly King and in that defeat, the promise of ever-increasing light is a gift to us until Summer Solstice.
As we endured the darkest and longest night around December 21, we kept the vision of summer’s light and bliss in our hearts, and this too keeps hopes alive. We understand the cyclical nature of all that lives and our dependence on the balance of light and darkness, life, and death. Midsummer is when all life is at its zenith. We honor life, ours and all that live. We bask in the light and enjoy its blessings, ever remembering the returning darkness is necessary for the cycle of life and death to remain in balance.
Winter dreams of summertime things…
It is the day many of us warm-blooded creatures dream about during those cold, oh-so frosty nights when snow blankets the earth and keeps the Mother Goddess in her slumber. As we stare through the frost creeping down our foggy glass window panes, making intricate patterns of which only Mother Nature herself can make, we can look at that exquisite frosty art and remember the promise of the glorious Mother’s return. And with her come the days of warmth and summer wonder!
Yes, the land outside is quiet with snowflakes falling as if the softest of whispers onto the cold ground. One by one, the flakes fall, silently insulating the earth. Each flake is a small sentinel and witness to all that rests but will eventually awaken.
It all begins in LOVE….
For those who do not follow or understand the old ways and the Witches’ Wheel of the Year, the difference in the starts and stops of the seasons might at first seem confusing. In February, during the earliest signs of spring, as the Crocus rises out of the cool ground, the Goddess stays in her slumber but is beginning to stir.
At Spring Equinox, the goddess awakens and her presence and Divine energy are in all the things coming to life. Here, the Earth Goddess is in the guise of The Maiden, still youthful and vibrant. The God is in the guise of the youthful Son aspect of the God. Now, they express, like many do, their growing love and affection for one another. Here is where the LOVE of the God and Goddess course through all that comes to life, as such Spring is very much a season of new beginnings, fresh starts and, of course, new loves!
And then there’s Marriage!
For it is at Beltane, May 1st, and 2nd, a fire festival when we celebrate the joining of the God and Goddess during the yearly celebrated fertility sabbat. We acknowledge this union of the Divine as one in marriage during the Great Rite. The Goddess in her Virginal and Maiden aspect becomes the Holy Bride of the Horned God on Beltane.
Some witches and pagans may refer to the Goddess’ consort as the Greenman or Lord of the Woodlands. Known by thousands of aspects and guises around the world and throughout history, both the God and Goddess by any name are merely our human way to embrace something so beyond the scope of our understanding.
This holiday, Beltane, a fire festival, is a sabbat that pagans and witches mark as the earliest beginning of our summer season. Midsummer, is exactly that, where we mark the arrival of the summer solstice, the mid-point of our summer, and another turn of the wheel. And what a promise it is… for it is on this night the God impregnates the Goddess with the newly reborn Holly King who will one day take reign of the darker half of the year once more. The promise is one of lasting light, death, and in balance in all of nature!
We feel so alive at Litha. The Sun, the light, is our symbol for life. Without the Sun, there is nothing. Without our Earth, there is nothing that lives. The Sun and the Earth sustain life, generate life, and promise the continuation of the cycle every year. It is a life-giving provider: Our Divine Sky Father and Earth Mother.
The Sun feeds everything, rejuvenates us, and refreshes all things. When it joins with the Goddess energies of the earth, the earth is fertile and plants, fruits, and vegetables begin to grow. The fruits of the Earth nourish humans and animals alike. The God and Goddess bring their energy together and in that joining we find sustenance…we find life.
Fertility and abundance is the promise of the season…
We have already started enjoying what summer promises us in the way of its many blessings: The revival of nature and the beautiful blooms. We can now reap some of those things that come to early harvest and taste the fruits of some of our labor, both in a literal and figurative sense. We continue to acknowledge the bliss summer brings to us each year during the summer season.
Just as we honor the Sun and the Masculine Divine, here too we give honor to the replenishing and nurturing Goddess: The two now at the zenith of their power. The King and Queen of all Witchery rule the Summer Season and displaying their miracles through golden fields, fertile land, growth, and rich harvests.
The golden fields of the harvest are the very gown of the Mother Goddess in all her splendor. Here she is in the Mother aspect, she nurtures us and nourishes us, just as natural for the mother figure. Some might see her as the Goddess Demeter.
She is the mother of the Spring Goddess Persephone, who is keeping her promise to ensure fertile and abundant lands if her beloved daughter returns to her six months out of each year from Hades where Persephone reigns as the Underworld Queen. This is a season of plenty, a season of life, and a season for giving many thanks.
The Feminine and Masculine Divine, mirroring the energies of the season, are at the pinnacle of their power. They are the King and Queen of the fertile lands, and together they rule over the fertile, growing Earth. The lands are lush and ready for promoting growth because of the reigning Oak King. It is he who fertilizes all the earth out of the love for the goddess. She is pregnant with his seed and the promise of future harvests.
The Goddess rules below, the God Above…
Their amorous love has grown intense, so much so, there is the desire to ensure the continuation of life. The Goddess’ body’ becomes heavy with that which she will eventually conceive, and her appearance mirrors the round solar light gift of the God Energy. Here the goddess’s appearance is a mirror of the full and lush golden fields, the ripening gardens, the full orchards, and the beautiful flowers in full bloom. The God watches over the Goddess on high, as he is the Sun King reigning in the skies above, and she is the Divine Goddess in all her glory, the Earth below.
We celebrate the Sun’s full and rightful return in the sky just as the Sun moves into the starry constellation of Cancer. It is here when we experience the longest day and the longest night, as both are equal. After Litha, the light begins to wane a bit more each day, as the wheel of the year slowly turns back to the darker seasons.
The Holly King and Oak King are at it Again!
The lore of the season varies a bit in terms of timing, but shares a general theme. The common theme involves the battle of The Oak King and the Holly King who reign over each half of the year. The stories tell of two deities, one old and one youthful. The Holly King aligns with the darker, colder seasons, while the Oak King aligns with the lighter warmer months.
The changeable factors in the stories relate to when the battle for power over the wheel of the year occurs. Some legends have the Holly King defeated by the Oak King on Winter Solstice. He is then reborn on Summer Solstice and, after gaining some strength thanks to the natural waning of light, the new Holly King conquers the Oak King and takes reign of the year. The cycle continues every year in this never-ending battle.
Other legends tell of the Holly King conceived on Beltane and born on Summer Solstice only to defeat the Oak King on the same day. It is from the moment of the Holly King’s birthing the spiral of eventual yearly darkness begins its slow embrace of us again.
In Wiccan accounts, the Holly and Oak Kings are aspects of the same deity and representations of the Horned God. The battle for the favor of the Goddess and rulership of the year is ongoing and eternal. This duality in the Masculine Divine and rulership of the year stems from ancient times when the people looked to mark time based on two seasons, of light and dark, rather than the four seasons so common today.
So, here on June 21, our mythos tells us the Oak King who, having reached the height of his power, is now conquered by the Holly King. Now, as the light wanes, so too does the Oak King’s strength, as for certain with the arrival of Autumn equinox, the Holly King will defeat the light bringer and reign over the darker half of the year and seasons once more.
Awakening of the Mind and Spirit
The spring and summer seasons are a period of emergence. The ever-increasing light is one in which things that once were hibernating are awakening. That which was once dead is either revived or reborn anew. With increasing light, we also take time as a period where we reflect inwardly on own growth, now, and for the year to come. The arrival of Litha is a time of conceiving ideas, impregnating the mind with things you want to manifest. Allowing these ideas to incubate until such time they have reached a point where the fires of inspiration give them life.
The Sun… it shines light on all things. Nothing is secret or hidden in the dark when the Sun shines upon it. Let the Sun’s light shine on your life, your goals, and your dreams. Let some light shine on your life path and direction. Can you withstand what the light reveals? Are there some changes that you need to make?
Some notions that you might want to reflection on are below. Remember, this is the time of planting seeds, so if you want to manifest anything in your life, now is the best time to make the most of the fertile ground and the light. On the same note, the summer light and reflection on its slow waning will help you ensure your readiness for the colder, darker months to come.
- Who do you want to be in the coming year?
- What do you want to manifest in your life?
- How do you plan to make these changes happen?
- From Litha to next Litha, what kind of achievements would make you most proud of yourself?
- Are you acting as if you are a carrier of the light? Remember, the God and Goddess are within each of us and in all living things. Do you do the God and Goddess justice as an outstanding representation of all they mean to you?
Are you serving as a beacon of light for others? Please note! This doesn’t mean you should chase people down as they run from you in terror while you wave a whip around screaming at them that they must convert to a pagan orientation and fast. Being a beacon of light is simply being an exemplary role model, one in which others would do well to emulate. You can let your inner Divine light shine. The God and Goddess will do the rest. (Yes, the bullwhip is a fun image, but you can play with your dark side another time … perhaps, during the darker seasons).
The Sun at the Solstices is empowering, inspirational, self-empowering and rejuvenating. It is all healing and lends its power that what we want to manifest in our lives. It is an excellent time to power and cleanse crystals, to grow herbals for fresh and later dried use, and for conducting spells that will help bring our desires into manifestation from the realm of ideas into the physical reality. Along with rituals and spell work, some find this an excellent time for performing myriad means of divination, particularly those forms oriented around the use of light, sun, and fire.
On summer solstice whether a solitary practitioner or part of a group, we celebrate the sabbat with ritual and feasting! Ritual follows a period of fasting (for those who are healthy and able to do so without risk of physical harm or injury). A ritual bath or shower to cleanse the body before the ritual is on the to list for pre-ritual prep. Following the ritual bath, one might also spend time in meditation quieting the mind and preparing for the ritual at hand.
Litha is a time to appreciate the verdant greenery of the Earth and a time for giving gratitude for the abundance in our lives. Many weddings and pagan handfastings are common during this time of year. Just as the God and Goddess are joined in their consummate love, so two are hopeful brides and grooms!
During the Solstices, divinatory work is most powerful as it is a time where the veil between the worlds thins. What separates the world of spirit and the invisible from the visible and physical is easier to cross, so communication with spirits and ancestors is also a frequent practice.
Altar Decorations and Room/Outdoor Décor
The altar holds all the traditional tools of one’s craft including the athame, chalice, bowl of water, bowl of earth, incense, candles, and figures of the God and Goddess. Candles with colors corresponding to the elements mark each cardinal point and the Akashic point. There is at the center of the altar a pentacle tile or some representation thereof. But, then there are the added decorations of the season including a tablecloth that might be the traditional black, but can prove even more festive if it is a gold color to reflect the Sun. A small cornucopia overflowing with fruits, a bowl of seeds, or newly born items like small seedlings just starting to sprout also make good décor.
The ritual working is a personal one. You might use a ritual you find online, adapt it, or write one from scratch that is meaningful to you. During the ritual, at some point, if you are within a group, you may want to take turns to announce what it is you are grateful for as far as what you have received this past season, what you hope to manifest in the future and your intentions for future physical and/or spiritual growth.
Groups tend to share bread and libation during ritual and solo practitioners will often have a bit of libation and bread or some other food as a gesture of enjoying the abundant nourishment one is giving and as a means of toasting the Divine. Left over libation is put outside, if safe to do so, for animals to take away. Some pagans dedicate place outdoors where the practitioner chooses to leave regular libations and offerings.
If celebrating outdoors, a bonfire is perfect if weather allows but so are small torches and a small campfire size fire. Modern day pagans and witches have the liberty and flexibility to work with whatever environment and space they have available. Thus, the city witch will still be able to have a celebration just as beautiful and meaningful as the country witch. If a fire is outdoors, some pagans like the practitioners of old may take home a piece of the cooled ember revering it has having protective properties the entire year through.
Whether indoors or out, any décor you choose to add to the altar, tables, or any surfaces you are using can match summer associated hues of verdant green, brilliant yellow, cerulean blue, bright orange, fiery red, and gold. There’s no need to be shy about your use of bold and brazen colors!
If you want to put up figures of animal totems aligning with the season, images of snakes, robins, wrens, bees, and the butterfly are all correspondences of Midsummer. Butterflies signify the transformation of the season as well as the maturation of the God and Goddess energies. Snakes signify the never-ending cycle of life, death, and rebirth; ancient goddess wisdom, and the universe. Bees pollenate all the flowers and help to ensure continued growth, and wrens and robins are signs of good luck, blessings, and beginnings.
Some pagans and witches prefer to dress in black for ritual, but in warmer weather black is not always the best bet. Lighter colors with red, gold, white, and greens are also proper. The woman might don on crowns of freshly strung flowers. Attire expressing joy and lightheartedness now is perfect in every way! Or, if you want to go skyclad and you have the privacy to do so… by all means, do away with the attire and show that you are “truly free!”
Along with divination and communication with spirits, some witches and pagans might use this day to reenact the battle of the Holly and Oak King in the form of a ritualistic play. This is a proper time to clean spiritual house, to renew the vows one makes to commit to the study of the craft, to enter rites seeking the stirring of inspirational fires within.
A Wee Bit of Faery Magick….
If you are one who enjoys Faery Magick, then the Summer Solstices is the time when the Trooping Faeries begins. The Trooping Faeries are much like a clan living in a big community. They travel together in a procession and will move over great distances. They make their presence known with their raucous revelry and ethereal music. According to the poets, it is these very same faeries that are the epitome of the Litha celebration because they express a love for music, love making, fighting, feasting, and merriment of all kinds. Keep your eyes wide open, you might just get a shot as seeing one or two of them!
With the Sun and light empowering your magick, consider this a beautiful time to conduct healings of all kinds. If you need empowerment or want to help empower another, again Litha is a super time to perform empowerment spells. If you want mature love in your life, spells drawing positive love into your life in general or someone the Universe sees fit to be your match is also some magickal opportunities to work with during Litha.
What’s on the Menu?
Some foods for your Litha feasting might include things like bread and fresh honey, freshly picked vegetables from the garden or the fruits of the summer season. Fried or baked squash, rye or pumpernickel bread, carrot cakes, zucchini bread, and devil eggs are all on the menu. Honey cakes, strawberries, fresh berries of your choice, and whatever fruits you enjoy make a fine addition to any feast.
Ambrosia is the food of the Gods, as is milk and honey, so certainly be sure to have some on Summer Solstice! Ale or mead is a common beverage, but for those who cannot consume alcohol can drink juice or sparkling cider. If you want to modernize your ritual feasting, foods ideal for picnicking, (especially if not everyone in the group is a vegan or vegetarian and you have some fairly hungry carnivores on your hands) like hamburgers, fresh salads, and cheeses are a nice touch. Feasting is usually after ritual so that you can ground and center yourself as you have your fill of the abundant blessings you will consume!
Alternative Names for the Sabbat: Alban Hefin, Feill-Sheathain, Gathering Day, Litha, Midsummer, St. John’s Day, Summer Solstice, Sun Blessing, Thing-tide, Vestalia, Whit Sunday, or Whitsuntide.
Sabbat Type: One of four lesser sabbats, one of the four-quarter days, Low Holiday
Sabbat Timing: When the Sun enters the constellation of Cancer. June 21 to 23 depending on the position of the earth during its natural rotation around our Sun.
Working with Patron Goddesses of the Season (Please note, it is impossible to note every God and Goddess within this small context, but here you will find a good sampling to work with for your Litha rites, rituals, and spells).
Greek Pantheon: Indeed, Demeter or Dea Dia (the Roman goddess of growth and an alternative title for the agricultural goddess) is an appropriate Mother Goddess figure, as she aptly symbolizes the nourishing fields of grain that feed and sustain us. She is also the ruler of sacred law and the Goddess ruling over the cycle of life and death. Without the seasons and the joining of the Masculine and Feminine Divine, we would know not of this plentiful season. In her position as the mother of Persephone, Zeus the Sky God is her consort.
The Egyptian Pantheon: Other goddesses some pagans and witches might honor include the Egyptian Goddess Isis and her Brother-Husband Osiris. Or, if you prefer, you can work with the God and Goddess Geb, and Nuit, from the same pantheon. Geb is the god of the Earth, and Nuit is a Sky Goddess, but they still join together everything under the earth and sky. And, in five days outside of time, she births Isis, Osiris, Horus the Elder, Set, and Nephthys, the twin of the goddess Isis.
There was even a joining of Nephthys and Osiris, an affair, resulting in the birth of Anubis, so this pairing might also work as patron deities to call upon during rites, rituals, and spell workings. Hathor, who is mated with the God Horus or Ra, depending upon the stories you reference, is the goddess of parenthood and feminine love. Speaking of Egyptian deities, the Cat Goddess Bast is another excellent patron Goddess for the month, and a purrfect choice for She is a Fire Goddess of the Sun and Moon, Fertility, Passion, and Pleasure. Her consort is the Sun God Ra.
Norse Pantheon: Freya, the Norse Goddess of sex, fertility, love, and beauty (as well as war and death – who says a feminine being can’t do it all?), and her consort Odr. Since Litha is mid-June, Juno, for which the month receives its name, is another patron Goddess some pagans choose to work with along with her husband, Jupiter.
Ancient Celtic Pantheon: The Goddess Habonia is suitable for working with as in this aspect the Goddess is the epitome of abundance and prosperity. Habonia is a fertility and earth goddess, one being the promise of the plenty and abundant harvest to come. She is a symbol of, not only plenty but of the sharing of that abundance with others. Best of all, for every witch out there, one of Habonia’s best title is “Matron of Witches.”
Habonia’s consort is the Celtic God Cernunnos (A Celtic naming for the Horned God). Later, Fire Goddess Brigit and her husband Bres became popular Celtic deities which can also signify the various aspects of midsummer and its meaning.
Alternative titles for the Masculine Divine
The Goddess figure is often paired with a God figure representing fertility and growth. Titles applying to the God in such regard include the Greenman, the Lord of the Woodlands, and Pan. About the stories of the battle for rulership of the light and dark half of the year, during Litha, the goddess gives birth to the new Holly King while being mated with the existing Oak King.
Summary of Litha Correspondences
Animals (both physical and mythic): Bees, cats, cattle (cows and bulls), faeries, firebird, phoenix, dragon, thunderbird, robin, wren, butterflies, and snakes.
Colors: Gold, red, orange, blue, and yellow, and green
Goddesses: Demeter (Dea Dia), Isis, Nuit, Nephthys, Bast, Freyja, Juno, Brigit, Hathor
Gods: Zeus, Osiris, Geb, Ra, Odr, Jupiter, Cernunnos (The Horned One), Oak King, Holly King, Bres, Horus,
Gemstones: Jade, sandstone (orange and dark blue), emerald, green stones, tiger’s eye, rubies, diamonds, lapis lazuli, and amber
Herbal correspondences: Anise, carnation, chamomile, cinquefoil, daisy, elder, fennel, fern, heather, hemp, honeysuckle, ivy, larkspur, lavender, lavender, lily, mug wort, nettle, oak, oak blossoms, pine, rose, rue, St. John’s Wort, thyme, Verbana, Vervain, wild rose, wild thyme, wisteria, wormwood fern, yarrow.
Flowers: Sunflowers, Lilies, Gold colored flowers, red or yellow maize, and St. John’s wart are ideal blooms, all of which are a reminder of the sun’s vibrant rays and the zenith of the Sun’s power during the solstice. St. John’s Wort has protective attributes as well and some practitioners hang it around the house, over doors and windows to keep negativity at bay and positive energies within.
Incenses and oils: pine, sandalwood, lavender, lemon, rose, mint, cinnamon, wisteria, myrrh, frankincense, orange, saffron, and Heliotrope.
Symbols: The Sun, Conical shells, peacock feathers, a sun dial, sandstones (as they capture the Sun’s light, mirrors, and sun catchers.
Traditions: Singing, dancing, feasting, choosing wood for making wands and diving rods, the cultivation of herbs, placing springs of St. John’s Wort around the home for protection. Bonfires, rituals, spell work, divination. Self-exploration, reexamination, and planting the seeds for the future, both mundanely and mentally.
Trees: Oak, Holly, Birch, Elder, Beech, Holly, Laurel, and Linden. Now might be a suitable time for making a new staff or walking stick to serve as a tool to steady your walk as you journey through the physical and spiritual planes. A new wand can help you in bringing forth your inner magick and project it into the physical plane of manifestation.
The love of the Goddess and God remains eternal …
As we welcome the light and ready for the eventual return of darkness, we remember there are blessings within both halves of the year. We cannot put more focus on light than we do darkness or vice versa. To do so is to run the risk physical and spiritual imbalance. The lessons we learn with the passing of the seasons is the Divine Feminine and Masculine, God and Goddess, or the Yin/Yang energies coursing through all things work in unison throughout the year. While energy vibrations may fluctuate, they remain ever-present and eternal!