Litha: Summer Solstice


Litha: The Summer Solstice

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Litha is also known as the Summer Solstice, Midsummer, Midsummer Night, Midsummer Night’s Eve, Gathering Day, Sun Blessing, Gathering Day, Feill-Sheathain, St. John’s Day. In England, The Day of Cerridwen and Her Cauldron, in Ireland, dedicated to the faery goddess Aine of Knockaine; Day of the Green Man in Northern Europe.
Usually celebrated around June 21, the Summer Solstice marks the time when the sun is at the highest point before beginning its slide into darkness.

In the Southern Hemisphere today  is Yule, the Winter Solstice.

The word Litha has some interesting etymology behind it: “Litha is a modern name for this holiday, possibly based on a Saxon word; Aerra Litha being Saxon for “before Litha”, or June and Aeftera Litha being Saxon for “after Litha”, Litha being the month of July. Its modern use was started by Wiccans but has been adopted by some other Pagan groups as well.” (1)

For me I find it is a bittersweet sabbat, since it marks a ‘going away’ of the light. On the other hand, this is considered by many to be the start of summer and some of the best weather of the year can be expected now – English weather peculiarities aside though we’re currently having a heatwave where we had flash flooding last year.

Like Yule and the equinoxes, Litha is considered a ‘lesser’ sabbat, being primarily of astronomical significance.
In Wiccan and some other neo-pagan traditions the solstices are seen as the Holly and Oak king battling for supremacy (2), with the Holly King being victorious at the summer solstice and the Oak king winning at Yule.

Traditionally, Mother Goddesses, the pregnant Goddess – symbol of the forthcoming harvests – and goddesses of love and beauty are honoured. Sun gods and sun goddesses are celebrated at this time, as well as Father Gods.

This is a time of great power, prime for fertility rites, inspiration and other growth rituals, as well as healing and purification, divination and re-dedicating yourself to your chosen path. It is a good time for handfastings and weddings or for clearing away burdens and establishing a stable base.

Litha celebrations might involve Morris dancing, singing, storytelling, pageantry and feasting, and a bonfire which could provide luck to those brave enough to jump over the flames. Other rituals/celebratory activities include visiting a holy well, burning a cleansing bonfire, recharging your magical tools, leaving out milk/honey for the Fair Folk, and going early berry picking.

Correspondences
Foods and drinks especially suitable for celebrations include lemons, oranges, peppers, strawberries, summer squashes, tomatoes, corn, honey, honey cakes, melted cheese dishes, fresh vegetables, summer fruits, summer squash, pumpernickel bread, ale, mead, fruit juice, carrot juice, red wine, lemon tea.

Trees, Flowers and Herbs: birch, white lilies, roses, St John’s Wort and mugwort, mistletoe, apple, cedar, elder, fir, hawthorn, holly, ivy, lemon, oak, pine, peach, rowan, daisy, iris, honeysuckle, lavender, marigolds, saffron, sunflowers.
Gather vervain and basil to to be used during the winter months.

Traditional colours of Litha: gold, yellow, red, blue, green, orange, white, tan.

Other correspondences: The sun; sun wheel, sun dials, seashells; blades; daisy chains; stone circles, feathers, fire, candles, wands, yellow and green gemstones, especially emerald and jade amber, tiger’s eye, frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, chamomile, bee, butterfly, caterpillars, sea creatures, wren, robin, horses and cattle, faeries, dragons, blades, percussion instruments.

Sources and further reading:
1 Litha Information Sheet (http://walkingthehedge.net/hedge/litha-info-sheet/)

2 The Legend of the Holly King and the Oak King (http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/yulethelongestnight/p/Holly_KIng_Yule.htm)

The Summer Solstice
All about Litha
The Summer Yule

Beltaine

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For many pagans the start of May is celebrated as Beltaine (Beltane), May Day, Calan Mei, and Walpurgis Night. It is a cross quarter day, falling between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. The UK public holiday May Day occurs on the first Monday of May each year.

Correspondences included: fertility, renewal, maypoles, bonfires, dancing, creativity.
A list of deities and their correspondences can be found here

Spring Festival: Ostara


Ostara Comments

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Ostara is the Spring or Vernal equinox when days and nights are once again equal in length. It is a time of renewal and rebirth. The name Ostara is believed to be derived from Eostre – the Teutonic lunar Goddess (see more on this below). Her chief symbols are the hare, which represents fertility, and the egg, which is a symbol of rebirth.

(In the Southern Hemisphere, it is Mabon that this being celebrated today at the time, with the balance of daylight about to go in the opposite direction, from more daylight to less.)

Ostara is close in symbolism to the Church festival of Easter, but Ostara is fixed at the equinox while Easter is a moveable feast decided by the phases of the moon. The Jewish holiday of Passover also falls during March or April, depending on the moon phases of each year.
Ostara also falls close to St Patrick’s Day amongst other festivals – there’s more detail in this article: Spring Traditions around the World.

Traditionally this day marks the start of Spring, and is a good time for cleaning in the physical, emotional, and spiritual sense.

This year, Ostara falls on the 20 March.

Continue reading Spring Festival: Ostara

Yule


Yule Comments & Graphics

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Celebrated at the 21st or 22nd of December Yule marks the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere while Litha is celebrated as the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. It is of course close to Christmas Day while that is also the feast day of Frau Holle, a Scandinavian spirit who is honoured as the embodiment of nature and the woods. There’s an article at About.Com on the History Of Yule and the various global celebrations held on or near the solstice. In the Southern Hemisphere it is the time of the Summer Solstice, Litha.

This year the solstice occurs on Wednesday December 21st at 10:44 GMT (Universal time).

Holly Kings, Yule Goats, and more winter customs below the cut
Continue reading Yule