Litha, The Summer Solstice
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Litha is also known
as the summer solstice, Midsummer, All Couples Day, and Saint John's Day.
Litha is one of the fire festivals and occurs on the longest day of the
year. This is the time of year when the sun reaches its highest apex, at
the Tropic of Cancer. It is the day when light overcomes darkness, a day
of power. Litha also is one of the "quarter days" or the Lesser
Litha, as a Wiccan holiday, has the Sun/God reaching full power, and
the Goddess pregnant with child. She holds promise of the bounty of the
harvest yet to come. Litha's name, depending which author you read, has
its roots in Greco-Roman, (McCoy, page 149) or according to Our Lady of
the Prairie Coven, Litha means opposite of Yule. This may possibly have
Saxon roots, though that is pure speculation. No others authors that were
researched for this article offered any explanation as to the origins of
Litha other than it is name for Midsummer.
Midsummer traditionally marks the beginning of summer (i.e. schools
out). Actually midsummer marks the actual middle of the Celtic summer,
falling between Beltane and Lugnasadh. Midsummer is known also as a night
of magic, made famous by William Shakespeare with his play Midsummer's
Nights Dream. As a Quote from Puck can attest to:
Helena is here at hand;
And the youth, mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover's fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!
(Shakespeare, Act 3, Scene 2)
June in Europe and America is historically the busiest month for
weddings, hence All Couples Day. This tradition begins because this time
of the year was a time of rest for the Ancient Celts, the time between
planting and harvesting. June allowed time for the wedding festivals and
rest. This is best described in an English child's nursery rhyme.
most surely you will rue the day.
Marry in June when roses grow
And happiness you'll always know…"
Author Unknown (McCoy, 167)
Saint John's Day celebrates the birth of St. John exactly six months
before the birth of Christ as he foretold of Christ's coming. The Celts,
as was their way, easily adopted this day and incorporated into their
summer solstice festivities just as they did with Beltane/May Day. A poem
demonstrates how the Celts and other cultures were able to incorporate the
various pagan meanings of Litha with a Christian one.
May he give health to my heart.
St. John comes and St. John goes,
Mother, marry me off soon!
Author Unknown (Henes, page 61)
Litha's celebrations are as varied as the authors who write them are.
The times that the ritual should take place are also varied. McCoy
suggests that the ritual take place on the eve before June 21. (Pages
163-66) McCoy further states that during the ritual one should jump over
or walk in between two purifying fires. (Pages 153-54) Author of Celestially
Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles and Celebrations, Donna Henes,
says that Midsummer is a sun festival and is best done during the daylight
hours between sunrise and high noon. (Page 56)
Litha rituals as all ritual should be personal. Several of the authors
give basic outlines some for covens, some for the solitary. Most of the
authors used for this essay are Wiccan. This particular point of view uses
a very pregnant Lady and a Lord at the height of his powers. This ritual,
no matter what the tradition or the Gods/Goddesses involved should include
either the sun or a fire, or both.
Litha's foods vary, depending upon the author and tradition you adhere
to. Cunningham suggests fruits, Buckland, cakes and ale, and Starhawk,
bread and drink. However, given that this is a day to celebrate the sun,
foods should be of yellow (gold), orange or reds.
3 whole fresh tomatoes
1, 12-oz bag of shredded cheddar cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Slice the tomato 1/2-inch thick, place on
tin foil. Liberal spread cheddar cheese on the tomatoes. Baked for 20
minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle parsley over tomatoes.
1 summer squash
1/4 cup of butter
Need one medium size sauce pan, set flame to medium. Place butter in
pan. Slice squash approximately 1/8-inch thick, layer into pan, sprinkling
pepper to taste on each layer. Stirring occasionally, cook to taste. Takes
Mom McCoy's Lemon Chess Pie
(Makes one nine inch pie)
1 unbaked pie shell
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon corn meal
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup real lemon juice
1/4 cup grated lemon peal
Preheat oven to 375 F. Place unbaked pie shell in a deep-dish pie pan.
Mix the sugar, flour, cornstarch and cornmeal, then add eggs, milk,
butter, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Beat until smooth. Pour mixture into
the pie shell and bake for about 40 minutes or until top is golden brown.
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground rosemary
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup fresh mushrooms
1 small chopped tomato
1/2-cup bacon bits
2 cups prepared croutons
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing
bowl. Place the mixture in a lightly greased 9 X 13 baking pan and bake
for 30 minutes.
The following is a mixture from the following authors, Shakespeare,
Buckland, RavenWolf, Starhawk, Cunningham and McCoy.
Altar should reflect the colors the colors of midsummer and face the
east. Bonfire should either be in the middle of circle or to the west.
All enter from the west to face the rising sun. Those playing the parts
of the God and Goddess take their position on the east most side of the
circle. The Leader takes his/her place in the middle the rest form a half
circle, from west to south to north, facing towards the east.
Leader should cast the circle. After Circle is cast leader begins.
LEADER: God of the Sun, we have gathered here to day to honor
you, for now is the day of your greatest strength.
ALL SAY: We honor you.
LEADER: Goddess, mother, we gathered here today to honor you,
for today is the day you are full of bloom.
ALL SAY: We honor you.
LEADER: Today is the day we mark the end of the Oak Kings reign,
and the beginning of the Holly Kings.
GOD: (Facing the Goddess) Farewell to thee, my love. For my
power grows less with passing of the year.
GODDESS: (Facing the God) Farewell to thee, my love. For your
son grows strong within my womb.
ALL SAY: We honor you.
LEADER: Lord and lady, come into our hearts, and purify us.
Smite the darkness from our souls with your light.
GOD and GODDESS: (To jump hand and hand over the fire.) Come
join us children in the light. Let our fire purify your souls and make
your spirit bright.
LEADER: (Jumps over fire in the waiting arms of the God and
Goddess) We thank thee for your love and light.
ALL SAY: We honor you (Jumps over fire)
LEADER: (Closes Circle) We dedicate ourselves to the God and
Goddess, Lord and Lady, whose union formed another life. We give ourselves
with these ancient vows. Standing firm upon this earth you have blessed.
ALL SAY: We honor you.
All leave towards the west.
Bord, Janet & Colin, Earth Rites, Fertility Practices in
Pre-Industrial Britain, Granada, London, 1982.
Carr-Gomm, Philip The Elements of the Druid Tradition Element
Books, Rockport, MA 1998
Danaher, Kevin, The Year in Ireland, The Mercier Press, Cork,
Henes, Donna, Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles &
Celebrations, A Pedigree Book. NY, NY 1996
Hole, Christina, Witchcraft in England, Rowman & Littlefield,
Totowa NJ, 1977.
Holleston, T.W., Celtic Mythology: History, Legends and Deities, NewCastle
Publishing, Van Nuys, CA 1997<?P>
MacCana, Proinsias, Celtic Mythology, The Hamlyn Publishing Group,
Ltd., London, 1970.
MacCulloch, J.A. Religion of the Ancient Celts, Folcroft Library
Editions, London, 1977.
Matthews, John, The Druid Source Book: Complied and Edited by John
Matthews, A Blanford Book, London, England, 1997
Matthews, John and Caitlin Matthews, The Encyclopedia of Celtic
Wisdom, Element Books Rockport, MA 1994
McCoy, Edain, The Sabbats: A New Approach to Living the Old Ways, Llewellyn
Publications, St. Paul, MN 1998
Nichols, Ross, The Book of Druidry, Harper-Collins, London,
Powell, T.G.E. The Celts, Thames & Hudson, New York, 1980.
Sharkey, John, Celtic Mysteries, the Ancient Religion, Thames
& Hudson, New York, 1979.
Squire, Charles, Celtic Myth, Legend, Poetry, and Romance,
Newcastle Publishing Co., Van Nuys, CA, 1975.
Stewart, R.J. Celtic Myths, Celtic Legends, Blanford Books,
London, England, 1997
Williamson, John, The Oak King, The Holly King, and the Unicorn, Harper
& Row, New York, 1986.
Wood-Martin, W.G., Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland, Kennikat Press,
Port Washington, NY, 1902.
Suggested News Resources
- Litha 2015: Pagans, Non-Pagans Alike Welcome The Summer Solstice
- The summer solstice arrives in the northern hemisphere on June 21, 2015 at 12:39 p.m. EDT, bringing us the longest day in the year -- which means lots of extra sunlight for festivities.
- Litha 2014: Pagans, Non-Pagans Alike Welcome The Summer Solstice
- The summer solstice arrives in the northern hemisphere on June 21 at 6:51 a.m. EDT, bringing us the longest day in the year -- which means lots of extra sunlight for festivities.
- Names of the Summer Solstice
- Oh Summer Solstice! I love you as Midsummer! I also sometimes call you Litha, and can sort of appreciate you as the Feast of St.
- How Hobbits celebrate the Summer Solstice: Raising the Shire
- Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and the apogee of the light. In the Neo-Pagan tradition, the summer solstice is called Litha. Litha mirrors the winter solstice, Yule.
- Summer Solstice sees stonehenge packed with hippies and pagans on longest day
- Tens of thousands of people descended on Stonehenge this morning to mark the year's Summer Solstice. Some 23,000 attended the neolithic site in Wiltshire, with others - including hippies and pagans - visiting the nearby Avebury stone circle.
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