Litha is the first of the harvest festivals. Its focus is of the sun , which is at its highest at this time of the year . This is the longest day of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere it falls between June 19-June 22 and in the Hemisphere it falls between June 19-June 22 and in the December 22. This is also known as The Summer Solstice.
In Great Britain where the large standing stones of Stonehenge are , during this time of the year the sun is dead center of the circle. Many scholars feel that this is significant as this is a sacred time of year and relevant in the preview of what the harvest will bring for the rest of the season.
Another name for this celebration is Midsummer, and during this time it is said that one can find the doorway to the Otherworld and the realm of the of the faerie realm, gifts and trinkets, in order to honor them and show respect so that the fair folk don’t cause havoc to the homes. One reason for this belief has to do with the idea that fireflies with their flittering lights are faeries frolicking about.
A common custom at Litha is the Summer Tree, much like the Yule Tree, the Summer Tree is usually a young oak that is decorated with garlands of flowers and colored eggs to promote fertility of the crops and animals. On Midsummer’s Eve the tree is burned in a bonfire to promote fertility and prosperity.
The Litha celebration is usually a mild one as it is mainly focused on the first harvest, usually fruit and berries and melons are harvested at this time. Lighter meals and sweeter fruits and vegetables. It is the first day of Summer and normally pretty hot, so most people are needing the cooler refreshments during this time. Cold soups and chilled salads are usually served.
During this part of the year we also see the Holly King and the Oak King battle it out. The Holly King represents the darker side of the year, the cooler months, the end of days. The Oak King represents the sunny time and the hotter months. During this battle , which ends when the sun sets, the Oak King is defeated and the Holly King takes the throne. This represents the days are now from this point on getting shorter. The battle again at Yule and the Holly King then looses the battle as the days will start to become longer in the Oak King’s reign.
It goes without saying that during Midsummer, the Sun is the main focus. The Sun brings life and nutrients to the world and so it is celebrated. In most, but not all, Pagan cultures the Sun is seen as a male entity and the Moon as female. So during this Sabbat we are celebrating the male aspect more than the female. Though there are some Sun Goddesses, such as the Norse Goddess Sunna, we tend to see more Gods associated with the Sun such as the Egyptian God Ra, the Greek God Helios and the Roman God Apollo.
Crafts that are great at Litha would be suncatchers, which can be seen as a form of sympathetic magick where we are capturing the essence of the Sun. When we choose designs that are representative of qualities that we need in our life along with using colors that are corresponding with those needs we can use the suncatcher to bring that energy into our lives. Suncatchers are inexpensive and can be purchased at any stores that sells children’s crafts.
Another fun craft to make is the God’s Eye. Taking two sticks and wrapping colored yarn or string while meditating on the Sun Deity or the Sun. Many early religions viewed the Sun as the Eye of God. Looking directly into the eye of God will cause you to go blind , just as if we look directly into the sun it can cause damage to the eyes. Simply the act of creating these is meditative. They then can be hung to remind us that we are looked after or if you say a prayer and throw it into the fire to take the prayer to the Sun deity that you are honoring it can be seen again as a form of sympathetic magick.
This is the time of the year when we get a preview of what is to come . To thank the Sun for the nutrients it has provided, however, we are not out of the woods yet. The first of the Harvest Festivals is at hand, but there is still a lot of hard work still ahead of us. This is a little break to allow us to remember how marvelous the world and nature is. How when we planted at Beltane has started a chain of events that will help us prosper and grow to a wonderful full harvest. We still need to nurture our plants, just as we nurture our faith, and in time we will come to that place in our lives when we can rest and look back at what we have done. Right now we are looking forward at what is starting to show.
by Minnie Eerin
The Magical School Newsletter: Litha
Publisher: Colleen Criswell