Litha is the time of the sun. While the sun was ascending at Beltaine, it is in its full glory now. In the northern latitudes, which we share with the Northern European peasants who created many of our traditions, it doesn’t even get dark until 10 o’clock. All around the world, sun gods and goddesses from different mythologies have Their special rites on this, the longest day. They come in Their various guises, fighting the dark and bringing fertile, healing light. Today is the day of Their greatest victories.
In ancient Greece, Helios was the God of the Sun. Every day, He rode across the sky in a chariot pulled by four wild, flaming steeds. Every day the horses fought Helios, but every day He was their master. Helios had a son named Phaëthon. He was a mortal and with pride did he watch his father ride across the sky. Phaëthon loved his father and wanted to know more about him and be like him. In short, he wanted to drive the chariot for a day.
Phaëthon begged his father to grant him his fondest wish. Helios, loving his son, agreed. Then the son revealed that his wish was to drive the chariot, and Helios had to grant it. Phaëthon put on the crown of golden rays, mounted the chariot, and off he went. Across the heavens he rode, lighting the sky. The horses began their daily struggle, but Phaëthon could not master them. The horses rode wild. They towed the chariot at the zodiac animals who became enraged and drove the it from the sky. When Phaëthon neared the earth, it dried and cracked. Lakes boiled away. Then he rode up high again and the earth froze.
Zeus saw all this and knew He had to step in. To prevent Phaëthon from destroying the earth, He hurled his great thunderbolts, slaying Phaëthon and destroying the chariot. Helios’ grief was terrible, and he vowed that no one but He would ever drive His chariot again.
The gods are at the height of their power and majesty at Litha and now is the time to meet them up close, but not too close. It is dangerous to for mortals to meet and interact with the divine. As Phaëthon wanted to know the Sun God, so do we go to the God or Goddess. Let us hope that we don’t get burned.