Deities of Litha
The summer solstice has long been a time when cultures celebrated the lengthening year. It is on this day, sometimes called Litha, that there is more daylight than any other time; a direct counterpoint to the darkness of Yule. No matter where you live, or what you call it, chances are you can connect to a culture that honored a sun deity around this time of year. Here are just a few of the gods and goddesses from around the world that are connected with the summer solstice.
- Amaterasu (Shinto): This solar goddess is the sister of the moon deity and the storm god of Japan, and is known as the goddess “from which all light comes”. She is much loved by her worshippers, and treats them with warmth and compassion. Every year in July, she is celebrated in the streets of Japan.
- Aten (Egypt): This god was at one point an aspect of Ra, but rather than being depicted as an anthropomorphic being (like most of the other ancient Egyptian gods), Aten was represented by the disc of the sun, with rays of light emanating outward
- Apollo (Greek): The son of Zeus by Leto, Apollo was a multi-faceted god. In addition to being the god of the sun, he also presided over music, medicine and healing. He was at one point identified with Helios. As worship of him spread throughout the Roman empire into the British Isles, he took on many of the aspects of the Celtic deities, and was seen as a god of the sun and of healing.
- Hestia (Greek): This goddess watched over domesticity and the family. She was given the first offering at any sacrifice made in the home. On a public level, the local town hall served as a shrine for her — any time a new settlement was formed, a flame from the public hearth was taken to the new village from the old one.
- Horus (Egyptian): Horus was one of the solar deities of the ancient Egyptians. He rose and set every day, and is often associated with Nut, the sky god. Horus later became connected with another sun god, Ra.
- Huitzilopochtli (Aztec): This warrior god of the ancient Aztecs was a sun god and the patron of the city of Tenochtitlan. He battled with Nanahuatzin, an earlier solar god. Huitzilopochtli fought against darkness, and required his worshipers to make regular sacrifices to ensure the sun’s survival over the next fifty-two years, which is a significant number in Mesoamerican myths.
- Juno (Roman): She is also called Juno Luna and blesses women with the privilege of menstruation. The month of June was named for her, and because Juno was the patroness of marriage, her month remains an ever-popular time for weddings and handfasting.
- Lugh (Celtic): Similar to the Roman god Mercury, Lugh was known as a god of both skill and the distribution of talent. He is sometimes associated with midsummer because of his role as a harvest god, and during the summer solstice the crops are flourishing, waiting to be plucked from the ground at Lughnasadh.
- Sulis Minerva (Celtic, Roman): When the Romans occupied the British Isles, they took the aspects of the Celtic sun goddess, Sulis, and blended her with their own goddess of wisdom, Minerva. The resulting combination was Sulis Minerva, who watched over the hot springs and sacred waters in the town of Bath.
- Sunna or Sol (Germanic): Little is known about this Norse goddess of the sun, but she appears in the poetic eddas as the sister of the moon god.
Setting Up Your Litha Altar
It’s Litha, and that means the sun is at its highest point in the sky. Midsummer is the time when we can celebrate the growing of crops, and take heart in knowing that the seeds we planted in the spring are now in full bloom. It’s a time of celebrating the sun, and spending as much time as you can outdoors. Try to set up your Midsummer altar outside if at all possible. If you can’t, that’s okay — but try to find a spot near a window where the sun will shine in and brighten your altar setup with its rays.
Colors of the Season
This sabbat is all about the sun celebration, so think of solar colors. Yellows, oranges, fiery reds and golds are all appropriate this time of year. Use candles in bright sunny colors, or cover your altar with cloths that represent the solar aspect of the season.
Litha is when the sun is at its highest point above us. In some traditions, the sun rolls across the sky like a great wheel – consider using pinwheels or some other disc to represent the sun.
Circles and discs are the most basic sun symbol of all, and are seen as far back as the tombs of ancient Egypt. Use equal-armed crosses, such as the Brighid’s Cross, or even the swastika – remember, it was originally a good luck symbol to both the Hindus and Scandinavians before it became associated with the Nazis.
A Time of Light and Dark
The solstice is also a time seen as a battle between light and dark. Although the sun is strong now, in just six months the days will be short again. Much like the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King, light and dark must battle for supremacy. At this sabbat, darkness wins, and the days will begin to grow shorter once more. Decorate your altar with symbols of the triumph of darkness over light – and that includes using other opposites, such as fire and water, night and day, etc.
Other Symbols of Litha
- Midsummer flowers, fruits and vegetables from your garden
- Gods Eyes in sunny colors
- Sunflowers, roses
- Oak trees and acorns
- Sandalwood, saffron, frankincense, laurel
Midsummer Night’s Fire Ritual
The Summer Solstice, known to some as Litha, Midsummer, or Alban Heruin, is the longest day of the year. It’s the time when the sun is most powerful, and new life has begun to grow within the earth. After today, the nights will once more begin to grow longer, and the sun will move further away in the sky.
If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, consecrate a space, or call the quarters, now is the time to do so. This ritual is a great one to perform outside, so if you have the opportunity to do this without scaring the neighbors, take advantage of it.
Begin this ritual by preparing the wood for a fire, without lighting it yet. While the ideal situation would have you setting a huge bonfire alight, realistically not everyone can do that. If you’re limited, use a table top brazier or fire-safe pot, and light your fire there instead.
Say either to yourself or out loud:
Today, to celebrate Midsummer, I honor the Earth itself. I am surrounded by tall trees. There is a clear sky above me and cool dirt beneath me, and I am connected to all three. I light this fire as the Ancients did so long ago.
At this point, start your fire. Say:
The Wheel of the Year has turned once more
The light has grown for six long months
Today is Litha, called Alban Heruin by my ancestors.
A time for celebration.
Tomorrow the light will begin to fade
As the Wheel of the Year
Turns on and ever on.
Turn to the East, and say:
From the east comes the wind,
Cool and clear.
It brings new seeds to the garden
Bees to the pollen
And birds to the trees.
Turn to Face South, and say:
The sun rises high in the summer sky
And lights our way even into the night
Today the sun casts three rays
The light of fire upon the land, the sea, and the heavens
Turn to face West, saying:
From the west, the mist rolls in
Bringing rain and fog
The life-giving water without which
We would cease to be.
Finally, turn to the North, and say:
Beneath my feet is the Earth,
Soil dark and fertile
The womb in which life begins
And will later die, then return anew.
Build up the fire even more, so that you have a good strong blaze going.
If you wish to make an offering to the gods, now is the time to do it. For this sample, we’re including the use of a triple goddess in the invocation, but this is where you should substitute the names of the deities of your personal tradition.
Alban Heruin is a time of rededication
To the gods. The triple goddess watches over me.
She is known by many names.
She is the Morrighan, Brighid, and Cerridwen.
She is the washer at the ford,
She is the guardian of the hearth,
She is the one who stirs the cauldron of inspiration.
I give honor to You, O mighty ones,
By all your names, known and unknown.
Bless me with Your wisdom
And give life and abundance to me
As the sun gives life and abundance to the Earth.
I make this offering to you
To show my allegiance
To show my honor
To show my dedication
Cast your offering into fire. Conclude the ritual by saying:
Today, at Litha, I celebrate the life
And love of the gods
And of the Earth and Sun.
Take a few moments to reflect upon what you have offered, and what the gifts of the gods mean to you. When you are ready, if you have cast a circle, dismantle it or dismiss the quarters at this time. Allow your fire to go out on its own.
Sun Ritual for Midsummer
Midsummer is the time of the summer solstice, the Litha sabbat, and it’s the longest day of the year. Falling around June 21 in the northern hemisphere, and around December 21 below the equator, this is a time to celebrate the warmth and power of the sun. It’s a great time of year to get outside, enjoy the extra hours of daylight, and celebrate the season with family and friends. You can do this ritual as a group or adapt it to perform as a solitary practitioner.
You’ll need the following items:
- A larger candle to represent the sun
- An individual candle for each participant to hold
Also, be sure to decorate your altar with symbols of the season – solar symbols, fresh flowers, in-season summer produce and crops that you’ve harvested. You should do this ritual outside if at all possible, so you can take advantage of the sun’s light and energy.
If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, go ahead and do that first.
Take a moment to ground and center, and get yourself focused. Bask in the rays of the sun, feeling its warmth on your face, and welcoming its power into you.
The person who is leading the ritual – for ease of purpose, we’ll call that person the HPs – should stand at the altar.
HPs: We are here today to celebrate the power and energy of the sun. The sun is the source of warmth and light around the world. Today, at Litha, the summer solstice, we mark the longest day of the year. From Yule until this day, the sun has been moving ever closer to the earth. Flowers are blooming, crops are growing, and life has returned once more. Today we honor the gods and goddesses of the sun.
The HPs lights the sun candle on the altar.
HPs: The sun is the ultimate source of fire and light. Like all sources of light, the sun shines brightly and spreads around the world. Even as it gives its light and power to each of us, it is never diminished by the sharing of that energy. The sun passes over us each day, in the never-ending circle of light. Today, we share that light with each other, passing it around the circle, forming a ring of light.
Using the sun candle, the HPs lights her own candle, and turns to the next person in the circle. As she lights the next person’s candle, she says: May you be warmed and rejuvenated by the light of the sun.
The second person turns to the third, lighting their candle, and passing along the blessing. Continue until the last candle in the circle has been lit, returning back to the HPs.
Remember, this is a joyous celebration – feel free to include dancing, clapping, music or even a drum circle as you enjoy the power of the sun!
As each person in the group holds their lit candle, the HPs calls upon the gods and goddesses of the sun. Feel free to add or substitute different solar deities as your tradition or needs require.
HPs: Gods who bring us light, we honor you!
Hail, Ra, whose mighty chariot brings us light each morning!
Hail, Apollo, who brings us the healing energies of the sun!
Hail, Saule, whose fertility blooms as the sun gains in strength!
Hail, Helios, whose great steeds race the flames across the sky!
Hail, Hestia, whose sacred flame lights our way in the darkness!
Hail, Sunna, who is sister of the moon, and bringer of light!
We call upon you today, thanking you for your blessings, accepting your gifts. We draw upon your strength, your energy, your healing light, and your life giving power!
Hail to you, mighty gods and goddesses of the sun!
Each member of the group should now place their candles on the altar, surrounding the sun candle.
HPS: The sun radiates out, never dying, never fading. The light and warmth of today will stay with us, even as the days begin to grow shorter, and the nights grow cold once more. Hail, gods of the sun!
Invite everyone to take in the warmth of the sun once more, and when you are done, end the ritual as you normally would.
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2016 June 20
Explanation: Today the Sun reaches its northernmost point in planet Earth’s sky. Called a solstice, the date traditionally marks a change of seasons — from spring to summer in Earth’s Northern Hemisphere and from fall to winter in Earth’sSouthern Hemisphere. The featured image was taken during the week of the 2008 summer solstice at Stonehenge in United Kingdom, and captures a picturesque sunrise involving fog, trees, clouds, stones placed about 4,500 years ago, and a 4.5 billion year old large glowing orb. Even given the precession of the Earth’s rotational axis over the millennia, the Sun continues to rise over Stonehenge in an astronomically significant way.
Things to notice at the June solstice
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.
Article originally published on EarthSky