Summer Solstice, Midsummer, Litha, Alban Hefin, Inti Raymi, Feast of the Sun, Celtic New Year, St. John’s Day

Litha Comments & Graphics
Summer Solstice, Midsummer, Litha, Alban Hefin, Inti Raymi, Feast of the Sun, Celtic New Year, St. John’s Day

Summer Solstice – Midsummer – Litha (Celtic/Wiccan) – Alban Hefin (Druidic) – Inti Raymi (Incan) – Feast of the Sun (Aztec) – Celtic New Year, according to some – St. John’s Day/Festival of Saint John the Baptist (Christian)

As the wheel turns again we find ourselves at Summer Solstice. Litha/Midsummer is one of the Lesser Wiccan Sabbats and is usually celebrated on December 21st, but varies somewhat from the 20th to the 23rd, dependent upon the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. The sun is at the height of it power before beginning its slide into darkness and we experience the longest day and shortest night of the year. It is important to note that the separation of the light and dark halves of the year have nothing to do with good and evil. Light signifies growth and expansion; dark means withdrawal and rest. Both are necessary.

While steamy Midsummer marks the beginning of the Sun’s dying strength the season itself is very lush, erotic and sexy. The Sun, flowers and Earth are in full bloom. Hot Midsummer creates a fiery, mature, breathless passion. The God is at the very height of his power as we hit midsummer, at this point of the year the crops are coming along nicely (literally and figuratively). We have done all of the planting associated with spring and life gets a little easier as we sit back and tend what we’ve created. It’s a time of great celebration before we meet the work ahead as the harvest comes in. We honor the God and Goddess whose union has blessed us with the fertility to create the projects we began way back at Imbolc. On Midsummer the veil between the worlds is said to be very thin making this a great time for divination, historically many maidens would divine a husband at this time. Midsummers Eve is said to be a time when fairies abound in great numbers this is a great time to commune with them and leave gifts of sweets outdoors. Litha celebrates abundance, fertility, virility, the beauty and bounty of Nature. Harnessing the Suns great power makes all types of magick appropriate now. We can also harvest the first of our magickal herbs at this time since they are drenched with the great power of the sun on this longest day of the year. It is a good time for empowerment, for strong magick and male rituals, for handfastings and communing with Nature Spirits, for workings of culmination. The journey into the harvest season has begun.

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Litha Legends and Lore


Litha Comments & Graphics

Litha Legends and Lore

Myths and Mysteries of the Midsummer Solstice

Litha, or Midsummer, is a celebration that has been observed for centuries, in one form or another. It is no surprise, then, that there are plenty of myths and legends associated with this time of year!

In England, rural villagers built a big bonfire on Midsummer’s Eve. This was called “setting the watch,” and it was known that the fire would keep evil spirits out of the town. Some farmers would light a fire on their land, and people would wander about, holding torches and lanterns, from one bonfire to another. If you jumped over a bonfire — presumably without lighting your pants on fire — you were guaranteed to have good luck for the coming year.

After your Litha fire has burned out and the ashes gone cold, use them to make a protective amulet. You can do this by carrying them in a small pouch, or kneading them into some soft clay and forming a talisman. In some traditions of Wicca, it is believed that the Midsummer ashes will protect you from misfortune. You can also sow the ashes from your bonfire into your garden, and your crops will be bountiful for the rest of the summer growing season.

It is believed in parts of England that if you stay up all night on Midsummer’s Eve, sitting in the middle of a stone circle, you will see the Fae. But be careful – carry a bit of rue in your pocket to keep them from harassing you, or turn your jacket inside out to confuse them. If you have to escape the Fae, follow a ley line, and it will lead you to safety.
Residents of some areas of Ireland say that if you have something you wish to happen, you “give it to the pebble.” Carry a stone in your hand as you circle the Litha bonfire, and whisper your request to the stone — “heal my mother” or “help me be more courageous”, for example. After your third turn around the fire, toss the stone into the flames.

Astrologically, the sun is entering Cancer, which is a water sign. Midsummer is not only a time of fire magic, but of water as well. Now is a good time to work magic involving sacred streams and holy wells. If you visit one, be sure to go just before sunrise on Litha, and approach the water from the east, with the rising sun. Circle the well or spring three times, walking deosil, and then make an offering of silver coins or pins.

Sun wheels were used to celebrate Midsummer in some early Pagan cultures. A wheel — or sometimes a really big ball of straw — was lit on fire and rolled down a hill into a river. The burned remnants were taken to the local temple and put on display. In Wales, it was believed that if the fire went out before the wheel hit the water, a good crop was guaranteed for the season.

In Egypt, the Midsummer season was associated with the flooding of the Nile River delta. In South America, paper boats are filled with flowers, and then set on fire. They are then sailed down the river, carrying prayers to the gods. In some traditions of modern Paganism, you can get rid of problems by writing them on a piece of paper and dropping them into a moving body of water on Litha.

William Shakespeare associated Midsummer with witchcraft in at least three of his plays. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and The Tempest all contain references to magic on the night of the summer solstice.

Source:
Author: Patti Wigington
Website: Article found on & owned by  About.com

About Litha: A Guide to the Symbolism of the Wiccan Sabbat


Litha Comments & Graphics

About Litha: A Guide to the Symbolism of the Wiccan Sabbat

a guide to the symbolism of the Wiccan Sabbat

by Arwynn MacFeylynnd

Date: December 20-23 (usually, the date of the calendar summer solstice).

Alternative names: Summer Solstice, Midsummer, Midsummer’s Eve, Alban Heruin, Alban Hefin, Gathering Day, Vestalia, La Festa dell’Estate (Summer Fest), the Day of the Green Man.

Primary meanings: This Sabbat celebrates the abundance and beauty of the Earth. From this day on, the days will wane, growing shorter and shorter until Yule. It is a time to absorb the Sun’s warming rays, and to celebrate the ending of the waxing year and beginning of the waning year in preparation for the harvest to come. Midsummer is another fertility Sabbat, not only for humans, but also for crops and animals. This is a time to celebrate work and leisure, to appreciate children and childlike play and to look internally at the seeds you’ve planted that should be at full bloom. Some people believe that at twilight on this day, the portals between worlds open and the faery folk pass into our world; welcome them on this day to receive their blessings.

Symbols: Fire, the Sun, blades, mistletoe, oak trees, balefires, Sun wheels, summertime flowers (especially sunflowers), summer fruits, seashells and faeries. If you made Sun wheels at Imbolc, display them now prominently, hanging from the ceiling or on trees in your yard. You may want to decorate them with yellow and gold ribbons and summer herbs.

Colors: White, red, maize yellow or golden yellow, green, blue and tan.

Gemstones: All green gemstones, especially emerald and jade, and also tiger’s eye, lapis lazuli and diamond.

Herbs: Chamomile, cinquefoil, copal, elder, fennel, fern, frankincense, galangal, heliotrope, hemp, larkspur, laurel, lavender, lemon, mistletoe, mugwort, oak, pine, roses, saffron, St. John’s wort, sandalwood, thyme, verbena, wisteria and ylang-ylang. Herbs gathered on this day are said to be extremely powerful.

Gods and goddesses: All father gods and mother goddesses, pregnant goddesses and Sun deities. Particular emphasis might be placed on the goddesses Aphrodite, Astarte, Freya, Hathor, Ishtar and Venus and other goddesses who preside over love, passion and beauty. Other Litha deities include the goddesses Athena, Artemis, Dana, Kali, Isis and Juno and the gods Apollo, Ares, Dagda, Gwydion, Helios, Llew, Oak/Holly King, Lugh, Ra, Sol, Zeus, Prometheus and Thor.

Customs and myths: One way to express the cycle of the Earth’s fertility that has persisted from early pagan to modern times is the myth of the Oak King and the Holly King, gods respectively of the Waxing and Waning Year. The Oak King rules from Midwinter to Midsummer, the period of fertility, expansion and growth, and the Holly King reigns from Midsummer to Midwinter, the period of harvest, withdrawal and wisdom. They are light and dark twins, each being the other’s alternate self, thus being one. Each represents a necessary phase in the natural rhythm; therefore, both are good. At the two changeover points, they symbolically meet in combat. The incoming twin — the Oak King at Midwinter, the Holly King at Midsummer — “slays” the outgoing one. But the defeated twin is not considered dead — he has merely withdrawn during the six months of his brother’s rule.

On Midsummer Night, it is said that field and forest elves, sprites and faeries abound in great numbers, making this a great time to commune with them. Litha is considered a time of great magickal power, one of the best times to perform magicks of all kinds. Especially effective magick and spells now include those for love, healing and prosperity. Wreaths can be made for your door with yellow feathers for prosperity and red feathers for sexuality, intertwined and tied together with ivy. This is also a very good time to perform blessings and protection spells for pets or other animals.

Nurturing and love are key actions related to Midsummer. Litha is a good time to perform a ceremony of self-dedication or rededication to your spiritual path as a part of your Sabbat celebration. Ritual actions for Litha include placing a flower-ringed cauldron upon your altar, gathering and drying herbs, plunging the sword (or athamé) into the cauldron and leaping the balefire (bonfire) for purification and renewed energy. Considered taboo on this holiday are giving away fire, sleeping away from home and neglecting animals.

The History Of Litha

The History Of Litha

 

The celebration of Midsummer’s Eve (St. John’s Eve among Christians) was from ancient times a festival of the summer solstice. Some people believed that golden-flowered mid-summer plants, especially Calendula, and St. John’s Wort, had miraculous healing powers and they therefore picked them on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again. In later years, witches were also thought to be on their way to meetings with other powerful beings.

In Sweden, Mid-summer celebration originates from the time before Christianity; it was celebrated as a sacrifice time in the sign of the fertility.

The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times. The concentration of the observance is not on the day as we reckon it, commencing at midnight or at dawn, as it is customary for cultures following lunar calendars to place the beginning of the day on the previous eve at dusk at the moment when the Sun has set. In Sweden, Finland and Estonia, Midsummer’s Eve is the greatest festival of the year, comparable only with Walpurgis Night, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.

In the 7th century, Saint Eligius (died 659/60) warned the recently converted inhabitants of Flanders against the age-old pagan solstice celebrations. According to the Vita by his companion Ouen, he’d say: “No Christian on the feast of Saint John or the solemnity of any other saint performs solestitia [summer solstice rites] or dancing or leaping or diabolical chants.”

As Christianity entered pagan areas, MidSummer celebrations came to be often borrowed and transferred into new Christian holidays, often resulting in celebrations that mixed Christian traditions with traditions derived from pagan Midsummer festivities. The 13th-century monk of Winchcomb, Gloucestershire, who compiled a book of sermons for the feast days, recorded how St. John’s Eve was celebrated in his time:

Let us speak of the revels which are accustomed to be made on St. John’s Eve, of which there are three kinds. On St. John’s Eve in certain regions the boys collect bones and certain other rubbish, and burn them, and therefrom a smoke is produced on the air. They also make brands and go about the fields with the brands. Thirdly, the wheel which they roll.

The fires, explained the monk of Winchcombe, were to drive away dragons, which were abroad on St. John’s Eve, poisoning springs and wells. The wheel that was rolled downhill he gave its explicitly solstitial explanation:

The wheel is rolled to signify that the sun then rises to the highest point of its circle and at once turns back; thence it comes that the wheel is rolled.

On St John’s Day 1333 Petrarch watched women at Cologne rinsing their hands and arms in the Rhine “so that the threatening calamities of the coming year might be washed away by bathing in the river.”

Midsummer – Summer Solstice


Litha Comments & Graphics

Midsummer
Summer Solstice
December 20 – 23

Midsummer or Litha, is a celebration of light. This is a solar/ fire festival that marks the astrological day of the summer solstice, which occurs on or around June 21, when the sun enters the sign of Cancer, the crab. Cancer is the only astrological sign that is associated with the moon. If you combine that lunar influence with the ultimate strength of the sun, you have quite the magickal wallop.

The day of the summer solstice has the longest daylight hours and the shortest nighttime hours of the year. As the sun reaches its highest position in the sky, we are at the climax of the sun’s power. This is the greatest day of the sun’s magick, even though it is bittersweet— for as soon as the day after the summer solstice, the sun’s power gradually begins to decline, with nighttime hours slowly and inexorably increasing. After today, we are in the dark half of the Wheel of the Year, which may seem confusing, but truly the daylight hours are decreasing now, and the sun will start to reach its zenith at a lower point in the sky from now until December and the winter solstice.

The sabbat of Midsummer is a potent and magickal date. This is a great time for fire magick, bonfires, garden witchery, herbal and green magicks, and the best night of the year to commune with the elemental kingdom and the faeries.

This is a time of celebration in nature: everything is green and growing. Nature is celebrating her achievement!

Fire festivals and fireworks are complementary; it all goes with that theme of fire magick for summer. At this time of year, your spellworking themes may include asking for the blessing and assistance of the faeries or working green magick with the garden. Prosperity, health, and abundance spells are appropriate at this point in time as well, since the light is at its peak and all of nature is at its most lush, vibrant, and green.

If you like to work with the more traditional fire theme of this sabbat, consider building a small ritual fire in your outdoor fire pit or chiminea. Bonfires on Midsummer have been lit by people from all over the world, from many magickal customs, for centuries. The bonfires were classically lit at sundown on Midsummer’s Eve. So set up your fire and get ready to go! If you like, you can toss a few herbs or oak leaves into the flames as an offering to the Old Gods.

If you are unable to safely have an outdoor fire, then light several bright yellow candles and group them together inside of a cauldron, and enjoy the effect that several flickering flames make inside of that cauldron. Another idea that I started with my coven years ago was to pass out sparklers; after our rituals are complete, we light up the sparklers and dance around the gardens with the lightning bugs. When the sparklers are finished, we drop them into a bucket of water. Celebrate the summer solstice and put your own personal spin on things!

Source

Seasons of Witchery: Celebrating the Sabbats with the Garden Witch
Ellen Dugan