Date: Summer Solstice, when the sun is zero-degrees Cancer, typically June 20-22. The alternative fixed calendar date is June 25, known as Old Litha. In the southern hemisphere, Midsummer is in December.
Etymology: Litha is a modern name for this holiday, possibly based on a Saxon word; Aerra Litha being Saxon for “before Litha”, or June and Aeftera Litha being Saxon for “after Litha”, Litha being the month of July. Its modern use was started by Wiccans but has been adopted by some other Pagan groups as well.
Place in the Natural Cycle: The Summer Solstice occurs when the sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer, and we experience the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The Sun is now at the highest point before beginning its slide into darkness, the peak before the change from waxing to waning year. This is the height of the growing season and the beginning of the warmest time of the year.
Mythology & Folklore: Full Summer, the high fertility of the land, and the growing season. The peak of the year and the Sun. Midsummer is one of the festivals that mark a thinning of the Veil between worlds. Midsummer night has become known as a time when the fae (fairies) are most likely to be abroad. People believed that at midsummer plants had miraculous and healing powers and they therefore picked them on this night.
Celtic Tree Month: Oak (Duir)
Coligny Month: Equos
Planetary Ruler: Moon, Mercury
Zodiac: 0-1 degrees Cancer, beginning of Cancer (June 22-July 23), end of Gemini (May 22-June21)
Moon: Honey, Mead, Flower
Element: Fire, Water
Threshold/Time of Day: Noon
Symbols: Balefire, blades, cauldron, fire, mistletoe, oak & holly trees, spears, stone circles, the Sun, sun wheels, St. John’s Wort, water/wells, witches’ ladder
Colors: Gold, blue, green, tan, white, yellow
Crystals/Stones: Yellow stones and solar stones are best for Litha. Agate, amber, alexandrite, cat’s eye, citrine, clear quartz crystal, copper, carnelian, diamond, emerald, fluorite, garnet, jade, lapis lazuli, moonstone, pearl, peridot, ruby, sulphur, tiger’s eye, topaz, yellow topaz
Herbs: Anise, basil, chamomile, chervil, chickweed, chicory, chive, cinquefoil, copal, dragon’s blood, fennel, fern, frankincense, galangal, heather, heartsease, hemp, heliotrope, houseleek, larkspur, meadowsweet, mint, mugwort, nettle, parsley, rosemary, rue, saffron, sage, sandalwood, St. John’s wort, tarragon, thyme, vervain (verbena), wisteria, witches’ broom, yarrow, ylang-ylang
Trees: Apple, cedar, elder, fir, hawthorne, heather, holly, ivy, lemon, laurel, mistletoe, maple, oak, pine, peach, palm, rowan
Flowers: Carnation, daisy, elder blossoms, honeysuckle, iris, larkspur, lavender, lily, marigolds, nasturtiums, oak blossoms, orchid, peony, rose, saffron, sunflowers, violet
Incense: Spicy solar scents. Carnation, cinnamon, cedar, copal, dragon’s blood, frankincense, heliotrope, lavender, lily, lemon, myrrh, orange/tangerine, pine, rose, rosemary, saffron, sage, sandalwood, vervain (verbena), violet, wisteria
Oils: Carnation, citronella, frankincense, geranium, heliotrope, lavender, lime, lily of the valley, lemon, mint, musk, myrrh, orange/ tangerine, rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang
Animals: Robin and the wren. Butterfly, cardinal, caterpillar, cattle, dove, frog, horses, lizard, magpie, parrot, peacock, toad
Astral/Mythological Beings: Dragons, faeries, firebirds, manticores, satyrs, sylphs, thunderbirds
Musical Instruments: All percussion instruments
Household Decorations: Summer flowers, feather/flower door wreaths, sun wheels and other solar symbols, garlands of St. John’s Wort placed over doors/ windows & a sprig in the car for protection
Traditional Foods: Fresh vegetables of all kinds and fresh fruits such as lemons and oranges, summer squash. Hot and spicy foods, corn, dark breads, tomato and red vegetable juices. Honey and pumpernickel bread, and any yellow or orange colored foods. Honey cakes, rose ice cream, melted cheese dishes, mangoes, whipped cream on fruit, strawberries. Flaming foods are also appropriate.
Traditional Drinks: Fruit drinks and juices, carrot drinks, ale, red wine, and mead. Lemon, nettle, orange, anise teas.
v Gathering and drying herbs.
v Cutting divining rods, dowsing rods & wands
v Gathering mistletoe
v Hang a bundle of fresh herbs out to dry and use them to spice up a Litha feast of cooked summer vegetables
v Make staffs, make dream pillows, make herb craft items like wreaths, make a witches’ ladder
v All night vigil, to ensure the return of the now waning Sun
v Draw a picture of the sun at sunrise and sunset
v Make a charm with a seashell to hang around your neck
v Make your own Stonehenge like you would a sand castle (at the beach), or a mini one with stones
v Processions through sacred groves, gardens, forest etc…
v Walking naked through ones garden and yard to bless them with fertility
v Riding a besom through the fields to bless them for the coming harvest
v Create a ritual to bring healing and love to Mother Earth
v Lighting bonfires, hearth fires etc
v Jumping the balefire
v Make a Wicker Man to burn in your Litha balefire
v Leave out milk and honey as an offering to the Fae folk
v Enjoying the seasonal fruits & vegetables
v Picnics, enjoying Earth’s bounty outdoors
v Rolling a flaming wheel downhill as a solar symbol
v The celebration of handfastings and weddings
v Dressing up and wearing your best
v Clan gatherings
v Collecting sacred water for rituals
v Swimming in local rivers, lakes etc…
Symbolism: Honoring of Sun its peak of power. Saying farewell to the waxing year, welcoming the waning year. The celebration of Summer, light, warmth and the growing season. This is a holiday of transition. A celebration of the Summer season, farewell to the waxing year and greetings to the waning. It is a time for rejoicing, but also of introspection, making sure plans are still on track and correcting negative aspects of one’s life. Weddings, marriage proposals and baby blessings are lucky now, as are rituals of unity among families and communities. This is a time to bless crops and herds, and honor the fertility of the land. Songs are sung, poems are read, libations, and toasts fill the air.
Magickal Studies: Now is a time of strong magical power, fire scrying, mirror divination using sun or fire. Midsummer Night’s Eve is supposed to be a good time to commune with field and forest sprites and faeries. Herb and tree lore studies are always appropriate in the warm seasons. Try a fire divination, stare into the coals of your bonfire as it settles or look for forms in the leaping flames.
Spellwork: Healings, protection, and love magick are especially suitable at this time. Pet blessings and honouring household guardians; focus on love, marriage and divination. This is an ideal time to reaffirm your vows to the Lord and Lady or your dedication to following the Wiccan path. Nature spirit/fey communion, planet healing, luck, transformation, community, career, and relationships, and all spellwork for the health and fertility of the Earth are appropriate.
Meditations: All meditations of the Sun, the warmth and fertility of the Earth. Meditations on the re-birth of the Dark God and His influences on the world and yourself. Looking at the year so far and the rest to come, a review of Yule’s resolutions. Meditations on green allies and the plant life around your home are good for the height of the growing season.
Altar/Circle Furnishings: Cauldron, drums and rattles, fruits, fresh early garden produce, green branches, lantern, seashells, summer flowers, solar symbols
Balefire: Oak, holly, mistletoe, mugwort, vervain
Cauldron: Water, yellow an orange flowers.
Personal Adornments: Garlands of flowers, solar symbols, seashells, oak and holly sprigs
v Carrying lit lantern in procession and/or around Circle.
v Sprinkling and anointing from the water in cauldron, symbolizing the Goddess’ fertility and life giving waters
v A ritual lighting of the balefire, carrying that fire to relight home fires
v Lighting fires, candles and lanterns
v Honoring the Earth’s fullness, fertility, richness and abundance
v Mentally pouring ones sorrows, troubles and such into an herbal pouch to be burned
v Giving offerings to the Gods, faery and ancestors
v Jumping Balefire or cauldron
v Burning a wicker man
v Using mirror to capture the sun
v Pass St. John’s Wort through the smoke of the balefire and then hang the herb up in the house for protection.
v Purification rituals of all kinds are acceptable
v Self-dedication and re-dedications