Litha, another way of saying the Summer Solstice, comes on the longest day of the year and is at the opposite side of the year from Yule, the Winter Solstice. This Solar Festival marks the day when the Sun God is at the height of power. It is a time of merriment and magic as noted in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
Celebrated around the world
The time of the Summer Solstice has had significance to people from all over the world for over a thousand years.
It has had many names over the centuries: Alban Heflin, Alben Heruin, All-couples day, Feast of Epona, Feast of St. John the Baptist, Feill-Sheathain, Gathering Day, Johannistag, Litha, Midsummer, Sonnwend, Thing-Tide, Vestalia.
The ancient Celts would build bonfires to add to the power of the sun, hoping they could help it to remain strong and bright until all of their crops were grown and harvested.
Pagans view the Summer Solstice as the day that the Goddess is at the height of Her power. She is obviously pregnant with the God, having been impregnated by Him at Beltane, and like human mothers it is around this time that the quickening, the first movements of a developing baby, is felt. This is the God She will give birth to once more at Yule, the Winter Solstice.
June weddings and honey moons
Summer for ancient peoples was a time of celebration. The snow was gone, the crops were growing in the fields. Animals were out to pasture and thriving. Honey was being harvested from beehives. The month of June was a time that people could relax a bit before the first harvest at Lughnasad.
It was believed by these ancient people that the God and Goddess celebrated their Great Union, their marriage, at Beltaine at the beginning of May. It was thought that it would be bad luck to hold a wedding in May because the bride and groom would be competing with the Gods for attention.
So, weddings by tradition were held in June, and June remains a popular month for weddings today. The bride and groom would be given things to eat and drink made of honey to encourage love and fertility over the first month of the marriage. Hence, the honeymoon.
A solstice ritual
Create a ritual circle in the usual manner. Assign coven members to represent the 4 cardinal directions of North, South, East and West
Have a gold taper or votive candle. I place this inside a small black cauldron, but any vessel which can safely contain a burning candle will work.
Decorate the altar with summer flowers. Use candles of gold or bright yellow
HP = High Priest/ HPS = High Priestess (modify as needed for your own group)
Why have we gathered here this day?
We celebrate the Mid-of-Summer, held in honour of the blazing Sun God.
All of nature vibrates with the fertileness of the Goddess and of the God.
The Earth basks in the light and life of the Sun.
The ever turning Wheel of the Year has made the light ever stronger
And the light has kept growing longer, until today,
The middle of the time of light, Litha, Midsummer’s Day, Summer Solstice.
From here, the light begins to fade, again,
Until once more the Wheel turns to the time of darkness, Yule, Winter Solstice.
Yet, for today, the Sun is high, the light is bright, the Earth is warm.
As the Sun God blazes above, may the fires of our rite flame below.
(HP lights the cauldron candle)
West: It is the longest day.
North: It is the shortest night.
East: It is Midsummer.
North: It is the time of light.
East: It is the derth of dark.
West: It is midsummer.
East: It is the reign of summer.
West: It is the poverty of winter.
North: It is midsummer.
South: It is Midsummer, and the Lord of Flames takes his height.
West: The heat comes on, baking all in its path, as the Earth rises to great the Summer Lord. His light illuminates the sky, and night becomes day.
East: Between us, we hold the earth and sky.
North: Within us, we hold the dark and light.
West: Among us, we hold the Lady and her children.
All: And the fire grows between us.
All: And the fire glows within us.
East: The Wand
West: The Cauldron
North: The Stone
All: And the sword of fire around us.
East: Fire in the air as lightning…
North: Rears to strike the ground…
West: Soaked with the summer rain…
All: We bid welcome to the Fire, the Lord of Summer.
South: The Lord of Summer takes arms and strides across the sky, bearing with him his shield of the Sun and the Sword of Fire. On this longest day, none challenge him and he reigns for one day supreme, unchallenged.
HP raises cauldron with candle up high. He walks around circle deosil carrying the cauldron with the burning flame inside.
HPS: The Sun is often used for creating spells of protection. So, on this day, as the Sun rises at the height of his power, we will make small amulets of protection for the coming year.
Making a protection amulet:
- White cotton squares of cloth
- Cotton thread for tying
- Sprigs of rue
- Sprigs of rosemary
- Star anise
- Bay leaves
- Fennel seeds
Properties of each – it may be useful to list the magical properties of each herb/spice to refer to when creating a protection amulet.
Each person chooses 3 or 4 of the herbs to tie up in a pouch.
Once made, place on the altar to charge until the end of the ritual. These can be worn, hung in doorways/windows, or carried in pockets or purses. Feel free to add small stones, use other herbs, or incorporate essential oils into your amulet.
To recharge the amulet, place it in direct sunlight for a few hours.
After creating the amulets, follow on with feasting and socialising.
Close the ritual circle in your usual manner.
Foods for a summer solstice celebration
Some foods for this festival include fresh fruits and vegetables, and anything barbequed, but especially chicken or pork (barbecues can represent the bonfires burnt long ago), sweet wines, and herbal/fruit teas. Midsummer is also the time for making mead to be drunk in the following year, since honey is now plentiful. Mead is considered to have magical and life-restoring properties.
- 1 gallon water
- 2 oranges, sliced
- 1/2 package champagne yeast
- 5 pounds dark honey
- 1 lemon, sliced
Place the honey, water, and fruit in a 2-gallon pot over medium head. Bring the mead to a rolling boil, skimming of any scum which rises to the top over the next hour. Cool to lukewarm, strain out the fruit, and add the yeast (dissolved in 1/4 cup water). Allow this mixture to set, covered with a towel for 7 days, until the fermentation has slowed considerably. Strain again, pouring off only the clearer top fluids into bottles to age. These bottles should be lightly corked for about 2 months, then tightly sealed for at least 6 months before drinking.
How will you be celebrating the Summer Solstice this year?
*Note: I used this ritual in 2001. It pulled together from a variety of resources found across books and the internet. If you created part of this ritual originally, please let me know so that I can properly give thanks and credit it here.