Enter: The Summer Sostice

Litha: Celebrating the summer solstice and the birth of the Holly King

On June 22, 2013, Pagans and Wiccans across the nation will be celebrating Litha, or midsummmer.   Litha is a sabbat that celebrates the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and the birth of the Holly King (Lord aspect of Deity).   From this day forth, the days will grow shorter, but on Litha, bonfires blaze in the summer night, and stories are told around the fire.  This is a time for celebrating fathers (just as last month, Beltane celebrates the Mother!)     It is also a time for blessings and offerings to ensure a good crop and a good harvest.

Here in this article we’ll give you some background on Litha, recipes you can make, as well as fun projects so you can celebrate the day in your own way.

 Legend and Lore

Litha has been observed for centuries; in England, peasants built large bonfires on Midsummer’s Eve in the belief that the fire would keep evil spirits out of their villages and towns.   It was and is also believed that if you sit up all night in a stone circle, you could be blessed with a sighting of the Faerys.  In Egypt, Midsummer was associated with the annual 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 DreamMacbeth, and The Tempest all contain references to magic on the night of the summer solstice.

According to NetPlaces.com, “mythologically, midsummer represented the birth of the sun’s shadow side. Although the days grow shorter, the sun from this point forward increases in destructiveness. The scorching heat of the late summer season was often feared, as it could wither fruit, scorch grain, and dry up rivers and wells.”

Christianity and Litha

In Christian myths, this was the time of year that dragons emerged to lay waste to the countryside until they were defeated by dragon-slaying saints.  Netplaces.com notes that the Catholic Church replaces the pagan god with the celebration of the birth of John the Baptist on this day:

At midsummer, the Church observed the feast day of St. John the Baptist. The Feast of John has a very unusual placement in the liturgical calendar. Catholic tradition invariably places the feast days of saints on their death or martyrdom, the day they entered the “Kingdom of Heaven.” The Feast of the Baptist, however, is celebrated on his (presumed) nativity. Because biblical narratives place John’s birth six months before that of Jesus, the nativity of John is placed at the summer solstice, drawing a curious connection between the figures of Christ and John to the traditional seasonal battle of the Celtic gods.

The birth narratives of Jesus and John now coincided with the birth of the spring sun and the autumn sun. John was easily associated with local mythology, and the midsummer fires were now celebrated in his honor. As the days grew shorter, they represented John’s biblical exhortation about Jesus as the Messiah: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The decline of John precedes the birth of the true sun at midwinter. Due to scriptural descriptions of John as a wild hermit, John was also heavily associated with the gods of the woodlands.

We recommend: Morningstar Pagan for those interested in the Goddess aspects, which does not discount the relationship and focus of the God/Father.

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