The Tradition of Midsummer
Tonight marks the eve before the Summer Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere. During this time, magic and wonder abound.
It marks one of the eight sabbats for witches—Litha. The name "Litha" derives from the Old English phrase for June, meaning "before Midsummer."
On this longest day of the year, light and life are abundant. At mid-summer, the Sun God has reached the moment of his greatest strength. Seated on his greenwood throne, he is also lord of the forests, and his face is seen in church architecture peering from countless foliate masks.
(Image from Astral Aspects www.astralaspects.biz/ishop/7...83.html)
The Christian religion observed this day as Jack-in-the-Green to the Feast of St. John the Baptist, often portraying him in rustic attire, sometimes with horns and cloven feet.
As a solar festival, bonfires would be lit at Midsummer Eve. People would jump the fire, and later spread the ashes on the fields as a blessing, as well as fertilization. In Celtic celebrations, wheels (symbolizing the Sun) were lit and rolled down hills.
This is a good time to give offerings to your allies and to faeries or energy beings who may help you, or who share your environment. This promotes goodwill, and increases the harmony of your home. As an offering, food is usually appreciated. Traditionally, milk and bread would be offered.
A Moment of Change
Midsummer is a time of change.
There is a story in pagan lore of the Oak King, God of the Waxing Year, and the Holly King, God of the Waning Year. The Oak King represents the dark half of the year, and his twin, the Holly King, the light. The Summer Solstice (Litha) marks the battle that declares the Holly King the victor, and the light half of the year begins. Then the second battle of the year will happen on the Winter Solstice (Yule), when the Oak King will win, and the dark half of the year will begin. The brother kings, while at odds with one another, form two halves of a whole.
(photo reference: The Oak King & The Holly King, Anne Stokes)
With this battle, midsummer is also a moment to realize mortality. Though the life force of summer is still powerful, we can see the end zone—the limits of growth and the inevitability of decline. This balance is necessary. Without it, the Sun's heat would continue to grow and tax all life. The balance is maintained even by death. Litha offers the opportunity to re-evaluate our perception of death. We often think of death as an ending. Yet, it is also the beginning of something wonderful to follow!
Summer Solstice heralds the best part of the year, although spiced with the bittersweet sorrow of the year that is, in fact, winding down.
I invite you to face this paradox, and celebrate the joyous cycle of life!
Here are a few ideas for your celebration:
- Go berry picking. Have the children chose their best berry and throw it back into the berry bushes as they thank the Goddess and the bushes for the fruit.
- Burn your remnants of your Yule Tree or Wreath in the bon fire or try using Wreaths of Vervain and Mugwort which were burned in ancient times at the end of the festivals to burn away bad luck.
- Leave out milk and honey as an offering to the Fae folk
- Have a mock battle between the Oak and Holly King.
- Hang a bundle of fresh herbs out to dry and use them to spice up a Litha feast of cooked summer vegetables
- Jump the balefire
- Have an outdoor breakfast picnic to welcome the Solstice
- Stay up and watch the sun go down on the longest day of the year!
- Draw a picture of the sun at sunrise and sunset
- Try a fire divination, stare into the coals of your bonfire as it settles or look for forms in the leaping flames.
- Create a ritual to bring healing and love to Mother Earth
- Dispose of those qualities that trouble you: project them into a burn-able (bunch of dry twigs, paper, etc.) and thrust the mass into a cleansing fire
And click on this image to visit the main page of the tea party to find more ways to celebrate!