The day is long and the night is short. Sorry vampires, you wont get much time for lunch…
By Rebecca Bell
More commonly referred to as the summer solstice or Midsummer, Litha honours the longest day of the year. Traditionally, Litha celebrates the power of the sun, and warding off darkness. The Sun full and burning bright brings the greatest level of magic to the world on this day, so if you have any spells that need a bit more oomph, today’s the day! But what makes Litha the summer solstice so special?
Litha Traditions and Festivities
Litha falls between the 19th and 23rd of June, and is the fifth celebration on the neo-pagan calendar: the Wheel Of The Year. It marks the longest day and shortest night of the year, and it is traditional to see the full day through from dawn to dusk, and take in the powerful magic of the summer solstice. It is said that the Goddess is now full with child, and the Sun God is at the hight of his vitality, since they consummated at Beltane.
With this fullness of a growing god the air is ripe with magic, and the veil between the world of spirits and humans is thin. Due to this thinning of the veil it is commonplace in Celtic and Neo-Pagan celebrations to wear wards against evil spirits in the form of garlands of flowers and herbs, especially St. John’s Wort with its protective powers. So, keys, wallet, phone, herb and flower garland against evil… Check!
Sunwheels and bonfires are also found in celebration of this day, to enrich the sun’s power and guarantee a good harvest in the coming fall. Sunwheels are made from straw and shaped into a ball or wheel; they are then lit and rolled down a hill into a river. It is said that if the fire goes out before hitting the water, then there will be a good harvest. This is an easy thing to make at home and light in offering to the sun. If you’re a bit wary of starting a fire (especially during wildfire season!), you could sprinkle some bonfire ashes onto your soil, for a healthy garden or allotment.
Tree worship is a large part of this midsummer festival, deriving from the original druid Ogham calendar where a tree is assigned to each month. Traditionally, trees next to wells and fountains would be decorated in coloured cloths, not dissimilar to the hanging of charms at Ostara. During Midsummer it is believed that the strong Oak King who has ruled the waxing year loses against the Holly King who will rule over the waning year, thus symbolising the change from lengthening days to shortening. The Oak is the day and the Holly the night. This tremendous battle occurs once again at Yule where the Oak King regains his throne. Clearly these two have a serious disagreement that would rival the Game of Thrones!
Midsummer Henge Magic
Here in the UK, Stonehenge is a site of pilgrimage for many practicing druids, witches and neo-pagans. The solstices are the only time of year when Stonehenge is fully open to the public, so that some individuals are allowed to walk amongst the stones. These are usually the druids officiating the festivities, as among the stones they can draw on the concentrated magic of this Neolithic site. The celebrations last from dawn til dusk, so that participants can watch the sun rise and fall amongst the stones, just as their ancestors did. You can find a host of knowledge about Stonehenge here.
We know that not all of us are able to reach Stonehenge or other stone circles around the world, so we have come up with a little spell to bring some of that magic to your garden or windowsill. All you will need are some stones, pebbles or crystals.
First, find the direction the sun rises and place two stones to represent the stone gateway to the rising sun. Then, find where the sun sets and place two stones to mark the gateway of the setting sun. Around that place your stones so a circle is formed. Now place the tarot deck that you feel could benefit from some charging in the centre. Leave the deck here to absorb the sun’s glorious rays and all the heightened magic from the summer solstice.
As we mentioned earlier in the blog, at Litha the veil between the worlds is thin, and evil spirits are out and about! To protect yourself and your house consider creating some flower garlands and charms. A great way to make a quick floral headband is to find some daisies and make a looped daisy chain. You could even plait some wool or string and tie it in a hoop to make it stronger. Into this hoop you can thread it with daisies and herbs from your garden. Using this plaiting method you can create cords threaded with herbs and flowers to hang from your windows and doors.
You’ll find some good pointers and knowledge including the early druidic Ogham calendar, and the importance of plants in folklore in Fez Inkwright’s Folk Magic & Healing, as well as the darker history of plants in folklore in Botanical Curses and Poisons. We highly recommend you read these if you enjoy folklore and our Wheel Of The Year blogs! But however you celebrate the summer solstice we hope that it is full of magic, and that the sun is warm and bright.