Girl on beach: Jordan Sanchez via Unsplash.com
Hello lovelies, how you doing? Unusually for me, I’ll be sharing two posts posts this week, as I wanted to drop by early and wish you a very happy Litha.
A very happy WHAT?
Litha is the Pagan Fire Festival of the Summer Solstice, which we celebrate on or around the 21st of June in the Northern Hemisphere. If you’ve been watching Jamestown (took me a while, but now I’m hooked!) you might also know it by Midsummer, or the early Christian name of St. John’s Day which falls a few days later on June 24th.
The Summer Solstice marks the first day of summer and is the longest day of the year. The Sun is at his height and life is in full-on growth mode. From farms, to the countryside, to our own back gardens, everything is lush and green, the flowers are blooming and crops are ripening.
We have oodles of lovely daylight – darkness doesn’t fall until gone 10pm and it’s already starting to get light at 3:30am. The power and light of the sun really is felt most strongly now.
That is, unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere where Down Under, they’re celebrating Yule, the shortest day of the year.
There’s always an exception!
The Solstice Bonfire
As befitting such an important day in the Wheel of the Year, Litha has been celebrated throughout history with joyous festivities and rituals. Being a fire festival, bonfires play a huge part of the celebrations the world over, with varying significance.
These days, the bonfire is the focal point for modern Pagans who stay up all night waiting to greet the rising sun on Solstice morning but traditionally, fires were lit to ward off evil.
In ancient times, farmers would light bonfires to cleanse their cattle in the smoke. To forecast an abundant harvest, the wheel of a cart wrapped in straw would be lit and rolled down the longest hill, to see how long it stayed alight.
And then there’s the leaping.
Leaping bonfires is a centuries-old tradition, carried out by many cultures around the world. In folklore, how high you could leap the Solstice bonfire would forecast how high the flax would grow. Even today, fire leaping continues to be a cleansing ritual, performed to purify the body and rid oneself of misfortune.
It is also said that a girl who sees nine bonfires on Midsummer’s Eve will marry before the year is out.
Now you know!
Litha – a time to celebrate and reflect
Alongside the celebrations, Litha is also a time for reflection. Although the sun is at his height, the Summer Solstice marks the start of his decline. From tomorrow, the days will start to slowly shorten and lead us back into the dark half of the year.
I have to admit, the Summer Solstice always fills me with mixed emotions – the joy of summer is tinged with sadness that it’s already waning. Litha provides us with a timely reminder that the cycle of life is never-ending. Like the flowers on a strawberry bush, good things grow old and fade but they give birth to new, luscious fruit, that have their own place in the world.
As one of my favourite witchcraft authors, Kate West says:
The cycle of the seasons is like the tides – as one peaks, it prepares to ebb and give way for another to take its place.
6 Easy ways to celebrate the Summer Solstice
If you’re not into leaping bonfires (and frankly, I don’t blame you!), there are plenty of ways to celebrate Litha.
1. Get Outside
By far the simplest way is to get out there and soak up all that gorgeous Vitamin D (make sure you’re wearing sunscreen!) Not only does sunlight make you feel bloody marvellous, it’s essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
And let’s face it, we pasty Brits need all the Vitamin D we can get to see us through the darker months!
2. Walk with intention
Try to take a walk during the day and in doing so, be really mindful about your surroundings. Consciously look around you and notice the cycle of growth and decline.
3. Channel your inner pyro
When evening comes, light a fire (so long as it’s safe to do so) and spend a few moments (or more!) meditating into its flames. It doesn’t have to be a bonfire – a fire pit or a chimenea will do the job.
For me, nothing screams summer like spending a night in the garden and indulging my pyro tendencies.
4. Light a candle
If fire isn’t an option, candles are your go-to magickal alternative. Seasonal colours are ideal, but not essential. Ritual and magic is about your intent, NOT the tools.
If you have them, colours for Litha include orange, red, and gold – the traditional colour of the sun God – but ANY colour will do and white is a great all-rounder.
Find yourself a quiet space (outdoors if you can, if weather permits) and spend some time staring into the flame and really enjoying that light. Allow your body to relax and your mind to wander. It’s amazing what thoughts might come to you.
5. Visit an ancient site
If you want to get even more spiritual about it, you could visit an ancient site (although I’d personally avoid Stonehenge – I mean… the traffic!)
6. Perform a ritual
Perform a private Summer Solstice ritual to give thanks for those things that have borne, or are starting to bear fruit in your life.
If you need something simple but structured, my lovely witchy friend Traci York has the perfect Litha ritual that anyone can do.
These are just a few of the ways you can celebrate this ancient Midsummer festival. How will you be marking the occasion? Drop a comment below to let me know.
I’ll leave you with this Litha Blessing, which is available for you to download FREE. Simply click on the image or follow the link.
Download your free Wicca Blessing for Summer
However you choose to celebrate, I hope you feel inspired to mark this important occasion. May the Summer Solstice bring light and power into your life.
Bright Blessings and a hui hou,