Litha, the Rituals of Midsommer
Some History of the Summer Solstice
The Summer Solstice was observed and celebrated by a wide-range of communities and cultures around the world. Some of the names given to this day include Litha, Midsommer and Midsummer's Eve. On this day, the Northern Hemisphere experiences the most hours of daylight in one day. This is the opposite of the Winter Solstice, when the shortest hours of daylight in a day occur. Although in modern parlance, this date is considered the start of the summer season, on a Pagan/Wiccan calendar, summer spans three holidays, from Beltane through Lughnasadh, hence this spot marks the "midsummer" point.
Harvesting of herbs and plants for medicinal use was often one of the activities that happened on this day, as it was believed the vitality of the plants and their energies would be at their most potent. This is also considered an auspicious day for weddings. June is still a very popular month for weddings in modern Western culture. In J.R.R. Tolkein's last book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Return of the King , Aragorn and Arwen wed on the summer solstice.
This is one of the nights of the year that Pagans and Wiccans consider the veil between the regular and spirit world to be thinner than usual, making contact with the ancients and faeries easier. Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is set on this night, and features two pair of star-crossed lovers. One set are humans, and the others are Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the Faeries.
Summer's Full Flowering
Getting Out on Longest Day of the Year
Rituals for the summer solstice can be as formal or informal as you desire. The main point is to honor the season in some way that is significant for you, your family and friends. If you don't want to mark the event at home, there are fun things to do in public with others.
Midsummer Bonfire - Keep the solar energy going late into the night with a festive bonfire. Decide ahead of time if the fire is a casual or formal symbol so you don't have people suddenly throwing trash into a fire meant for the gods.
Solstice Picnic - Feast with friends and family on the best that your garden and farmer's market can offer! Fresh fruits or local honey are great flavors to honor the sweet summer season. Get outside under an umbrella and enjoy lots of seasonal treats.
Garden Tour - Visit a local arboretum or flower farm and take some time to enjoy the colorful bounty of the season. Be sure to bring home a bouquet of fresh flowers to brighten up your home.
Beach or Shore Clean-up - Get a group together and spend some time just picking up trash at your favorite beach, lake shore or pond. A little devoted effort is a great way to honor Mother Earth as she goes into her most productive season.
Learn About the Modern Summer Solstice
This is a broad spectrum, Wiccanish/Paganesque guide to the modern solar holiday. History and myths, seasonal and traditional foods, and suggested rituals and crafts make is an excellent resource for anyone new to the holiday or overseeing a larger group's activities for the day. If you are a beginner, don't let all your options overwhelm you. Picking just one or two significant activities or gestures is a great way to mark a holiday.
Summer Solstice Links and Info
- Summer : Ancient Summer Solstice Celebrations
Druids, the priestly/professional/diplomatic corps in Celtic countries, celebrated Alban Heruin ("Light of the Shore"). It was midway between the spring Equinox (Alban Eiler; "Light of the Earth") and the fall Equinox (Alban Elfed; "Light of the Wate
- Summer Solstice Group Ritual
- Summer solstice celebrations
Solstice celebrations of Christianity, Judaism, Neopaganism, etc.
- Summer Solstice -- from Eric Weisstein's World of Astronomy
Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
Throwing Your Own Solstice Celebration
If honoring the season is something you would rather do at home, by all means, stay right where you are!
You can simply freshen up your home, have a few friends over and just keep it simple and significant. Or you might prefer a full-throttle bash with lots of kids and dogs and men in kilts getting sunburned.
Having a simple backyard gathering for the summer solstice is totally appropriate. At this time of year, traditional agrarian cultures had all their summer crops planted, and this was a time of watching plants grow and waiting to see how the next six weeks of weather turned out.
Serve your guests the freshest of whatever foods are in-season where you live. Whether fruits or vegetables, everything should be light-feeling and just-picked. Strawberries and raspberries are both favorites for this season, as are the first honeys of the season. These will be lighter in flavor and color than honey which comes from crops pollinating now.
Cooking outside or having a backyard fire are part of modern Solstice observations, in recollection of the larger, community bonfires that tend to be part of older and more established holiday celebrations. If you have the zoning space or good neighbor relations, consider getting together some friends, having a backyard and drumming down the sun!
Sugared Rose Petals for the Solstice
- Feasts and Treats: Recipes for the Summer Solstice
A collection of recipes for feasting to mark the longest day of the year. - from Llewellyn Worldwide
- Summer Solstice & Cherry Soup recipe
It really is a dessert and is really a great way to celebrate mid-summer.