Litha (MidSummer) Sabbat
History and Lore
Litha is known by many names worldwide. Some of the more common names for this sabbat are Summer Solstice, Alba Hefin, Sun Blessing, Gathering Day, Vestalia, St. John’s Day, and Midsummer.
Litha is viewed as one of the ‘Lesser Sabbats’ or ‘Lower Holidays’ along with the other solstice and the two equinoxes. Litha is celebrated on June 20, 21, 22, or 23 depending upon the cycle of the sun. It falls on the day of the year that has the maximum amount of daylight hours. Litha is opposite of Yule (which is the shortest day of the year) on the Wheel of the Year. The journey of the sun across the heavens has long been examined and chronicled by many cultures the world over.
According to the old folklore calendar, it showed that summer started on Beltaine (May 1st) and came to an end on Lughnassadh (August 1st), with the Summer Solstice designating the middle of summer (or Midsummer). To me, this actually makes much more sense, rather than having summer begin on the day when the sun’s power has climaxed and will now continue to wane until Yule.
Ancient Litha rituals were rambunctious festivals where members of the village would come together for singing, dancing, storytelling, fanfare, and feasting by the village bonfire and torch lit parades after dark. Many people would wear a crown of flowers which almost always included the yellow blooms of the St. John’s Wort.
A lot of Midsummer bonfires used oak and fir because it was believed that burning these woods would drive away all negative influences.
This was also a time for handfastings (weddings) and couples would hold hands and jump over the Litha fire together three times. This was to guarantee an enduring and blissful marriage, financial good fortune, and numerous babies.
It was a common belief that the Litha fires had control of an immense force of energy, and that by leaping over the bonfire, this would bring you, your family, and your clan prosperity and protection.
It was also tradition for people to take scorched embers from the Litha bonfire and to use these as charms against harm, foul weather during harvest, and some would distribute the embers around the crops and orchards trusting that this would protect the crops and would guarantee a profuse harvest.
Other people would bring a Litha fire ember home with them and position it atop the hearth, while others would decorate their home with birch, fennel, St. John’s Wort, and White Lillie's for blessings and protection.
Ancient Celts celebrated Midsummer with large hilltop bonfires and took time to show their respect for the space between the earth and the heavens. They viewed this as a time to once again recognize the balance between fire and water. Various European cultures would celebrate Midsummer by setting giant wheels on fire and then propelling them down hills into bodies of water.
When the Saxons came to the British Isles, they carried their customs with them, one of which was called ‘June Aerra Litha’. They marked Midsummer by creating large bonfires and rejoicing in the power of the sun over darkness.
The Romans considered this day sacred to Juno, who was not only the wife of Jupiter, but also the Goddess of women and childbirth. She was also known to be called Juno Luna who blessed women with the honor of menstruation. This day was also a blessed day for showing reverence to Vesta, who was the Goddess of the hearth. Numerous Matriarchs would visit Vesta’s temples and leave gifts of salted meal. They would continue to do this for eight days, anticipating that Vesta would bestow her blessings upon their homes.
Some Native American tribes in the Great Plains of North America saw the sun as a physical expression of the Great Spirit. They would perform a Sun Dance to not only venerate the sun and the Great Spirit, but also to bring visions to the young warrior dancers, and to test the strength and vigor of these young warriors. The Sun Dance would go on for several days, and during this time the dancers would refrain from eating.The dancers would dance until they fell to the ground unconscious, which could take up to three or four days. It was often recounted by the dancers that they had received either a vision or a Spirit Walk at some point during the celebration.
Litha for many, is a time to celebrate with a childlike innocence. Forget the anxiety and pressures of winter and spend days savoring the sunlight. This is a time to absorb the sun’s warm rays and energies. Litha is a time to rejoice and frolic in the enjoyment of the day, and to celebrate the green and blooming Earth, the joys of summer, abundance, fertility, riches of Nature. This is also a wonderful time for gardeners.
Remember that the Goddess is an extraordinarily Generous Mother who gives life and fruitfulness to all of her children. An exceptional way to increase your bond with the Goddess at this time is to strive to be as generous as she is.
This is a celebration not only for the end of the waxing year, but also the beginning of the waning year. This is simply another turn of the Wheel of the Year.
This is also a perfect time to celebrate the fertility of humans, animals, and crops alike.
Wiccans acknowledge this as a time when the Goddess is pregnant from the copulation at Beltaine. So the Goddess is honored at this time for her upcoming motherhood. The Sun God is celebrated as the sun comes to its apex in the sky, and is approaching fatherhood. Goddess manifests as Mother Earth and God as the Sun King
Many people also see this as a struggle between the Oak King (who rules between winter and summer) and the Holly King (who rules from summer to winter). It is at Midsummer that the Holly King overthrows the Oak King and establishes his reign.
Various Methods of Observing Litha/Midsummer/Summer Solstice
Spend time outside
- Go for a hike
- Do an outdoors or nature meditation
- Work in your garden or volunteer to help out in a neighbors garden
Have a barbecue and/or bonfire
- Invite friends and family
- Feast on summer foods (such as watermelon, strawberries, and salads)
- Plan a Litha or Midsummer Ritual by the bonfire
- Celebrate the end of the day with sparklers, storytelling, and music
- Offer a gift to the Gods of your tradition
- Hold a drum circle
- Plan a spiral dance
- Go for a bike ride
- Take a walk around your neighborhood
- Play outdoor games (horseshoes, volleyball, basketball, corn hole)
Dedicate your time or money to others
- Hold a yard sale and donate the money earned to a favorite charity
- Collect clothes around the house that are no longer used and donate them to a homeless shelter
- Organize a neighborhood or park clean up
- Sop by a neighbors and see if they need help (house cleaning, yard work, babysitting, grocery shopping, etc...)
Read a book
- Pause your busy life today and simply take some time for yourself
- Sign up for a summer reading program at your local library
- Join a local book club
Spend some quality time with your family
- Turn off every one's phone, TV, computer, video game, etc...
- Spend quality time with loved ones
- Take a trip to the zoo, a museum, park, or ball game
- Play board games or do a puzzle together
- Fix a family meal together
Clean and organize your home
- Go through attic, basement, closets and get rid of items that are not needed or used any longer (garage sale, community yard sale, donate to a charity or shelter, or swap items with friends, family, or neighbors
- Wash windows, clean baseboards, under furniture
- Perform a house cleaning ritual
Learn and Grow
- Spend some personal time for spiritual growth
- Learn something new about your tradition
- Learn a new skill (knitting, sewing, gardening, cooking)
- Take a class (meditation, yoga, dance, tarot)
Honor the Day
- Perform a ritual to honor the Sun Gods (like many ancient cultures did)
- Take a few moments to recognize the sun and the awesome power that it has
- Add various symbolic items of the season to your altar (sun symbols, candles, and fruits, vegetables, herbs, and/or flowers of the season)
This is also a time for strong magick, empowerment, and a time to connect and interact with the many spirits of Nature. It is said that on Midsummer Night that the field and forest elves, sprites, and faeries come out to cavort and romp around in great numbers. It’s considered traditional by many people to leave presents (which can consist of food or herbs) for the faeries on the evening of Litha.
It’s also said that the veils between the world’s at this time are thin, and so are a valuable time to do divination.
This is a day of inner power and brightness and so an excellent time to do a self-dedication ceremony, a re-dedication or affirmation as part of your Litha Sabbat celebration, ideal time to do love, marriage, and/or family magick or to rid yourself or your home of negativity.
Crafts, Recipes, Prayers, Meditations, and Rituals
CRAFTS THAT CAN BE DONE AT LITHA / MIDSUMMER
- Blessing Besom, Elemental Garden, Lavender Dream Pillow, Stone Circle Sundial, and a Handfasting Basket
- Litha Spiral Candles, Sand Candles, Pagan Candle, Stained Glass Sun Catchers, and a Mud Cast
- Offering Altar for Faeries
- Midsummer Feather Wreath
- Finger Knitting
- God’s Eye (or Eye of God)
LITHA / MIDSUMMER FOOD AND DRINK RECIPES
- Sun’s Up Cobbler, Lunchtime Cranberry Sun Mold, High-In-The-Sky Sunny Sandwiches, Setting Sun Taco Salad, Bright Memories Parfait, and Warm Glow Applesauce.
- Herbal Lemon Cookies, Lavender Cheesecake, Honey-Lavender Biscotti, Summer Pudding, Fruit Salad, Faery Honeycakes, Green Garden Goddess Dip, Faery Nectar, and many more
LITHA / MIDSUMMER INCENSE AND OIL RECIPES
LITHA / MIDSUMMER PRAYERS
- Prayer for the Earth
- Prayer to the Sun
- Prayers for Litha, Garden, Beach, 4th of July, and to the Sun
LITHA / MIDSUMMER / SUMMER SOLSTICE MEDITATIONS
LITHA / MIDSUMMER / SUMMER SOLSTICE RITUALS
Colors of Litha / Midsummer
Altar Candles of Litha / Midsummer
Incense of Litha / Midsummer
- Frangi Pani
Herbs of Litha / Midsummer (Herbs and Plants are said to be extremely powerful when gathered on this day)
- St. John’s Wort
- Dragon’s Blood
Plants of Litha / Midsummer (Herbs and Plants are said to be extremely powerful when gathered on this day)
Woods of Litha / Midsummer
Stones of Litha / Midsummer
- All Green Gemstones (especially emerald and jade)
- Tiger’s Eye
- Lapus Lazuli
Animals of Litha / Midsummer
- All Summer Birds (especially robins and wrens)
Mythical Creatures of Litha / Midsummer
Traditional Drinks of Litha / Midsummer
- Mead (usually Honey)
- Any Type of Fresh Fruit or Vegetable Juice
- All Father Gods
- All Sun Deities
- All Mother and Pregnant Goddesses (Goddess symbol is the rose)
Wrap Things Up
Litha is a very special time of the year that can be spent forging a closer bond to the Divine, our Lord and Lady, or however you look at it. This is a great time of the year that is full of sunshine (generally) and a wonderful time to spend outside communing with Nature, Mother Earth, and the Sun God.
I hope that everyone discovers the best way to celebrate this time of year. The point is to have fun and do what feels honorable and respectful.
Happy Litha / Midsummer / Summer Solstice!