Those Litha Nights

Ah, June.  Summer vacations, lazy days by the pool or beach, and heat.  But for Wiccans, June is also the month in which the Sabbat of Litha is celebrated.  Depending on the year, Litha occurs anytime between June 20-23.  In this article, we will explore some of the history of Litha, and I’ll provide some pointers on how you can celebrate “the longest day of the year.”

What Is Litha?

Litha, also known as the Summer Solstice and Midsummer, celebrates the Sun being at its highest point in the sky.  The days are long and the nights short.  The term “solstice” comes from the Latin words “sol” (meaning Sun) and “sistere” (meaning to stand still).  And indeed, that is exactly what the Sun appears to do.  Ancient Pagans thought that the Sun literally stood still, though now we realize that neither the Sun nor the Earth stands still, but the position of the Sun relative to Earth does seem astronomically stationary.  Ancient landmarks such as Stonehenge are positioned in such a way that the rising sun on the day of the solstice appears in between a section known as the Heel Stone.

Litha Lore

There are many different ancient tales related to Litha.  The most popular revolves around the legend of the Oak King and Holly King.  It is said that on Midsummer, the Holly King defeats the Oak King, and thus begins his rule over the Earth.  The Holly King reigns until the Winter Solstice, when the Oak King returns and reclaims the throne.

Ancient Romans celebrated Juno, the Goddess of marriage & childbirth and wife of Jupiter, during this month (which is where we get the name “June”).  Other traditions also celebrate Midsummer, and typically erected huge bonfires in celebration of the strength of the Sun.

Because the Sun is at its peak on Litha, most of the celebrations (both ancient and modern) are centered around the Sun and the element of fire.

Litha & Spirituality

Litha is a great time to study the different aspects of the God and his attributes.  Cernunnos, Ra, Lugh, and Apollo are all Gods that have been celebrated and/or studied during Litha.  Since the element of fire is most commonly associated with Litha, it’s a great time to get rid of things in your life that no longer suit you, such as old habits, toxic people, etc.  Connecting with nature outdoors is also a great idea for Litha.  Go to your favorite spot in a wooded area.  Take a hike up a mountain.  Or just visit a neighborhood park and enjoy being amongst the grass, trees, and flowers.

Celebrating Litha

Litha celebrations run the gamut from having a barbecue with friends and family to performing a midnight ritual.  Here are a few more pointers for celebrating the holiday:

  • Setting up your altar.  If possible, set up your altar outside.  If this isn’t possible, set it up in your ritual room or in an area where it’s unlikely to be disturbed by animals or people.  Colors for your altar should reflect the season.  Since Litha is a celebration of the sun, yellows and oranges are a great choice.  You can also incorporate fiery reds, gold, and green.  Use discs or pentacles to represent the sun.  Pick some fresh flowers from your garden, or ask a friend or neighbor if you can have a few flowers from theirs.  Above all, your altar should reflect YOU!  Decorate it in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to your eye.
  • A Summer Solstice Ritual.  Gather some like-minded friends or family and get outside to celebrate the sunny day.  Find a nature spot where you can gather in a circle and give thanks to the Universe for its blessings.  If you’re practicing in a coven, you may have a set ritual that is practiced along with scripted incantations or invocations.  If you’re solo, write something from the heart that expresses your love, gratitude, and appreciation for the Universe.
  • Bonfires!  Nothing says “Pagan Party Time” like a bonfire.  Bonfires have been used for many different Pagan celebrations for hundreds (thousands?) of years.  Be safe about it.  A safe witch is a happy witch.  Make sure you don’t set your neighborhood or the entire forest on fire.  Always take precautions, and have a fire extinguisher of sufficient size at the ready just in case.
  • Study.  Yeah, I know.  Nothing says “fun times” like being surrounded by books.  Personally, that’s fun for me.  But if that’s not your idea of a fun summer night, that’s okay, too. But if you’re a bookworm, go to the bookstore (they still exist, but only barely) and find a book about Pagan or Wiccan studies.  Get comfy and read for a couple of hours, taking in the knowledge and feeling a connection to the Gods and Goddesses.

Do I HAVE TO Celebrate?

Some people just aren’t that into making a big deal out of holidays, no matter what those holidays are.  Wicca is a belief system that is individualistic.  As such, you’re not going to get in trouble with the Gods and Goddesses if you decide not to celebrate.  So if you’re dead-set against making a big to do out of any holiday, that’s perfectly fine.  Just carry on with business as usual, and practice as you will.