Just on the heels of the Supermoon, we welcome Summer Solstice … also known as Midsummer in Europe and Litha in traditional Pagan holidays. It is believed to be a time when the veil between our world and the spirit world is very thin, making it easier for spirits and faeries to cross over the threshold. In various folkloric tales, the Oak King, who rules from Winter Solstice to Summer Solstice, now passes the baton to the Holly King, who will reign from this day until December 21st.
Unlike all of the busier holidays… think Thanksgiving, Christmas… or the ones heavily promoted by Hallmark… I’m looking at you, Valentines Day! … Summer Solstice is offered to us unspoiled by expectations, cards and presents. It’s a day to give yourself permission to slow down and take in all of the beautiful gifts bestowed upon us by Mother Nature and the Creator, to revel in the potential of the long hours of daylight stretching before us and to indulge in the possibility of magic in the air.
Many ancient civilizations left behind mysteries surrounding the solstices and equinoxes which fascinate us today and leave us to wonder what they knew or believed about these seemingly magical, pivotal days of the year. Stonehenge, familiar to most, was undeniably built in such a way as to align with the Summer and Winter Solstices… the sunrise in summer and the sunset in winter. Machu Picchu, the city of the Incas, built upon a mountain top in Peru has a huge stone called ‘Intihuatana’ meaning “The place where the sun gets tied” which is aligned at each corner with North, South, East and West and although it always casts a shadow in the sunlight, there are two moments in time, precisely at noontime of the spring and fall equinox, when there is no shadow at all. (How the heck did they know how to do that???) And there are others… Pyramids in Egypt, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, earth mounds in Ireland and Scotland with underground chambers illuminated on the Winter Solstice. Mysteries abound….
Much like Beltane (May Day), celebrations on Midsummer’s Eve for the farming communities in Europe included roaring bonfires and a plethora of flowers. Summer Solstice was a celebration of the sun, the crops and the future bounty of their labors. You can adopt the ritual bonfires and dances if you like, but if you prefer a lighter, simpler acknowledgement of the holiday, just put a flame to a few candles, pick some wildflowers or grab a bouquet from a farm stand. If you have little ones, or have a playful child-like attitude, and are feeling crafty, you could even fashion a flower crown to adorn the wee ones or yourself. (Here’s a tutorial on making a flower crown with just the flowers, no other supplies needed! Or, if you prefer video, YouTube has several to choose from, but here’s one made with wire and floral tape for a sturdier version.)
So, do you already celebrate summer solstice? Do you even take note of it? Since you’ve read this far, I would assume that you acknowledge the day in some small way or have come here with at least a spark of curiosity. You probably already know that summer solstice marks the longest day of the year… that is to say, the longest amount of daylight. Since last December’s Winter Solstice, the days have been slowly lengthening. Even in the darkest, and coldest of winter days, Mother Nature was nurturing and preparing for new life. And not unlike the cycles of the moon, the seasons were waxing in winter and will be waning from this point on, throughout summer and fall, as the amount of daylight slowly decreases until December 21st, at which time, the cycle begins anew.
Litha is the Pagan holiday and name for the Summer Solstice. I find myself drawn to the earthy Pagan / Wiccan rituals because they are so intertwined with the seasons and Mother Nature, which is the way I try to live my own life … and they come with a sprinkling of magic. And who doesn’t like a little magic?
Like the Oak King, the Green Man is celebrated in some pagan rituals. He can be found painted, drawn, or carved from stone… a man-like face with tendrils of greenery sprouting from his skin. But evidence of the Green Man has been found in places such as ancient Rome, Lebanon, and Iraq, long before Christianity. The Green Man is also ironically found as carved reliefs in churches across Europe, despite the popular belief that he represents a pagan Deity.
Herbs, flowers and honey, all symbols of the bounty of this season, are incorporated into the rituals. The midsummer moon is known as the Honey Moon, among other names, and this delectable product of the honey bees’ hard work is another prominent part of the festivities. Mead, a combination of honey, water and yeast, is a simple concoction that creates a lovely honey wine and can be enhanced with a selection of spices. It’s a traditional drink of olden times and perfect for Litha.
If you keep an altar, now is the time to add Oak leaves, representing and paying homage to the Oak King, and light candles (in fiery, sunny colors) to symbolize and honor the sun. If, like myself, you’re intrigued by crystal energies, you can add citrine, a stone of abundance and prosperity & sunstoneto your altar, as both of these are associated with the sun. Moonstone & Selenite, are both stones for the astrological sign of cancer which we are entering into on the 21st, and Bloodstone and Garnet symbolize the element of Fire. When you have all of your amulets and talismans assembled, this would be the time to think about and set your intentions for the remainder of the year. Do you use Oracle cards? Tarot? Will you pull a card from your oracle or tarot deck? Do what speaks to your heart and allow yourself to relish the magic of tuning into the energy of, and building ritual around, the Summer Solstice.
If you do nothing else on this pivotal holiday, indulge in a quiet moment to really feel the joy in all of the bountiful life around us. That tiny seed who poked its head through the soil, grew a stem with leaves and a flower, and in the case of vegetables, will produce a fruit that can be harvested and used to nourish our own growth is nothing short of a miracle. And if THAT’S not magic, I don’t know what is.
Thank you for stopping by the blog! My name is Carol and I'm a metalsmith and fiber artist who makes amulets and talismans. You can find my work at Willowsongstudio.com