We have had a series of extremely large celestial events in the last few weeks, starting with Solar Eclipse of May 20th followed by the Lunar Eclipse of June 4th and Venus Transit of June 6th, only to be capped off with the solstice of June 20th June

Solstice, or Litha means a stopping or standing still of the sun. It is the longest day of the year and the time when the sun is at its maximum elevation.

We have had a series of extremely large celestial events in the last few weeks, starting with Solar Eclipse of May 20th followed by the Lunar Eclipse of June 4th and Venus Transit of June 6th, only to be capped off with the solstice of June 20th June

As the sun spirals its longest dance,
Cleanse us
As nature shows bounty and fertilityBless us
Let all things live with loving intent
And to fulfill their truest destiny

Wiccan blessing for Summer

Rituals and Ceremonies
Depending on your individual spiritual path, there are many different ways you can celebrate Litha, but the focus is nearly always on celebrating the power of the sun. It’s the time of year when the crops are growing heartily and the earth has warmed up. we can spend long sunny afternoons enjoying the outdoors, and getting back to nature under the long daylight hours. Here are a few rituals you may want to think about trying — and remember, any of them can be adapted for either a solitary practitioner or a small group, with just a little planning ahead.

This date has had spiritual significance for thousands of years as humans have been amazed by the great power of the sun. The Celts celebrated with bonfires that would add to the sun’s energy, Christians placed the feast of St John the Baptist towards the end of June and it is also the festival of Li, the Chinese Goddess of light.

Like other religious groups, Pagans are in awe of the incredible strength of the sun and the divine powers that create life. For Pagans this spoke in the Wheel of the Year is a significant point. The Goddess took over the earth from the horned God at the beginning of spring and she is now at the height of her power and fertility. For some Pagans the Summer Solstice marks the marriage of the God and Goddess and see their union as the force that creates the harvest’s fruits.

This is a time to celebrate growth and life but for Pagans, who see balance in the world and are deeply aware of the ongoing shifting of the seasons it is also time to acknowledge that the sun will now begin to decline once more towards winter.

Summer Solstice rituals

When celebrating midsummer, Pagans draw on diverse traditions. In England thousands of Pagans and non-Pagans go to places of ancient religious sites such as Stonehenge and Avebury to see the sun rising on the first morning of summer.

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Revellers typically gather at Stonehenge, the ancient stone circle in Wiltshire, to see the sun rise. The Heel Stone and Slaughter Stone, set outside the main circle, align with the rising sun.

Local Summer Solstice celebrations

In addition to the large events at major sites such as Stonehenge, many more Pagans hold small ceremonies in open spaces, everywhere from gardens to woodlands.

In this clip the Sunday Programme follows the Oak and Feather Grove, a Druid group whose members come from across Lancashire, as they visit a stone circle at Turton Heights near Bolton to celebrate the Summer Solstice.

 

Midsummer day

Midsummer day is marked around the time of the summer solstice but should not be confused with it. European celebrations of Midsummer take place on a day between 21st June and 24th June, depending on regional traditions. In the United Kingdom Midsummer day takes place on 24th June, the feast of St John the Baptist.

 

TEN GREAT WAYS TO CELEBRATE LITHA
It’s Litha, the longest day of the year! The sun will shine more today than any other day of the year, and it’s a day to get outdoors and celebrate. Spend the day in the sun with your family. Play outdoors, go for a hike, and enjoy all the delights the earth has to offer.  Here are some ideas for ways to celebrate the summer solstice. Admittedly, not all of them are For Pagans Only, but they’re a good way to mark the turn of the Wheel of the Year.

Get Back to Nature
Go for a hike in the woods with your family. Enjoy the sounds and sights of nature. Take lots of pictures, or plan a scavenger hunt — have each of the kids bring a “nature bag” to fill up. Remember, don’t pick any live plants, unless you’re deliberately wildcrafting. Before you head out, grab a field guide to local plants, and turn it into a teaching exercise — learn to identify what you see out there in the woods. If you take your hike in a public park, bring along a plastic sack to help pick up garbage on your way. If you get the chance to do this alone, try a Nature Meditation in a quiet spot somewhere on your journey

Host a Bonfire
Litha is all about the fiery aspect of the sun, so why not celebrate the fertility of the gods with a blazing, roaring fire in your back yard? It’s the longest day of the year, so stay up late and host a bonfire for your friends and family. Get sparklers too, and light them after dark. Make an offering to the gods of your tradition. Be sure to follow basic Bonfire Safety Rules, so no one gets hurt at your celebration. You can even incorporate your bonfire into a Litha rite, with the Midsummer Night Fire Ritual.

Get Your Body Moving
Litha is a magical, mystical time of year. Why not host a drum circle or Spiral Dance? You’ll need a large group for this, but it’s a lot of fun once you get everyone moving. In addition to being entertaining (and a great stress reliever), a drum circle or a ritualized dance serves another purpose – that of raising energy. The more you build, the more people will feed off of it. Invite a group of friends over, let them know there will be music and dance, and see what happens. Be sure to provide refreshments for afterwards — drumming and dancing can be draining for some people.

Do Something For Others
Do something for charity. Organize a yard sale and donate the proceeds to a local homeless shelter. Collect gently used summer clothing and give to a local children’s hospital. Host a dog-wash for your favorite shelter, and ask customers to either donate cash or pet food. Plan a neighborhood cleanup, and trim and weed common areas in your community. If you don’t have time to coordinate a big project — and not everyone does — do things on a smaller scale. Visit an elderly neighbor and help with her housekeeping. Offer to do grocery shopping for an ill relative. If you know a mom with a brand-new baby, help out with childcare so she can get a few hours of rest. There are any number of things you can do to help others

Read a Good Book
Summer can be a hectic and chaotic time of year. Maybe you’re someone who needs to slow down and take a break. Litha is a good time to rejuvenate, so why not immerse yourself in a good book? Keep reading material handy all the time, so when you need a little down time, you can work through few pages. If your local library has a summer reading program, sign up. Many bookstores offer summer incentives for both children and adults to read during the off-school months. Not sure what to read? Why not check out some of the titles on our About Pagan/Wiccan Reading Lists? If you’re more partial to fiction and “beach reading,” be sure to see what our readers recommend with our Summer Witchy Fiction

Celebrate Family
Turn off the phone, step away from the computer and television, and spend time just having fun with the people who love you most. Take the day off work if possible and spend it any way you like — go to the zoo, a museum, a ball game, etc. Make this a day that you can do anything you want, and put the schedules away just for one day. If you’re worried that money might hold you back, there’s plenty of stuff you can do for free: check your local metro parks for activity schedules, go fishing at a nearby lake or river, and watch the local newspaper for free admission deals at nearby attractions. If getting away for a day isn’t possible for you, spend the afternoon at home — play board games, do jigsaw puzzles, and cook a meal together

Clean Things Up
Clean your house. Take advantage of the warm weather to have a garage sale and get rid of all those things you don’t want. You can also organize a swap with your friends, or donate all your stuff to charities like Goodwill or Salvation Army. You’ve got plenty of daylight at Litha, so you can accomplish a lot in just a short period of time. If your house is a bit daunting, select one room to work on at a time — preferably the one that needs the most help! Wash windows, wipe down baseboards, get rid of stuff you know you’ll never use. Organize as you clean, putting donatable items into one pile, and trash in another, so you don’t have to sort it later. Turn the project into a ritual: House Cleaning Rite.

Host a Barbeque for Friends and Family
Have a barbeque, and invite all your family and friends over. Decorate with colors of the sun –yellows, reds, and oranges. Feast on lots of summery food, like watermelons, strawberries, and fresh green salads. Add outdoor games like horseshoes, ladder golf, and backyard volleyball. While you’re at it, set up some kind of water activities — water balloons, super soakers, a pool to splash in. All of these are great outside activities in the heat of summer, and help celebrate the balance between fire and water

Learn and Grow
Spend some time on spiritual growth. Use this time of year to learn something new about your tradition, develop a new skill, or take a class in TarotReiki, yoga, or whatever appeals to you. Create adaily plan of study to help you focus on what it is you want to do next.

Honor the Season
Many ancient cultures marked the summer solstice with rites and rituals honoring the sun. Celebrate the significance of Midsummer with ritual and prayers that recognize the sun and its magnificent power. Set up your Litha altar with symbols of the season — solar symbols, candles, midsummer fruits and vegetables, and more

Excerpt from By Patti Wigington, About.com Guidehttp://paganwiccan.about.com/od/lithathesummersolstice/a/AllAboutLitha.htm

MORE ABOUT SUMMER SOLSTICE
Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning “sun” + “to stand still.” As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky. As a major celestial event, the Summer Solstice results in the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The Northern Hemisphere celebrates in June, but the people on the Southern half of the earth have their longest summer day in December.

Early Celebrations
Awed by the great power of the sun, civilizations have for centuries celebrated the first day of summer otherwise known as the Summer Solstice,Midsummer (seeShakespeare), St. John’s Day, or the Wiccan Litha. The Celts & Slavs celebrated the first day of summer with dancing & bonfires to help increase the sun’s energy. The Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light. Perhaps the most enduring modern ties with Summer Solstice were the Druids’ celebration of the day as the “wedding of Heaven and Earth”, resulting in the present day belief of a “lucky” wedding in June. Today, the day is still celebrated around the world – most notably in England at Stonehenge and Avebury, where thousands gather to welcome the sunrise on the Summer Solstice. Pagan spirit gatherings or festivals are also common in June, when groups assemble to light a sacred fire, and stay up all night to welcome the dawn.

Summer Solstice Fun Facts

  • Pagans called the Midsummer moon the “Honey Moon” for the mead made from fermented honey that was part of wedding ceremonies performed at the Summer Solstice.
  • Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires, when couples would leap through the flames, believing their crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump.
  • Midsummer was thought to be a time of magic, when evil spirits were said to appear. To thwart them, Pagans often wore protective garlands of herbs and flowers. One of the most powerful of them was a plant called ‘chase-devil’, which is known today as St. John’s Wort and still used by modern herbalists as a mood stabilizer.

Excerpt taken from http://www.chiff.com/a/summer-solstice.htm

CREATIVE IDEAS FOR LITHA
Summer Solstice or Litha, about June 21, is when the hours of daylight are longest. The Sun is at the highest before beginning its slide into darkness. Traditionally, herbs gathered on this day are said to be extremely powerful. On this night elves and fairies abound in great numbers. Also known as: Alban Heruin (Druid), Alban Hefin (Caledonii), SummerSolstice, Midsummer, Midsummer Night, Midsummer Night’s Eve, Gathering Day, and Feil-Sheathain (Pecti-Wita ~ July 5). Herbs: chamomile, cinquefoil, elder flower, fennel, lavender, mugwort, thyme, and vervain may be burned; hemp, larkspur, pine, rose, St John’s Wort, and wisteria may be decorations.

*Midsummer is the time when the sun reaches the peak of its power, the earth is green and holds the promise of a bountiful harvest. The Mother Goddess is viewed as heavily pregnant, and the God is at the apex of his manhood and is honored in his guise as the supreme sun.

But don’t overlook the Celtic Sun Goddesses in your celebration. The Celts are one of several cultures known to also have female deities to represent the power of the sun. The Celtic languages are some of the very few in which the names for the “sun” are feminine nouns, which attests to the one-time prominence of these Goddesses. A number of the myths surrounding these ladies of light have been preserved. Among the most well-known are Sul (Anglo-Celtic), Dia Griene (Scottish), the Princess of the Sun (Breton), and Grian and Brid (Irish). Just as the Holly and Oak Kings battles for supremacy at Yule, this ever-repeating fight is reenacted at Midsummer, this time with the Holly King, as king of the waning year, victorious. *from “Celtic Myth and Magick” by Edain McCoy

ACTIVITIES FOR LITHA

  • Tie a sprig of rowan, a sprig of rue, and three flowers of St. John’s Wort with red thread and hang over the door.
  • Make amulets (simple charms) of protection out of herbs such as rue and rowan. If you make new amulets each year you can dispose of the old in the midsummer fire.
  • Create a pouch for psychic dreams (mugwort and bay leaves in a cloth of lavender, blue, or yellow and sewn with red thread) and place under your pillow.
  • Make a Solar Wheel as a terrific family project – everyone can make one for their bedroom. Wind palm or grape vine into a circle, twisting as you go. Cut two short lengths of stem to be just a bit larger than the diameter of the circle and place one across the back horizontally and the other vertically crossing in back on the horizontal one and coming forward to the front of the circle to
    secure both, then adorn with symbols of the elementals (stone, feathers, ashes in a pouch, or a small candle, and a shell) and festoon with green and yellow ribbons. Hang in a tree outside or indoors at a reminder of the protection.
  • Make a Witch’s Ladder (another fun family project) using three colored yarns (red, black, and white for the Triple Goddess) braided together to be three feet long. Add nine feathers all the same color for a specific charm (such as green for money) or various colors for a more diverse charm, tie ends and hang up. Colors are red for vitality, blue for peace and protection, yellow for alertness and cheer, green for prosperity, brown for stability, black for wisdom, black and white for balance, patterned for clairvoyance, and iridescent for insight.
  • You can burn the old Yule wreath in the Litha fire.
  • Make a rue protection pouch out of white cotton. Add two or three sprigs of rue, bits of whole grain wheat bread, a pinch of salt, and two star anise seeds and hang indoors (can do one for each bedroom).
  • Tie vervain, rosemary, and hyssop with white thread and dip the tips into a bowl of spring water (you can buy bottled spring water in grocery stores) and sprinkle the water about the house to chase out negativity, or sprinkle your tools to cleanse and
    purify.
  • Gather herbs like St. John’s Wort, vervain, and yarrow.
  • Soak thyme in olive oil, then lightly anoint your eyelids to see faery folk at night.
  • Tie a bunch of fennel with red ribbons and hang over the door for long life and protection of the home.
  • Look for the faery folk under an elder tree, but don’t eat their food or you’ll have to remain with them for seven years! (Which could be a lot of fun, but will seriously wreck any plans you may have made!)**Activities taken from “Green Witchcraft” by Anne Moura (Aoumiel)
    Excerpt taken from http://www.joellessacredgrove.com/Holidays/litha.html

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