June 2nd, 2021
Estimated Read Time: 11 Minutes
At this point, most people will have heard of Midsommar, the 2019 film depicting a woman’s descent into a pagan cult’s violent celebrations of the summer solstice. But as stunning as the movie’s visuals are, its plot obviously doesn’t convey the truth about Midsommar. Luckily, we’re in the perfect position to set the record straight with a crash course in the summer solstice festival — known to the Wiccan community as Litha.
Now, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we wanted to explain how to pronounce Litha. Generally, people tend to be confused about the way the vowels in the word should sound. But it’s really quite straightforward — just say it “lee-tha” without too much of an emphasis on the first syllable. And if you don’t think you can get it right — Midsommar or Midsummer will do just as well!
With that being said, we can move on to the origins of the holiday and its place on the Wheel of the Year calendar.
What Is Litha and How Does It Fit Into the Wheel of the Year?
Generally speaking, Wiccans celebrate eight seasonal festivals throughout the year. The most well-known ones are Samhain — the equivalent of the mainstream Halloween holiday — and Yule — which usually happens a few days before Christmas. But as we have established, there are other important occasions on the Wiccan calendar, which is represented by the Wheel of the Year.
Each Wiccan sabbat coincides with a certain solar event. There are two equinoxes, two solstices, and four cross-quarter days in between each of those. What’s more, each event represents a new phase of the Triple Goddess’ lifecycle as well as the cycle of the masculine deity. That duality of the masculine and feminine deities is one of the main features of Wiccan beliefs.
In any case, during the summer solstice festivities, the Triple Goddess is pregnant and about to enter the Mother phase. It’s not harvest season quite yet — that’s when the Goddess will deliver her child. Meanwhile, the Sun God is already at the height of his power in June. After all, we’re talking about the longest day of the year, as far as daylight is concerned.
Alternatively, those who follow the paths of the two kings might say that the Oak King is at his peak. In the days following the summer solstice, the nights will start getting longer, allowing the Holly King to take the throne once again.
When Is Litha Celebrated?
As the alternative names of this festival might suggest, Litha takes place in summer. It’s supposed to help us mark the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. But when exactly is that?
Well, according to the Wheel of the Year calendar, Litha is the first Wiccan sabbat we celebrate after Beltane — aka May Day. Typically, people in the western hemisphere celebrate Litha on June 21st. However, some countries stretch the festivities to the whole week between the 20th and the 26th.
Of course, since Wiccan holidays are tied to certain solar events, the exact dates differ depending on the hemisphere you’re in. So for Australian Wiccans, Litha may coincide with the western hemisphere’s Yule.
Is There a Litha Goddess? The Origin of the Sabbat’s Name
Like all Wiccan festivals, modern-day Litha is inspired by Anglo-Saxon midsummer festivals. But unlike the spring equinox festival, Ostara, the summer solstice isn’t attached to an ancient Anglo-Saxon deity. Upon learning that, we wanted to know how this sabbat got its name.
Ultimately, the word for the holiday comes from the Anglo-Saxon name for the month of June — Ǣrra-Līða. That essentially translates to “the first liða” — and July is effectively named “the second liða.”
Now, the meaning of the word “liða” is somewhat unclear. According to the Reckoning of Time, the 8th-century treatise that also mentioned the goddess of spring, Eostre, the word “liða” means calm or gentle. That probably refers to the quality of the summer winds, which were finally safe enough to sail.
Now that we know the meaning of Litha, let’s talk about some of the symbols that are traditionally associated with the summer solstice.
What Are Some of the Common Litha Symbols?
As we have previously mentioned, the summer solstice represents the height of the sun’s power. Since the sun brings life, Litha is a celebration of abundance in every sense of the word. While nature is full of greenery and fruit, we can also use this time to manifest abundance in other ways.
During Litha rituals, we celebrate the sun’s dominance by emphasizing the element of fire. Most Wiccans do that by organizing bonfire parties or even simply lighting candles at their altars. At the same time, we must balance the scales by incorporating water into our Litha rituals — particularly those that take place in nature. After all, the sun has to work with water to make nature fertile.
Other Litha symbols include oak trees (representing the Oak King’s power), roses, and other plants. Midsummer also has strong ties to the Fair Folk, which is why many Litha traditions revolve around appeasing and honoring the Fae. Having said all that, let’s talk about more symbols of the summer solstice, starting with the traditional Litha colors.
Symbolic Litha Colors and Crystals
Now before we tell you how to celebrate Litha, let’s go through the basics. Knowing the traditional Litha colors can help us figure out what to wear and how to decorate our homes and altars for the occasion.
As you might have expected, the colors we associate with the summer solstice are very vibrant shades that tend to appear in nature. So think blue skies, green pastures, and floral shades. Additionally, since the festival is all about celebrating the light of the sun, white, yellow, orange, red, and gold are also dominant.
Some of those hues are also present in the most popular Litha crystals. The most effective gemstones you can use for spellcasting during the summer solstice are all in the yellow, orange, and red shade range.
Yellow amber and brownish tiger’s eye ensure protection but they also enhance patience, balance, and willpower. Carnelian and ruby stones boost courage, vitality, and energy. If you find yourself lacking the motivation to envision and pursue your goals, incorporating citrine and sunstone in your Litha rituals might help too.
Litha Flowers and Herbs
As we have previously established, the summer solstice brings an abundance of different plant life. In addition to oak, other kinds of trees can take on symbolic roles during the sabbat.
For example, rowan trees represent wisdom, protection, and courage. Additionally, elder trees can symbolize self-assessment, transformation, and creativity — all of which are more than appropriate themes for the summer solstice.
If you want to incorporate flowers into your Litha festivities, just get whatever is currently in bloom. Marigolds, daisies, roses, lilies, and sunflowers should all be in season around Midsommar.
As for the most commonly used Litha herbs, those tend to be a bit more scattered. Since we usually use dried ingredients, they can be off-season. Chamomile, basil, clove, sage, cedar, pine, mint, or lavender would enhance spellcasting rituals during this time. And if you want to cleanse your space, use orange or lemon incense. Now let’s talk about the most important thing about any holiday — the food!
Litha Foods and Beverages
In the springtime, the bees come out and start feasting on the local flora. However, the summer months are when we get to benefit from their hard work. That’s why honey is the most recognizable flavor of the summer solstice! We can use it to make mead, put it in lemonade, and make it into sweet honey cakes.
Cakes, in general, are the perfect additions to all summer solstice festivities! There’s just one catch — we should ideally make them with seasonal fruits. By the end of June, we’ll get to munch on fresh melons, cherries, apricots, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. And of course, most of those would taste scrumptious in cakes and pies!
As for savory foods, we can always fall back on tomato, cucumber, and pepper salads. But as delicious as veggies can be, you’ll need something more substantial to get you through the many exciting Litha activities. Luckily, Midsommar is also the perfect time to have a BBQ picnic!
How to Celebrate Litha With or Without a Coven
Now that we’ve gone over the traditional symbols of the summer solstice, let’s talk about how you can make the most of the sabbat. But remember — you don’t have to do everything on this list. Just stick to the things that make you feel more connected with your faith!
Go for a Nature Walk or Tend to Your Plants
To start us off, let’s talk about one of the most basic Litha activities anyone can do — enjoy nature! If you have a park or a forest nearby, take time out of your day to go there and take it all in. While you’re at it, you can also pick wildflowers to decorate your home or altar with.
On the other hand, if you live in a more urban area, tend to your houseplants. Or, if you don’t have any of those, now might be a good time to get yourself some greenery for your home.
Even if you don’t have many parks and forests around you, you could probably find a sunlit bench in your neighborhood. Walk over there and bask in the light — that’s what the sabbat is all about, isn’t it? You could even buy some sunflower seeds on your way there and share them with the birds.
Above all, Litha is a good time to reflect on the coming season and meditate on the direction you want to take. Just remember that nature is the domain of the Fair Folk — and come prepared!
Leave Offerings to the Fae
As we have previously established, Midsommar is a time of high activity for the Fae. So you might want to leave them an offering, just to keep yourself in their good graces.
The Fair Folk always appreciate sweets like cakes and cookies, as well as milk and mead, if you have any. Alternatively, you can just bring them shiny, pretty trinkets. If you want to work with them, set them up with a colorful house. You can even make one out of a pre-made birdhouse if you don’t want to start from scratch.
But if you decide to put it in your yard, make sure it’s far away from your house. Even though these nature spirits can be helpful, they’re not above being mischievous for no reason. So if you don’t want to become a target, keep them at arm’s length.
Practice Water Magic
As you know, the summer solstice represents the height of the Sun God’s power. Still, we should balance out the element of fire by incorporating water into our sabbat celebrations. There are several ways to go about doing that.
If the summers in your area get really hot, take a dip in a nearby creek or river. Alternatively, you can have a proper beach day at the nearest body of water — or throw a good old-fashioned pool party for the whole coven. If none of those options are feasible, you could just bless your watering can and water your plants.
Set Up a Litha Altar
One of the best things about Wiccan sabbats is that they’re a fantastic opportunity to revamp our altars! We’ve already mentioned the different colors, flowers, and crystals that symbolize the summer solstice. So now, all you have to do is apply that knowledge to decorating your Litha altar.
While you consider the different elements you’d like to incorporate, take a moment to cleanse your home and the tools you’ll be using with incense. When you’re done, you can start setting up the altar! Flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables are all great additions to your offering plate.
Since the sun is the main symbol of the festival, bring in some solar symbols, mirrors, and light-colored candles. If you want to make a ritual out of lighting the candle, do it in front of a mirror while saying a Litha prayer, then let it burn out at the altar. Generally, candles should be left burning on the day of the solstice — particularly if it’s cloudy or raining. In that case, the candles become symbolic sun substitutes.
Make Litha Decorations
Those of us who are naturally crafty will have plenty of Litha crafts to do during the festivities. For example, we can make flower crowns or busy ourselves weaving sun crosses out of twigs and twine. Alternatively, we can use colored glass and other reflective materials to make suncatchers — or just stick to plain old dreamcatchers.
While we’re at it, we can also bring out some citrus ornaments. You might even have some leftover from Yule — but if you don’t, they should be easy enough to make. You just slice up your oranges or lemons and leave them in the oven on low heat for a few hours.
If those don’t get you going, you can make your solar décor out of salt dough. Form them into sun-shaped discs, paint them, and let them dry before hanging them up around your home and garden.
Try Some Litha Recipes
Trying some Litha recipes is always a great way to get in the festive mood. You can make honey cakes, strawberry cake, or any other lavish dessert. Just remember to decorate it with flowers and sun motifs!
As for the beverages, you can prepare mead, lemonade, or sweet tea. If you want to make them even more seasonal, whip up some violet or lavender syrup to add to your tea or lemonade.
After cleaning the flowers, put them in a bowl with some sugar and cover it with boiling water. Stir it up and let the syrup sit for half an hour before straining out the flowers. When you’re done, you should have a purplish syrup you can use as the base to pretty much any drink.
Perform a Litha Ritual — or Attend a Coven Meeting
Finally, the day of the summer solstice has arrived! What will you do first?
Most Wiccans rise with the sun and cast some protective spells for the upcoming season. But if you’re planning any group get-togethers — we suggest that you schedule them for high noon. After all, that’s when the sun will be at its highest point in the sky.
As to that, there are plenty of Litha rituals you can do with a coven. Singing, dancing, and drumming around a bonfire are pretty standard ways to mark the sabbat. And when you’re all tuckered out, you can relax with a BBQ picnic!
If any members of the coven are due for a renewal of their marriage vows, Litha is the perfect time for the occasion. There’s a reason June is such a popular month for weddings!
But ultimately, you shouldn’t let the abundance of options overwhelm you. Learning how to celebrate Litha isn’t just about following someone else’s rules. As with everything else in Wicca, you get to pick the rituals you feel honor the solstice the best way.
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