16.6.13

Litha (June 21)

Litha is an old Roman word which Wicca adopted and now uses to refer to the summer solstice which usually falls on June 20/21. This year, we will witness the peak of the year on June 21. I say "peak" because this is the time of year when the Sun is strongest and brightest, but also when the days are longest. It seems logical that this will be celebrated because who doesn't like the Sun? By doing rituals for Litha, we try to prolong the summer and keep the land fertile since it will become barren when winter comes.

The Sun is important as a symbol of the God so I would like to mention, in connection to this, the two aspects of the God, which you may have come across in my other posts - the Holly King and the Oak King. The Oak King reigns during spring and summer, while the Holly King reigns during the autumn and winter months. The two solstices (summer and winter) are times of drastic change because, in mythology, the two Kings battle on these days and the one who wins reigns until the next solstice. According to some myths, the Holly King defeats the Oak King on the summer solstice thus gaining the right to reign until the winter solstice when the Oak King will wake up from his six-month-long slumber and defeat the Holly King. The rising of the Sun's power will follow the Oak King's victory and it will reach its peak on the summer solstice, which also marks the death of the Oak King.

In connection to this, many legends have survived and, by the way, they are all associated with sacrifice. The sacrifice is usually that of the Oak King in order to restore balance to nature (i.e. to let winter come). In some of them, the Oak King is burnt, in others her is blinded or even crucified on a T-shaped cross (Robert Graves compares this myth to the story of Samson who was also blinded after his power was taken from him). Graves also believes that John the Baptist (who was killed on June 24) was thought to be the equivalent of the Oak King. It was quite natural to name Jesus Christ as his successor after his death since John himself baptized Christ and who is thus his logical heir. 

Even though we have to keep in mind this battle theme of the summer solstice, we mustn't forget the Goddess. She is in her Mother aspect at this time of year. Since this Sabbat is dedicated to fire (the Sun), it is also dedicated to water as its opposite.

Now, I have to ask you not to confuse Beltane and Litha, which is what people often do. A small misunderstanding has happened over time so that some people now take Litha as the mythological day when the God and Goddess unite, even though this is actually what Beltane is all about. It is possible that the "main culprit" fro this misunderstanding was St. Patrick who transferred the Irish "bonfire night" from Beltane (May 1) to St. John's Eve (June 23/24). By doing this, he attempted to erase Ireland's Pagan past, but this was a very difficult thing to do since Beltane is the Irish name for the month of May. This makes it very hard to confuse people from Ireland, but he was able to trick those that weren't Irish. So don't be surprised if you find many common traditions for these two holidays.

Some common traditions are definitely lighting a fire (and bonfires), jumping over this fire (a more practical option is two light two fires/candles and pass between them), but also leading cattle through its ashes (or again between two fires but you can read more about that in my older post on Beltane). In some countries, it was even believed that the crops would grow only as high as you could jump over the fire! Others believed that scattering the ashes of the fire over the land would make it more fertile. There were many other traditions that can't as easily be connected with Beltane such as rolling downhill or burning a wheel (a symbol of the Sun).

It is obvious that the fire is of great importance to this Sabbat, so it is logical that this will be expressed in rituals. Fire is usually lit in a cauldron, but for this occasion, the cauldron is used for holding water with which the High Priestess will sprinkle all the coven members. It takes on the name "Cerridwen's cauldron" (named after the goddess Cerridwen) has over time and in mythology been knows as the cauldron of wisdom and poetic inspiration. In order for this problem to be solved, the element of fire can be represented by two candles.

Because of the warm weather during this season, this is one of the best Sabbats to hold skyclad (naked). This was even recommended for women who wanted to get pregnant (they would usually walk through their garden naked to share their fertility with their plants). Of course, this is not a new tradition. It was long believed that walking through a field naked would ensure a good harvest and fertile land. Traditions which were incorporated into this included riding a horsey/broom (phallic symbols), which soon became one of the main attributes of the stereotypical Witch. But don't get me wrong, this is not obligatory! You can work indoors or outdoors, naked or fully dressed...it's up to you :) I'm just stating the customs here.

Since this is, after all, a time when nature flourishes, it's worth noting that it's best if you take advantage of her fruits :) Appropriate aromas for your altar include lemon, myrtle, pine and rose and try to keep the colors as happy and natural as possible (for example the colors of the rainbow and dark green). This is also a great time to dry plants (to make teas and other products). For additional decoration, you can fill a cauldron with flowers or perhaps make a circle out of flowers (along with opening the circle with your athamé and/or the Elements).

For those of you that are ambitious, I recommend you read the section entitled "The Fire-Festivals of Europe" in the book entitled The Golden Bough by Frazer. There are many interesting things to read in there in general, but this chapter is directly connected to Litha and its traditions :D

Sabbat: Litha
Pronunciation: /liθa/ (simply put, /litha/)
Date: June 20-21
Other names: Midsummer, the summer solstice, Aerra
Litha
God phase: The Green God, at the peak of his strength,
the Holly King defeats the Oak King
Goddess phase: Mother (at the peak of her power, is
pregnant)
Symbolizes:
Energetic peak (both magical and solar),
maintaining and celebrating the Sun's 
strength and fertility
Traditions:
Jumping over fire/passing between two
fires, burning a wheel, drying herbs, rolling
downhill, walking naked through a garden/
field
Symbols &
colors:
Blue, green, yellow, colors of the rainbow,
dark green, mirrors for catching sunlight, 
wheels, a cauldron with flowers/a sword
Food: Since I don't have my own cookbook, I
recommend the following websites for
inspiration :D
And by all means, keep the food fresh and
cooling since it is summer, after all.
Raven and Crone recipes for Litha
My Moonlit Path - recipes pt. 1
My Moonlit Path - recipes pt. 2
And here are some of my recipes:
Lemon balls
Honey-lavender biscotti
Incense: Lemon, myrtle, pine, rose

I wish you all a merry Litha in advance and good luck with baking goodies, rolling beneath on fresh grass, basking in the Sun and, of course, with your ritual :D

Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat

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