Dancing be the heart within us,
Open be our souls to bliss,
Courage vanquish every shadow,
Greet Midsummer with a kiss.
– Greeting to the Summer Solstice
from Celtic Devotional – Daily Prayers and Blessings
© Caitlín Matthews
Rejoice! Rejoice! Blessings of Litha!
Happy Litha (Summer Solstice) to those of us in the northern hemisphere, and Yule Blessings to our friends below the equator! On this day (above the equator) the Sun, giver of life, reaches its zenith in the sky. Today, the Shadow is smallest, the bright Sun illuminates all! From this day forward, the time of the waxing light changes to the time of the waning light. As the light diminishes, the days grow shorter, and the harvest season beckons.
The word “solstice” literally means “standing-still of the sun.” It comes from the fact that the sun’s apparent path across the sky moves upward, from December to June, and seems to stop at its highest level above the southern horizon on this date. You can see why monuments like Stonehenge were tuned to this event: it is an unmistakable point from which the rest of the yearly calendar may be accurately reckoned.
The Summer Solstice is called Midsummer or Litha in some medieval and Craft traditions; and Alban Hefin or Alban Heruin in the Celtic and Druidic traditions. In the mythical cycle, this is the end of the reign of the Oak King, and the beginning of the Holly King’s rule. The Oak King and the Holly King are, respectively, Gods of the Waxing Year and the Waning Year.
This date has had spiritual significance for thousands of years as humans have celebrated the life-giving powers of the Sun. The Celts celebrated with bonfires, Christians attempted to replace Litha with the feast of John the Baptist, and it is also the festival of Li, the Chinese Goddess of light. Solstice rites are associated with diverse cultures and sites ranging from Stonehenge in England, to the Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, to the Caracol Tower in Mexico and the Pyramid of Khufu at Giza in Egypt.
Lore tells us that on Midsummer’s Night, the field and forest elves, sprites, and faeries abound in great numbers. This a fortuitous time to commune with them if we are respectful and wary, for the Good People are an ancient race: the powerful, fey Shining Ones.
Witches consider the Goddess to be heavy now with pregnancy from Her mating at Beltane and great honor is given to Her. The God is celebrated as the Sun is at its peak in the sky and we celebrate His approaching fatherhood – honor is also given to Him.
The wonderful mystic, historian and author Caitlín Matthews suggests that we stand under the noon-time sunlight and observe how our shadow is nearly invisible. In The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year, she writes, “All living creatures cast shadows, it is only spirits that cast none. This is as near we can come to resembling spirits in this reality. Become attuned to the midsummer sun. Absorb the warmth and blessedness, and in return hold in your heart those who lack the blessing of light.
“Do not make any prayer for things to be changed one way or another; just hold these places and beings in your heart and let the sun shine upon them. Come back to awareness of your own time and place, and give thanks for the longest day.”
Litha is considered a time of great magical power. Especially effective are magic and spells for love, healing and prosperity. This is also a very good time to perform blessings and protection spells for your pets and home. Hanging boughs of fennel and honeysuckle bring sweetness and protection.
Many Witches pick their herbs and worts either on Midsummer’s Eve (last night) or today, as this is the time when they are thought to be at their peak of light and warmth. In particular, St. John’s wort, mullein, wormwood, yarrow, and mistletoe can be gathered. Use them for charms to protect your house from fire and lightning, and your family from disease, negative sorcery and disaster.
Always remember to first ask the plant’s permission. And never harvest endangered, stressed plants, or the last bit of one. Be sure to give an offering in return.
Magic crowns Midsummer. Under the big waxing Moon tonight may your celebrations be joyous and all of your meetings most merry!
Blessings to you and all Beings!