Amazing Grace, how sweet the Earth
That birthed a Witch like me.
I once was burned, now I survive
Was hanged, but now I’m free.
T’was grace that drew down the Moon
And grace that raised the sea,
The magic of our people’s will
Will set our Mother free.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Blessings of Litha!
Happy Litha (Summer Solstice) to those of us in the northern hemisphere, and Happy Yule 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, She diminishes, the days grow shorter, and the harvest season beckons.
May the children of Earth awaken, rise up,
and be about the sacred healing of our home.
In the way of our ancestors, we honor the Turning.
This is the Summer Solstice by astronomical reckoning, although it is also a “fixed” holiday in many traditions, starting at sunset June 23.
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.
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 June 21.
You can see why monuments like Stonehenge are tuned to this event: it is an unmistakable point from which the rest of the yearly calendar may be accurately reckoned.
So today, we celebrate the ending of the waxing year and the beginning of the waning year, in preparation for the harvest to come. Midsummer is when all may absorb the Sun’s warming rays and it is a celebration of fertility, not only for humans, but also for crops, animals and all beings.
In the mythical cycle, this is the end of the reign of the Oak King, and the beginning of the Holly King’s rule.
Witches consider the Goddess to be heavy now with pregnancy from Her mating at Beltane – 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. This is a time when everything is exuberantly alive and the Spirits of Nature are most active.
Now the threshold between the worlds of humans and the Others is wide open and beckons, making it one of the most magical times of the year.
Lore tells us that on Midsummer’s Night, the field and forest Elementals, as well as the Faeries of all races, abound in great numbers. This a fortuitous time to commune with them if we are respectful and wary, for the Good People are not the cute wee people of greeting cards, but an ancient race: the powerful, fey Shining Ones. They have their own free will, their own rites, and agendas. Beware of interfering or inserting yourself where you have not been invited!
In some Western traditions, the Faery folk are an ancient race of people who lived in the British Isles long before the Celts or the Anglo-Saxons arrived. They are believed to have descended from the Tuatha de Danann (the tribe of the great Mother Goddess Danu), a magickal race who, in some tales, were said to have flown into Ireland in ships that descended from the clouds. They came from the four great cities of Falias, Gorias, Finias and Murias, and brought with them the four Great Treasures: the Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny), the sword of Lugh, a magic spear, and the endlessly abundant Cauldron of the Dagda.
There is a great deal of lore regarding how to contact the Good Folk on Midsummer’s Eve, if that is something you dare to do. For instance, one of my favorite rituals is based on The Greater Key of Solomon, which contains instructions for making an aspergillum using nine holy herbs. Mentioned in a number of old texts, there is some debate about exactly which ones are being referred to.
But in the Green Witchcraft tradition that I practice, I light my cauldron fire and sprinkle it with betony wood, chamomile, either fennel or lavender, lemon balm, mullein, rue, St. John’s wort, thyme and vervain.
Caution – you should only burn this mixture outdoors, please; and people with sensitivities or women who may be pregnant should avoid this smoke.
But otherwise, burning these lovely herbs together is one of the most heavenly, simple, and truly Fae experiences one can conjure! Scrying with this smoke is especially powerful, and in my experience, its magic is very enticing to the Gentry.
It is an old tradition that couples who became enchanted with one another at Beltane are now given the opportunity to make a more permanent commitment at Litha. They may do so by jumping the bonfire (or a burning cauldron fire) into which the nine blessed herbs have been cast.
Speaking of herbs, this is said to be a most auspicious time for Druids to harvest mistletoe with their golden sickles. And many Witches pick their herbs and worts tonight, particularly at midnight, as this is the peak of their most numinous and divine essence. For now is the height of fertility and the Sun’s influence, so they will be most powerful for use in spells and making poppets.
In fact, any magical plants plucked on Midsummer are especially efficacious and even keep better. Happily, it is also a waning Moon, making it an even more fortuitous time for harvesting.
In addition to mistletoe, St. John’s wort, mullein, wormwood, mugwort, thyme, and yarrow are especially recommended for harvest, either at noon or midnight tonight. Always remember to ask the plant’s permission first, never harvest endangered, stressed plants, or the last bit of one, and be sure to give an offering in return.
Litha is naturally considered a time of great magical power. Especially effective are magicks and spells for love, fertility, healing and prosperity.
This is also a very good time to perform blessings and protection spells for your pets and home. Hanging boughs and bouquets of St. John’s wort, fennel and honeysuckle bring sweetness and protection. Linden and fennel seeds are especially favored gifts for the People of Peace. Other offerings always appreciated are cream and honey.
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Last but not least, as I posted yesterday, I invite you to join in an unprecedented global spell working/prayer for the Spirit and well-being of the Tarot.
In collaboration with such luminaries as Mary K. Greer, Rachel Pollack, Thalassa, Joanna P. Colbert, and Linda Marson, I have helped create this intention, to be send out under the shining influence of The Solstice Sun:
With the Great Solstice Turning of the Seasons, we honor the spirit of the Tarot and all those — past, present and future — who unselfishly support its gifts of illumination, healing, and inspiration for all.
So mote it be!