Litha : Summer Solstice : Fruition
The summer solstice falls around December 21 or 22 in the southern hemisphere – in 2017, it occurs at 2.28am on December 22 – and June 20 or 21 in the northern hemisphere. It’s the longest day and the shortest night of the year, with the sun rising early and setting late (if at all). It marks the peak of energy and solar power of the year before it begins to transition back to the darker half.
Mythologically, this was when the goddess was pregnant with the child she’d conceived with the young god, and bloomed into the mother, filled with new life and potential, while the sun god reached his energetic peak, transforming from young warrior to wise sage. Astronomically, this solstice occurs when the sun reaches its northern or southernmost latitude. In the southern hemisphere on this day the sun is above the Tropic of Capricorn, and the South Pole is tilted towards the sun at its most extreme angle, making the sun’s rays more intense, with more light and heat than at any other time of year. At Midsummer in the northern hemisphere, when the North Pole is tilted towards the sun, it creates the mystical phenomenon known as the Midnight Sun, where in some towns in Norway and Finland the sun doesn’t set for up to four months, with a beautiful sun lighting up the sky in the middle of the night – which is balanced out in winter with periods of constant dark known as Polar Night.
The summer solstice, also known as Litha, Alban Heruin (light of the shore), Feast of Epona, Feast of the Faery, Kupala’s Night, Saint John’s Day and Mother Night, marks the middle of summer, the famous Midsummer Day and Midsummer Night’s Eve so magically captured by Shakespeare. It’s the longest day of the year, and is the highest point of the Wheel in terms of heat and light.
In nature it’s a time of ripeness and abundance. The grains are growing tall, fruit is swelling with sweetness and colour, animals are out and about, and people feel inspired to stay outdoors, be sociable and celebrate the season of good will and summer fun. Traditionally it was a time of relaxation, as the crops were planted but the harvest was yet to come, so time was taken to rest, restore and enjoy the beautiful weather. Today summer is also a time of holidaying, time off for your own pursuits and basking in the sunshine.
Universally it’s a day of high, hot and active energy. Whereas the winter solstice is slow and introspective, its opposite is fast and effective. It’s a time to do, to get out there and harness the energising power of the season and make things happen. Follow your passion, take a chance, say yes to new opportunities and express your creativity and your inner self, supported by the vibrant power of this period. This is not the time to be withdrawn or shy, it’s for getting out amongst it and making your dreams come true. It’s also when relationships – and you – will mature, and you’ll be able to apply new wisdom and experience to your passion, so give thanks for the lessons you have learned and allow the person you are maturing into to unfold.
At the summer solstice everything is ripe and abundant and life is blooming, but there is also the knowledge that, from this day forward, the sun will start to weaken and the days will slowly begin to get shorter as the Wheel of the Year turns back towards winter and the dark half of the year. So this is a day to celebrate, to absorb all the energy of the season and take advantage of every opportunity available, quite literally seizing the day and making hay while the sun shines.
Ways to celebrate
Midsummer has always been a time of festivities, sunshine and joy. Across Asia they had all night parties, feasts and costumed processions in honour of the solar deities, while the Celts and Scandinavians celebrated the longest day by lighting huge bonfires and dancing around them to welcome the sun. These massive fires were lit to bolster the sun’s power and ward off evil spirits, ensuring only positive magic entered the human realm. Garlands of flowers were worn to represent the energy of the season, woven with herbs for healing. The summer solstice is the perfect time to harvest your herbs, as they are at their most potent, having absorbed the sun’s peaking strength. Saint John’s wort, then called chase devil, was picked at this time to repel negativity and bad spirits – and now it is still picked and dried on this day, so it can be used at the winter solstice to combat seasonal affective disorder and recall the energy of the summer.
Today Litha remains a celebration, a day to acknowledge how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved. It’s a time to be joyful, wild and free, expressing your inner self and your passion. Enjoy the happiness, energy and abundance of this season, soaking up the sunshine and the festive atmosphere. Spend time at the beach, bathing in the cleansing ocean and frolicking in the sand, or walk through the bush or a park, listening to the lazy buzzing of the bees, the twittering of the birds and the hum of the heat-soaked earth. Make use of the longer days, the enchanted twilight and the extra daylight to have fun, spend time with friends and family or work on your dream.
Long ago, people stayed up throughout Midsummer Night’s Eve, around the bonfires or within the sacred circles, then watched the solstice sun rise, feeling it bathe them in warmth and light. If you’ve got the stamina, echo these ancient rites, performing a vigil through this shortest night. Then, at dawn, stand with your arms outstretched and breathe in the sun’s life-giving powers. If you’re near a beach or a lake watch it rise over the water, or simply open your bedroom window and let the golden rays of light wash over you with their healing energy and burn away anything you no longer need. On solstice night, climb a hill and absorb the sun’s vitality as it sets in the west, feeling the vibrations of the sunset colours, giving thanks for its warmth and energy, and farewelling it as it begins its descent, and the Wheel starts to turn towards the waning half of the year.
In the southern hemisphere, the summer solstice is when Christmas is celebrated. Rather than the traditional sleet and snow, the sun is strong at this time – some would say merciless – and the energy is fast and active. Despite snow-covered decorations, Santas and hot roast dinners, a legacy of British ancestors, at this time people absorb the solar energy, feast on luscious summer fruits, give thanks for goals reached and blessings received, and revel in the strength and heat of this long day of sunshine and the power of the sun god. [You can read about being an Upside Down Witch here…]
Litha actually sits well with Christmas, being a time of abundance, achievement and culmination, and the sharing of summer’s bounty. Organise a festive feast, with everyone bringing food, and wrap pots of sunshiney flowers and summer herbs in gold and red velvet as gifts. Fill a vase with bright summer blooms like daisies, sunflowers, honeysuckle, roses and citrus blossoms to represent the cheeriness of the season, and breathe in their heavenly scent. Plant a sun wheel garden with golden herbs like vervain, Saint John’s wort, juniper and rosemary, and bury pieces of citrine and topaz crystals in the earth to encourage abundant growth of the plants as well as your dreams.
This sabbat celebrates the power of the sun to heal and regenerate, and rituals were performed in a range of diverse cultures in honour of sun gods such as Lugh, Apollo and Ra. The Chinese also marked the day with rituals dedicated to Li, the goddess of light, the Japanese worshipped the sun goddess Amaterasu, and in England they honoured Sulis, the Celtic solar deity and patron of the sacred waters at Bath. Invoke the sun god, or simply the masculine aspects of your higher self, along with the sun goddess, or the archetypal energy she embodies, and ask for their blessings for a prosperous and abundant future.
In some communities Midsummer was known as the Feast of the Faery, when people would leave offerings for the fae folk and petition for their blessings in matters of love and life, so you can also communicate with Maeve or Titania, both queens of the faeries, or any of the other summertime sprites buried deep in your subconscious.
In your journal
This festival of joy and abundance is a great time to take stock of your achievements and acknowledge the progress you’ve already made and how far you’ve come. When we strive for something, it’s easy to become so focused on the end point that we forget the small victories along the way. To remind me of this, I have a post-it note stuck to my computer saying: “Don’t look at how far you have to go, look at how far you’ve already come.” Whenever I feel discouraged, frustrated or stuck, I remind myself of what I have achieved – another hundred books ordered, an article in a British magazine, a great review. My husband likes that quote too, because he sometimes gets so fixated on the progress of his band that he forgets to enjoy what they’ve already accomplished – the album being released, a video played on national television, a message from a fan in France.
It’s important to focus on the big picture, but all the little steps along the way should be sources of immense joy and pride too. Write a list of all the things you’ve achieved in the last six months, and keep writing, free associating, until you’ve remembered them all. You could also create a manifestation board to represent your dream, and make an achievement board to hang next to it. Have symbols of what you’ve already accomplished alongside the things you want to make happen, to add the energy of abundance and success to your hopes. There’s nothing like a little victory to keep you motivated!
Use these achievements to inspire you to continue along your path and keep working towards your goals. This solstice is a great time to do, to get out there and make things happen, tuning in to the active energy and the heat and vibrant power of the earth. Take action, getting up early or staying up late if need be, and get stuff done.
This is also the perfect time to take note of how your dreams and goals are progressing, and meditate on anything that could be blocking your progress. Be open to letting go of whatever isn’t working so you can move forward in the flow that makes progress easier. As you work towards your goal and learn more about the requirements of attaining it, and your own talents and passions, it can be helpful to reassess your methods and work out if you need to head in a new direction. Perhaps you won’t need to change a thing, but sometimes there are aspects that can be refined to make your plan more effective.
Creativity and expression are at a peak on this day, so stand in your power and express your needs, saying what you want rather than assuming people know. Misunderstandings can happen easily if you aren’t clear and direct in expressing yourself. You do have to work out what your needs and priorities are though before you can express them, so spend time examining your inner world and writing about what you require, personally, professionally and for your own peace of mind. It’s not an imposition to express your needs, it’s a right.
You can also use the heat and energy of summer to purify and burn away anything that no longer serves you. In times gone by people would use the summer bonfires for a ritual of releasement, throwing a symbol of what they wanted to put behind them into the flames. You can use a red or orange candle or a tiny cauldron to burn yours away, or simply stand outside in the sunshine and let it cleanse you of doubt and fear so you can step forward into your future with dazzling confidence and vibrant summery energy.