The Summer Solstice – Midsummer – the Pagan festival of Litha
The Summer Solstice, or Litha, marks the half way point of the year – Midsummer!
I can’t quite believe it, as in my part of the world we have barely had any hot days at all, and in this last couple of weeks there has been plenty of rain, which to be fair we have sorely needed… I think we even had a few hailstone showers a week or two ago! As I looked back on last year’s blog it seems that we had a slow start to summer then too, but as we know, nature does her thing, the cycle continues and all things have their day.
The solstices are astronomical events, occurring in line with the suns relationship with the earth and so occur on the same dates all the time, unlike the other pagan celebrations based around the farming calendar, the fire festivals of Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain, which would have been flexible, more seasonal, and possibly based around the times of the first full moons after the equinoxes and solstices, so the dates would not have been fixed. I feel these times are much more open to personal experience and can be celebrated when the season feels “right”, even when is more convenient for us.
This year, 2022, the summer solstice falls in the Northern hemisphere at 10.13 on Tuesday 22nd June.
The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol (“sun”) and sistere (“to stand still”), because at the solstices, the Sun’s movement appears to “stand still” (as seen from Earth) and pauses at a northern or southern limit before reversing direction.
And so the summer solstice is a time to pause… rejoice… its the peak of all life here in the northern hemisphere… we are at our closest to that big fire ball sun – maximum warmth, life, expansiveness!
Our ancestors would have spent the Spring planning, toiling, preparing, sowing seeds and crops, but at Litha, they could kick back and relax a bit, knowing Mother Nature is doing her thing!… its no coincidence that we still all pause for a break in the summer… the schools break-up, we take our holidays. Now is a social time, a time for community and connection, to see and feel the abundance all around us, to notice not only the growth of nature, our gardens, maybe our crops, but also bring attention to our own spiritual growth… how are the intentions and seeds that we planted earlier in the year within us flourishing?
All around the world, all cultures and traditions celebrate the solstices in some way, here in the UK we can trace back as far as Stonehenge, which dates back over 5,000 years, meaning that honouring this special time has been part of our culture, heritage and in our psyches since the beginning of our history. The Sun is at its maximum power now, energy is high and it is a time for rejoicing, a period of pause when we can bask in its warmth, knowing that the crops are ripening in the fields, the frantic fertile period of Spring has passed, life is filled with abundance. The Solstice was a time of celebration and a break from the norm. Many cultures believed that magic took place on the night of the Summer Solstice, with fairies showing themselves to humans, while evil spirits were dispelled from their lives. Different cultures around the world celebrate the Summer Solstice in different ways, but with the same theme recurring, celebrating the energy and feel good factor of the warmth and light! (more info on how other cultures celebrate can be found in my 2020 Litha blog)
As with all our Pagan festivals and rituals, there is no one “right” way to celebrate, it’s all about doing what feels right for you.
Although the sun is at it’s peak, there is an air of melancholy as we know that it will begin it’s descent into the darker days from now on, and so personal rituals that involve not only manifestation, but also release, are appropriate.
Known as Litha, it is considered one of the most joyful Sabbats of the year. This is when people gathered (and still gather) at Stonehenge as well as at many other sacred sites around the country for day and night long celebrations watching the sun align and shine through a certain point in the structure. In its most basic essence, this day is a celebration of the sun and that it is still shining on us. It will go out one day and we should revel in the fact that we were born at this point in the Earth’s evolution. The solstice also holds deeper nature metaphors for life, fertility, and the cycle of time and seasons. No matter what your view of spirituality or nature, the sun and summertime is always a thing worth celebrating.
We can give thanks and feel gratitude for all the abundance that we have in our lives. Even in the darkest of nights there is always a glimmer of light, and we can always find something or someone to show appreciation for.
Summer Solstice Rituals
Get outside! Take advantage of the longest day and go for walks (preferably without your phone), go to the beach, to any park or forest or even the smallest park can suffice if you’re city locked. There is more and more evidence of how being out in nature helps our mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
This longest night is a time to celebrate the seasons and set intentions for the months to come. Sit up all night, watch the sun set and then rise again.
Spend time with the flowers. Garden, buy flowers and arrange them all over your home, or explore a botanical garden. Flowers are symbols of the solstice and have magical energies, and are linked to the Fae on this night, as with all the nights of transition and liminality.
The sun is the symbol of the fire element of the solstice. Set your intentions with a fire ritual. Some cultures would light bonfires and dance all night until the flames reduced to embers. Then they would jump over the burning coals to make their wishes for the months ahead. A more modern and practical ritual can include lighting a candle, setting your wish or intention, and blowing it out, sound familiar? Even our birthday rituals hold pagan roots…and even more importantly, as you make your wish, speak it aloud!…words are spells and have power.
It’s easy to bring the element of fire into our gardens these days with a small firepit or chiminea. If you are celebrating outside with a fire, burn plants like chamomile, mugwort, st. john’s wort, rosemary, sage, thyme, lemon balm and lavender for good health, protection and healing, as well as keeping the biting insects away!!
Ground yourself with yoga or meditation. There’s strong sun energy brewing on the solstice, which can feel intense for some. Help ground yourself with meditative or yoga rituals. Go to a class, watch a calming yoga tutorial or meditation visualisation on youtube, listen to meditation music, and try to do these rituals outside if you can. (See my Litha meditations on YouTube.)
If there’s a time to cleanse your crystals in sunlight, it’s now, around the time of the Solstice. Let the energy of the sun purify your crystals from built-up negative energy in the longest sunlight of the year and then sleep with the crystals near your bed when you go to bed at night. For extra grounding, hold onto your black grounding stones like obsidian, black tourmaline, and shungite.
Solstice night is a perfect time for a ritual bath. Light candles, fill your bath with salts and essential oils, even flower petals, or add essential oils to your shower and hang flowers and herbs in bundles from the shower head, or just let them float in the bath – my favourite bath herb bundles at the moment include rosemary, lavender, lemon balm and mugwort. Pamper yourself with a beautiful homemade rose petal infused oil.
Be a Kitchen Witch!
This is a great time to infuse potions and tinctures for summer. Bake cakes infused with honey (the symbol of the June moon), flower treats, and homemade beauty products made from plants and flowers. Make flower garlands for your hair. Decorate your altar, your home and your garden. Make smudge sticks – you can find more information on this on my YouTube channel, and in lots of my blogs from last year. Create a special loose incense from flowers and plants in your garden to burn at the solstice and future celebrations, or a personal oil blend using your favourite essential oils (remember always mix pure essential oils with a carrier oil before using it on your skin).
Work with the Moon
This year the summer solstice falls exactly half way between the full and the new moons, the last quarter and is a great time to think about letting go of the things that no longer serve you as we prepare to move into the darker half of the year. Write them on a piece of paper and make use of having the solstice flame to burn them in, releasing them up to the Universe.
Whatever you do this Solstice, wherever you are, even if you aren’t celebrating it in any big way, take a moment around the 21st and 22nd to just pause, notice, place your feet on the earth and take a deep breath… give thanks for your life, for our Mother Earth, send her love and gratitude for all her gifts.
I’d love to share with you what I’ve been up to and have planned, so you can keep up to date with all these by signing up to my newsletter here.
Summer Solstice blessings