This particular year, Litha (Summer Solstice) will be spectacular. According to Earthsky.org, the moon will turn new merely 9 hours after the Solstice on June 20th. At that time the new moon will sweep in front of the Sun, causing what is called an annular solar eclipse – a literal ring of fire. I’m a little depressed that it won’t be visible in the States. It starts at sunrise over Africa and ends somewhere in the Pacific. However, it is a fitting display for the longest day of the year. Here in the Northern hemisphere, it’s MidSummer. While in the Southern Hemisphere, they’re celebrating Yule.
MidSummer is the actual change from days getting longer to days getting shorter. Things are growing everywhere. Early spring plants are fruiting and those planted later are pushing flowers that will fruit. As a pagan, especially one who follows the Greek pantheon, this is an ultimate celebration of Apollo at his zenith. He was associated with both agriculture and purification. Some Hellenists celebrate Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. Bonfires were lit at the crossroads called fortune fires, young men would profess vows and jump the bonfires to seal the vows. Young women would gather in a house. One was chosen to get the “silent water”. She had to fill & carry the pitcher in complete silence. When back at the house, each girl would throw in a talisman (fruit, jewelry or what have you). The pitcher was then “locked” with red cloth. Tied, and left in the starlight all night. That night the girls would dream of their fates or the man they would marry.
There were similar customs in many cultures. For the Celts, the Solstice was also a big fire festival. The summer solstice was seen as a time to banish evil spirits, through the light of the sun. They would pray for a good harvest, as it was halfway through the growing season. The summer solstice was seen as a time of change, nature, and new beginnings. It was also associated with fertility. they would sing, dance and feast. It was also customary for lovers to clasp hands and jump over bonfires. This was thought to bring luck to their relationship. Some believed the higher the lovers jumped, the higher their crops would grow.
Bonfires were lit on top of hills, at crossroads or in large openings. It was a time of great merriment. They would also pray to the Sun Goddess, who the Irish Celts knew as Grainne. She was both the Winter Queen and Solar Sun Goddess, who was thought to protect seeds during the winter and nurture them during the summer months.
Todays, neo-pagans, honor the Mother aspect of the triple Goddess. This is also a celebration of the Oak King, full of love for his wife, the Goddess. With the coming of the end of the longest day, He knows he must die, in order to be born again. For the next day on to Yule, the sun diminishes until it is his time to reign again.
There are many ways to honor midsummer. In the countryside, we would light a bonfire at dawn and celebrate all day. It was and is a great time to commune with the spirit of the faerie folk.
Many animals are honored at this time:
Bees – symbolizing abundance, messengers from the spirits, new life, good health and sweetness. This is why mead is a popular drink of Summer Solstice!
Bulls – symbolizing strength, virility, and health.
Butterflies – symbolizing rebirth, the soul and how they accept the beauty of all things especially flowers and fruit.
Cows – symbolizing abundance and the Mother Goddess. This is why milk and cheeses are considered a staple at midsummer
Eagles & Hawks – symbolizing power, strength, renewal of spirit and the triumph of life over death
The solstice is a celebration of everything that grows. Plants, flowers, herbs, springs and streams. Activities that remind us that the earth renews itself each year. Spinning is a common way to celebrate the day. Not just spinning yarn, but spirals, discs, dancing in circles around the fire. Celebrating all that the Goddess, in her bounty, is providing for us to live on. Do your ritual at dawn. Include blessings for the land, plants, animals and all else it provides. If you’re inclined, place a bowl of milk in a circle of flowers and ask for Blessings for the fae. Bonfire vigils, Handfastings, Divination are all associated with MidSummer. It is a great time to work spells for things you want to create into existence.
Greet the Dawn (Air Spell)
Do outside or at an open window facing East
Use any incense you prefer but I like a mixture of rose, lavender, pine, cinnamon and citrus.
Get up before sunrise, take a purification bath and watch the sunrise…
As it gets lighter, blow your incense and say:
Blessed Sun, I greet your rays
Upon this Sacred Solstice day
Welcome be your warmth and light
Bring day out of the night
I greet the dawn with a gracious heart
And so does Midsummer now does start!
Common foods include Ale Bread, fruit soups, abundant salads, herbed lamb, fruited wines, mead and sweet honeyed treats. It is also a good time to make Summer wreaths, cinnamon brooms, gifts for the birds (apples, peanut pinecones with birdseed), wildcrafting summer herbs, water divination rods,
Decorating your altar for MidSummer is simple. Flowers of every shape, size and smell. Sun symbols, anything colored orange, yellow, red or gold, as well as white or green. Incense of summer (rose, cinnamon, citrus), a cauldron to represent fire (with or without candle), acorns, oak leaves, animal totems and any gifts for the fae.
Needless to say, this is one of my favorite celebrations because it is a celebration of Gaia at its heart and everything that She gives us. Gaia was originally the Greek goddess and mother who created the Earth. Today, she is seen as a personification of the world, the consciousness of the planet. She is all that sustains us and protects us, allowing us to live and, right now, she’s being beaten mercilessly. It is a good time to invoke her and thank her for all She gives us. It is ALWAYS a good idea to be nice to your mother.
Oh Gaia, mother to us all, I invoke you!
You, who gave birth to the world, have also given birth to me,
I send you gratitude and love,
Unending devotion, and the promise to guard over your gifts.
Thank you for the mountains and seas.
Thank you for the flowers, for the trees and the crops in the field.
Thank you for the Sun that shines and the rain that washes clean.
Thank you for our brothers the beasts, and the birds and the butterflies.
You are the beating heart of the Earth,
Strong beneath us, Comforting around us.
You are our mother and we are grateful.
You are our mother and we love you.
Gaia! Gaia! Gaia!