You may ask, why am I talking about the summer solstice in May? Today I was thinking that really we don’t spend enough time preparing for each solstice, equinox, or turning of the wheel. So today I give you an idea – if you haven’t done so already, why not begin to prepare your mind, shopping list, and diary for setting up a solstice event. Even if it is to prepare a small altar space for a week, this is one way you can begin to bring paganism, and perhaps witchcraft into your life.
When is the summer solstice?
Summer solstice, the two moments during the year when the path of the Sun in the sky is farthest north in the Northern Hemisphere (June 20 or 24) or farthest south in the Southern Hemisphere (December 21 or 24).
2021 NH Date: Thursday, June 24, 2021
Also called: Feast of Saint John the Baptist, Summer Solstice, St. John’s Feast Day, Jāņi, Enyovden, Līþa/ Lithe, Midsommar, Ivan Kupala Day, Juhannus, Mittumaari, Alban Hefin, Gŵyl Ganol yr Haf, Sankthans, Joninės, Jaanipäev, Keskikesä
Midsummer is the period of time in the middle of the summer. The exact dates vary among different cultures but is primarily held close to the summer solstice. The celebration predates Christianity and existed under different names and traditions around the world.
At the summer solstice, the Sun travels the longest path through the sky, and that day, therefore, has the most daylight. When the summer solstice happens in the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole is tilted about 23.4° (23°27´) toward the Sun.
Litha is when a battle between light and dark takes place. In this battle, the Oak King and the Holly King battle for control. During each solstice, they battle for power, and the balance shifts. At this time the God, as Oak King, is rich in abundance, but he too surrenders his reign to his brother twin, the Holly King, and the descent begins.
Also…..The Goddess is now full and pregnant with Child, and the Sun God is at the height of His virility.
In addition to the polarity between land and sky, Litha is a time to find a balance between fire and water. According to Ceisiwr Serith, in his book The Pagan Family, European traditions celebrated this time of year by setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into a body of water.
Traditions and Symbols of Midsummer
Traditionally people stayed up all night on Midsummer’s Eve to welcome and watch the sunrise. Bonfires were lit on tops of hills, by holy wells, at places held sacred, to honour the fullness of the Sun. At Litha the bonfire really represents a reflection of the Sun at the peak of its strength. The chosen wood would often be Oak and aromatic herbs were scattered into the fire. People danced around the fires and leap through them. Blazing herbs from the sacred bonfire were used to bless the animals. Blazing torches were carried sunwise around homes and fields. Coals from the Midsummer fire were scattered on fields to ensure a good harvest.
Tree worship has always played a large role in Midsummer festivities and trees near wells and fountains were decorated with colored cloths. The Oak King who has ruled the waxing of the year represents strength, courage, and endurance, and the Oak has always been particularly significant at Litha. The Celtic name for Oak is ‘Duir’ which means ‘doorway’ – we are crossing the threshold, entering the doorway into the second, waning part of the year.
Ideas for Your Altar
Oak leaves, oak leaves, and more oak leaves. All the abundance of all the herbs, flowers, and grasses that are so very available at this time.
This is a shrine to honor the Sun – Sunflowers! If any flower was to be a symbol for the summer solstice it would make sense that it would be the sunflower. “The sunflower is the color of the sun, as well as having petals that look like the sun’s rays. One interesting thing about the sunflower is that it seems to follow the sun.”
Candles in Sun colors.
Element – Fire. Fire is symbolic of energy, fun, and passion. All these things can easily symbolize summer and the summer solstice.