“This is the solstice, the still point of the sun, its cusp and midnight, the year’s threshold and unlocking, where the past lets go of and becomes the future; the place of caught breath.”
– Margaret Atwood
The Wheel of the Year continues moving forward to Litha / Summer Solstice. Historians believe the name Litha came from a document called “The Reckoning of Time” which tells of the Anglo-Saxons and explains a bit of their culture. In this tome Litha referred to this part of the year, being interpreted as “gentle” likely alluding to the sweet summer breezes.
In Wicca, The God and Goddess are happily married. Their joy brings abundance to the land. Nonetheless, this bliss must come to an end. The days will grow shorter. The Horned God begins growing old and dies come Samhain.
Christians adopted this celebration for Saint John’s Day. Nonetheless, many whispers of Pagan traditions remain. Bonfires, storytelling, dance, and food are abundant. Fairy activity continues as well as increasing interactions with other spirits. Litha feels far less celebratory than Beltane as it is time to release the sun and welcome fall and winter.
Other Names for Litha: Midsummer, Summer Solstice, St. John’s Feast Day, Enyovden (Bulgaria), Sankthans (Denmark), Ukko’s celebration (Finland), Drăgaica (Romania).
When is Litha and the Summer Equinox: June 20 – June 22 in the Northern Hemisphere; December 20 – December 23 in the Southern Hemisphere.
What is Litha or Summer Solstice?
Astronomically, Summer Solstice comes with one of the earth’s poles is titled as far as it will go toward the sun. On this day the solar disk is at its highest point in the year. Today people will enjoy the longest period of daylight. Our ancestors, being watchful souls, knew about this event and found ways to celebrated it with rituals and festivals.
Around the world, you will find similar themes for Litha. Austria celebrates with ships proceeding down the Danube. They pass the wine growing region, with a backdrop of bonfires and fireworks overhead.
Brazilians are rather pragmatic having created a National June Festival (Festa Junina). During the event, there will be square dancing, a mock wedding and plentiful Quentao, a fruit and spice beverage. For brave souls with fervent faith, there are coals on which to walk. If you are not hurt, your faith is true. Common dishes include corn, peanuts, sausage, and rice pudding. And, of course, festive fireworks and bonfires abound.
Bulgarian tradition tells us that the sun winks as it first crosses the horizon today, and seeing it is good luck. This is also when magical herbs must be picked for the greatest healing power. A Wise Woman who knows how to turn herbs into curative charms gathers the bounty. This is similar to the custom in Denmark of having the local folk healers gather their herbs on Solstice.
The Estonians were a stubborn lot even after the advent of the Crusaders. Texts from the late 1500s complain of folk stopping outside the church then wandering off to make their bonfire. This came, of course, with wonton drinking and dancing before the farmers had to resume the task of making hay. As the fires burned down some adventurous souls would leap over the remaining flames for good fortune. The Germans were also wont to follow Christian ways and simply carried on with Pagan superstitions and activities. The local authorities decided it was too difficult to try and dissuade them.
Finns add a nifty feature to their Litha celebrations – a sauna! This accompanied the gathering of friends and family for feasts and frolic. Music festivals were very popular too. Greek maidens used divination to discover their future mate, Hungarians might jump the fire as part of a wedding celebration (or in hopes of marriage), and Iranians blessed their crops and prayed for peace to the souls of the dead. Should a couple marry in Iran on this day, a yellow cow was set free representing the couples abundance and joy (yes, there are really yellow cows!).
More Magical Summer Solstice Traditions from Around the World
Latvians have kept many Pagan touches in their celebrations. They sing traditional folk songs, enjoy beer, nibble at cheese and light fires. Women often wear flowers while men wear leaves of the mighty Oak tree. Cattle, houses and now even cars have decorations, often birch branches or leaves. There were also numerous superstitions that predicted the future of the harvest. Lithuanian customs are very similar to this.
Norway has pretty much secularized Litha. The star of the show is a large bonfire and plays that symbolize the life all around. Girls put flowers under their pillows hoping to dream of her future mate. In Poland, floral wreaths go into the Baltic Sea. Festivities begin around sundown and continue until dawn.
Traveling to Portugal, the Summer Solstice is an event commemorating Saints. This is a joyous event with bright decorations, altars to various Saints, dancing and good food. Cabbage and potato soup are a staple. The annual parade reflects costumes from the folklore of the region. There is also a bit of love magic afoot. Should you fancy someone, give them a pot of basil and recite them a poem to win their heart.
Russian customs center heavily around the Water Element which they connect with purity and fertility. Young women float garlands on rivers and watch their movements to foretell the future. Youn men jump bonfires. Nude bathing occurs, most likely as a symbol of cleansing. In some areas there is a Horse Dance which is as it sounds, people dancing around a horse. Historians tell us that this comes from an ancient Pagan Sun group the Tengri. This group has ties to Siberian Shamanic traditions.
Serbians have a rather lovely tradition of naming Godfathers and witnessing blood brother oaths on Litha. In Northern Spain, ritualistic Pagan roots remain in place. They celebrate medicinal plants, magic for beauty and protection. Trained women collect plants on Midsummer even including Fennel, Fern, Rue, Rosemary, Lemon Verbena, St. John’s Wort Elder and Foxglove. All of these mystical herbs work best when dipped in the water from seven sacred springs. Women wishing to conceive could go to the beach and sit near the water until touched by 9 waves.
Truly the breadth of Litha traditions and celebrations globally is worthy of a book to itself.
Litha or Summer Solstice Symbolism and Lore
Among the common symbols of the Summer Solstice are cattle. Livestock were among the most treasured possessions for a farmer. So cattle and sheep were brought close to sacred fires, walking around them thrice, to keep them healthy and productive in the coming year. Some Irish farmers multi-tasked by carrying a pebble in their hand while guiding the animals in order to have a wish fulfilled. After circling the fire, they whisper their wish to the Stone Spirit and cast it into the flame.
Once a balefire cooled, people ceremoniously gathered the ashes. These were mixed with seeds before planting them. This assures fertility for their crops. A modern Green Witch might do likewise.
Another use for Litha ashes is as part of an amulet. Take a piece of soft clay and mix the ashes with it, forming it into a ball. Put this in a pouch and carry it as a ward against accidents and hardship.
An alluring bit of lore tells us how to see Fairies on Litha. One should gather fern spores and gently rub them on your eyelids at Midnight. This instruction comes with cautions because wee folk were known for pixie leading humans astray. So, have one piece of clothing turned inside out when you enact this spell. If you do find yourself lost from fairy trickery following a ley line will lead you home.
Of course, bonfires play into Summer Solstice symbolism heavily. In England, the gathered wood is arranged on Midsummer’s Eve. The fire was said to “watch” the region and banish evil spirits. Some people would light torches from the fire and walk their boundaries, or light all their home fires from it for good fortune.
While most consider Litha wholly a fire festival there is the Water Element to consider as well. Cancer governs this holiday starting June 21. This may be why the ancients went to holy wells before sunrise, walking clockwise and tossing in coins with their wishes.
The Egyptians were also focused on water during Litha, namely the Nile. Midsummer brought flooding, which enriched the land all around. People created little boats filled with flowers that they placed in the rive and lit on fire. This carried their prayers to the Gods.
A fun symbol comes to us from Europe. It’s a ball of straw representing the sun. People lit the wheel on fire and rolled it down a hill toward a water source. If the fire went out before the Sunwheel hit the river, it portended a good crop that season.
The Northern Irish advocate Summer Solstice as a day of reflection. Midsummer represented looking back as well as forward. The idea is that people experienced healing through remembering and focusing on a future filled with peace.
Finish folklore sees Midsummer as a very powerful night for magic. Will-o-the-wisps might appear and lead you to the fern seed that marks treasure. Young women also used special incantations while standing naked over a sacred well, water gazing for their future husband.
Litha Astrology – Northern Hemisphere
June 20th marks the end of Gemini bring to Litha include affection, quick-mindedness, appreciation for the arts. Gemini energies open us to new experiences and a thirst for exploration. There is a huge world out there just waiting for a hardy adventurer. Gemini also reflects the fertile theme of Summer Solstice in that it conveys a lot of sexual energy, often in a playful way.
Come the 21st we move into Cancer, a highly emotional sign. Cancer balances the Solar energy of Litha with its Lunar rulership. The vibrations for Cancer focus on helpfulness, pacifism, harmony, and bravery. Cancer also cautions us to balance our expectations in all our endeavors, especially magical ones.
Litha Astrology – Southern Hemisphere
On the 21st the Zodiac sign of Sagittarius is coming to an end. The Archer offers a fun-loving ambiance for our celebration. There’s humor in the air coupled with some interesting philosophical conversation. Enthusiasm, the love of freedom and curiosity abounds.
On the 22nd Capricorn moves into the Litha picture with a passion for tradition that makes this holiday very special. Capricorn energies encourage planning, progress, and practicality. Characteristically Cancer’s influence helps us face our fears and overcome them.
Litha or Summer Solstice Element Fire
Summer Solstice comes under the influence of the Fire Element. People gather at Stonehenge before dawn to watch the sunrise in the heelstone of the circle. This reflects on the great importance of the Solstice to the ancients, and the influence Fire has had on humans throughout history.
The use of Fire as a central part of Litha acts as an effort to provide magical energy to the sun, while also driving out evil and sickness. Historians tell us that up until the 18th century you could see fires from all points in Cornwell, and their behavior was observed as a kind of divination (Pyromancy).
From a Wiccan perspective, the fire represents the Sacred Masculine, the God in all his glory. Having candles lit throughout the day is a simple way to honor this. It is also a simple form of candle magic.
Litha or Summer Solstice Crystals, Minerals and Sacred Stones
Traditional hues for Summer Solstice are red, orange, yellow and the color of crops ready for the harvest. Sacred and healing crystals come in these symbolic hues as well as others that reflect the focus of Litha.
- Bloodstone: Bloodstone reflects the abundance of summer along with health, strength and prosperity. It is also used in weather magic to bring rain when needed.
- Carnelian: Carnelian is an energy stone. It inspires creativity and the attitude of gratitude for all our blessings.
- Citrine: This solar stone acts as an abundance charm. It also improves our focus and will that supports manifestation.
- Garnet: Garnet is a very cheerful crystal that offers us love, kinship, peace, joy, wisdom and the fertility that Litha also represents.
- Jasper (Bumblebee): The name for this stone is apt since Bees are in full production mode by Summer Solstice. Magically this crystal supports honesty, self-expression and overall transformation.
- Hematite: Hematite reflects the protective nature of Litha. It grounds and centers us, improves our focus and banishes negative energies.
- Labradorite: Use Labradorite when you want to improve your spiritual power. Carry it with you into the Litha ritual.
- Mother of Pearl: This is a fortunate stone for those born under the Sign of Cancer, which dominates Summer Solstice. In spells, Mother of Pearl improves communication as well as developing greater trust in your talents and instincts.
- Obsidian: Obsidian combines well with Hematite with its firm centering. If you plan on trying some traditional divination practices today, this will improve the clarity of the messages received.
- Pyrite: All that glitters is not gold, but Pyrite certainly sparkles with Solar color. This is a stone that attracts prosperity and health.
- Rhodochrosite: This enchanted stone is saturated with comfort, compassion and friendship. Use this for connecting with the God aspect and his love.
- Rose Quartz: The go-to crystal for sweet, consistent love. Hold this at dawn and focus on loving yourself too.
- Sunstone: The name gives this one away. Sunstone revitalises us while attracting health and prosperity.
- Topaz (Yellow): The word for Topaz in Sanskrit means fire. It represents the vital life force in all things. Giving a Topas to someone keeps them safe and nurtures your friendship.
Litha and Summer Solstice Herbs and Plants
Earth offers her abundance. Many Witches and Shamans gather their magical herbs believing they’ve reached the peak of their power.
- Calendula: Known as Summer’s Bride, folklore tells us that if we pick Calendula at noon today, it will give you strength and comfort (carried as a charm). Place a garland of it near anyone or anything you wish safeguarded from evil, or who need justice.
- Copal: Copal was a common part of ancient seasonal celebrations, sometimes as an offering that opened communication between a Priest or Priestess and their patron Deity. You can read the smoke of copal as you might scry any other sacred incense. It is also a herb of love and purification.
- Fennel: Fennel is a herb that increases virility and vitality. It can also be used in spells for cleansing, protection and healing.
- Hemp: In Japan Hemp symbolizes purity. It acts as a dynamic source against evil intent. It also appears in rituals of commitment like marriage ensuring the couple’s joy. The Slaves believe this is sacred to a goddess Zemlya whose name means “Moist Mother Earth.” Various books on witchcraft suggest it as a suitable incense ingredient for Midsummer.
- Lavender: After all the activities for the Summer Solstice you are going to need a good night’s sleep. Lavender is one of the main ingredients in sleep pillow because of its ability to calm the mind so you can rest. You can add it to tea as well (it is edible) as a sleepy time potion.
- Meadowsweet: Called Bride of the Meadow, those working love magic on Litha can look to Meadowsweet. It attracts the right kind of attention and a little notice from people who have overlooked you. Carry it as a charm.
- Mugwort: Known as Naught Man, whew, want all that Litha fire in your love life? Mugwort ramps up lust. It can also improve fertility for those desirous of a child.
- Rosemary: Rosemary makes an excellent component for pre-ritual baths for purification. You can also use it in your rite if you wish to attract fairies, as is implied by the folk name Elf Leaf.
- Sage: Romans believed that Sage was sacred to Jupiter and a symbol of masculinity (the God aspect of Litha). It is a frequent component for Shamanic workings as a cleanser. Other magical correspondences for Sage include long-life, wishcraft and wisdom.
- St. John’s Wort: A herb of the Sun, this is a key herb in Midsummer. Like the pentacle, it yields five-petaled flowers. It gives off the most protection in the summer months and is a common ingredient in healers’ kits.
- Vervain: This is a herb that comes under the influence of Gemini and Venus. Vervain offers the Goddess balance to the Sun God. In magical workings, it enhances the essence of other components, attracts needed assistance, rekindles love and draws wealth.
Litha and Summer Solstice Foods, Beverages, & Recipes
Holidays and feasting seem to go hand-in-hand. Let’s take a look at some foods associated with Litha.
- Aquavit: This distilled liquor has all manner of fiery spices like ginger, cinnamon, and clove. Everyone had their own way of making it, and they made a LOT of it. This was a traditional Swedish Midsummer drink.
- Dairy: In Finland and Sweden both, milk and all manner of cheeses appear on the Litha table. Since cows were giving abundant milk, farmers took advantage of the moment. Milk porridge and fermented milk also satisfy the hungry participants.
- Fairy Tea: This could be part of a Witch’s Potion for Summer Solstice. Drink a blend of Lavender, fennel, chamomile, and rose petals steeped in tea to raise your awareness of the wee folk. For fun let these herbs steep in a glass container under the Sun for “Sun Tea.”
- Fish (smoked): In cultures that relied heavily on fish for food, this represents prosperity. The smoke invokes the Fire Element.
- Grilled or Barbecued Food: For this moment, your backyard becomes a magical sphere in which the flame from your grill harkens to the Litha fires.
- Lemonade (pink): A hot summer’s day and cold lemonade are a match made in heaven. Internalizes for long life, devotion and friendship.
- Mead: A simple brew of fermented honey and water to which fruits or spices might be added. The Greeks consider it the “nectar of the gods,” having been gathered by dutiful bees seeking out heavenly dew. June is a traditional month for marriage, and in olden times a couple would be given mead to enjoy for a full moon cycle after the vows. This period became known as a “honeymoon,” and it dured the couple’s fruitfulness.
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables (orange, yellow etc): Think carrots, tomatoes, red peppers or orange, and summer squash for starters.
- Sunflower Seeds (seasoned): Sunflower seed are sacred to Helios the Greek personification of the Sun. They have masculine energy and the capacity for increasing one’s sincerity in any magical effort. A good magical herb for Male Witches.
For more delicious holiday feast ideas visit our Pagan & Wiccan recipes section!
Creating a Wiccan and Pagan Litha & Summer Solstice
Solstice sometimes comes with mixed emotions. The humidity permeates everything as the sun beats down on the pavement. It seems reprieve from the heat is nowhere to be found. Yet in just a few short months it will be cold again, so we spend as much time outside as possible.
Magically Summer Solstice brings us to the halfway point of the Wheel of the Year. The sun reigns fully, reaching a peak in the sky and shedding beams of truth. We can’t look directly at the sun’s brilliance, yet its light allows us to see things clearly, banishes our shadows, and releases the past. The themes of Summer Solstice are sex, love, creativity, energy, luck, health, safety and wishes.
Add summer flowers to your ritual bath and anoint yourself with their oils before the ritual. For the ritual itself, you will need a fire source, your favorite divination tool, some dew or rainwater from the night before, one stick of protective incense for every room in your house, a white candle, and a sun wheel.
Fashion the latter from grapevines or rose briers, so the branches form a circle with an equidistant cross in the center. Decorate this with golden ribbons and symbols of the four elements. Gather together nine dried herbs in a bowl, each of which represents a personal (or group) need or goal. Nine is the number of completion.
Cover the altar with a red or orange cloth to honor the sun. Decorate the top with daisy blossoms. The daisy takes its name from day’s-eye because it turns to follow the sun in its path. Use gold, yellow, or red candles to represent divine Fire. Place your fire source at the center of the altar with your divination tool in front of it, the sun wheel and water at one side, and the bowl of herbs, white candle, and incense on the other.
Summer Solstice Magical Invocation
If possible, this ritual should begin at noon, when the sun is highest in the sky. A nice additional touch for this invocation is to have candles at all four compass points to represent the dominance of the Fire element.
Fires of Creation, within me burn,
for the Wheel of Life has turned.
Keep safe the sun’s dynamic spark;
Throughout the world, ignite the dark.
Waters of Creation, within me flow;
‘round again the Wheel must go.
Keep safe the dew of dusk and dawn;
let magic prance upon the lawn.
Loam of Fertility, nourish me;
the Wheel’s lessons I wish to see.
Keep safe the soil where roots can grow,
while around the circle, magic sow!
Air of Insight, breathe in this place;
the Wheel of Time shall guide your pace.
Keep safe the winds of muse and mind;
within this circle, the magic bind.
Spirit of Truth, and psychic power,
the Wheel has turned again this hour.
Keep safe the light that warms the land;
birth the magic where I stand.
If your fire source is not already burning, light it now along with the God and Goddess candles.
Summer Solstice Meditation and Magical Visualization
At the altar, take your divination tool in your weak hand. Dip the pointer finger of your strong hand into the water and draw an invoking pentagram in the air above the tool, saying: “Powers of Insight, I invoke you. Let the power of light this day grant me sight beyond sight. Reveal the patterns of the Wheel as it turns, and the lessons I must learn.” Repeat this procedure on your forehead with the water and the invocation, then sit down with your tool.
Hold the divination tool in your hands and close your eyes. Open your senses and breathe deeply. Visualize the light in your aura filling the tool, and the energy of the tool filling your aura. This attunes your auric energy to that of the tool, and vice versa. Continue this visualization until the tool feels warm and welcoming in your hands.
Open your eyes and proceed with a reading. If possible, draw out six symbolic emblems to represent the trends over the next six months. In Numerology the number 6 represents harmony, balance, practicality and the manifestations that come from hard work. Make notes of this reading in your journal and return to it at Yule to see how accurate it was.
The Body of the Litha Ritual
Stand before the altar and take the bowl of herbs in hand, saying:
“Fires of Fertility, Sun of creation, I welcome you. As these herbs burn, let their smoke carry the message of my needs swiftly to your hearth, and gather there the light of magic.”
Begin sprinkling the nine herbs on the fire source, one at a time, saying:
On the count of one, the spell’s begun.
On the count of two, my wishes come true.
On the count of three, the magic’s freed.
On the count of four, I open the door.
On the count of five, the magic’s alive.
On the count of six, the magic, affix!
On the count of seven, it reaches the heavens.
On the count of eight, no more to wait.
On the count of nine, what I wish is mine!
Afterward, move through the smoke created by these herbs three times for mental, physical, and spiritual health throughout the rest of the year.
Next, light a white candle from the flames before you and take it to a room in your house. From this fire, ignite a stick of protective incense, raise it before you, and invoke your household god’s and/or goddess’s blessing. Leave the incense burning (in a proper container); repeat this in every room of your house. This cleanses your home and safeguards it against negativity, especially mal-intentioned magic.
At the end of your ritual, pick up the sun wheel and hold it to your heart. Close your eyes and make a wish. Make this wish as specific as possible and visualize it in completed form. Then release that energy to your fire source by tossing in the sun wheel. The fire inspires manifestation. Let this burn itself out naturally or douse it with the divining water.
Alternatively, make your wish and hang the sun wheel in a visually predominant part of your home. Each time you see it, repeat your wish until it manifests. Then take down the wheel and keep it safely put away for next year’s ritual.
Other Magical Activities for Litha
This is an excellent time of year to make protective charms for your home or pets. For this, gather together a piece of rowan wood, red fabric, and red thread. If you wish, add other warding herbs, such as St. John’s wort, Woodbine, vervain, anise, or salt to the mixture. Bundle the herbs in the cloth. Gather it at the top, saying: “Where rowan and red are bound, protection surrounds.” Each time you say this, make one knot in the red thread. Put the charm in any safe place around your home; it can also be kept in the glove compartment of a car.
Traditionally, this is also an excellent day to cast spells to attract a lover or refresh a relationship. Try gathering rose petals at dawn, the time of hope. Whisper your desire into the petals, then release them to the winds during your ritual. Their fragrance carries your wish to the intended person.
Closing the Circle
Stand in the center of your circle, facing east. Turn slowly counterclockwise, saying, “Turn, turn, turn, the Wheel must turn. As dawn is to day, as day is to night, so the Wheel turns, filled with might.” End in the east and start dismissing the quarters.
Wind of Change, move on, move on. With the ever-turning Wheel, go from this place carrying the air of magic.
Loam of Earth, move on, move on. With the ever-turning Wheel, go from this place planting the seeds of magic.
Water of Birth, move on, move on. With the ever-turning Wheel, go from this place, cresting with waves of magic.
Fires of Creation, move on, move on. With the ever-turning Wheel, go from this place, burning with the embers of magic.
Spirit of light, move on, move on. With the ever-turning Wheel, go from this place, empowering the energy of magic.
Postritual Foods & Personal Celebrations
Try any hot-flavored foods—such as curry dishes, stuffed onions, or stuffed peppers—and items baked in the oven (the hearth fire) to which solar spices are added. Also, consider having a barbecue to honor the Fire element.
Litha has a sultry element to it, so consider having some special time with your partner focusing all your energy on mutual bliss. Or, you might spend time in your magical garden as the Sun kisses your plants with power. And perhaps leave out some honey and milk for any Fairies that may stop by.