Litha (LITH-ah) (Also: Midsummer’s Eve, St. John’s Day) is the name of the Summer Solstice used in many traditions. As a Solstice, the celebration of Summer Solstice has known many names, a Midsummer Nights Eve most famously popularized by Shakespear, and less commonly known Litha (pronounced – Lee ^ tah or Li-th-ah) of alleged Germanic origin the name Litha was not popularized until a few years ago and may find its origin in The Hobbit (JRR Tolkein) or from an African name meaning “bringer of light” most of the time we will refer to the Sabbat by its scientific name of “Summer Solstice.” The Sabbat embraced on June 21st, the festival celebrates the time when the sun is at its strongest and the Holly and Oak Kings again do battle as they did at Yule, the Oak King ceding to the Holly King as the cycle continues.

Millenia ago people of the British Isles were already obsessed with the solstices and equinoxes. Stonehenge is just the most celebrated and flashy of a number of ancient sites laid out with the obvious intention of framing the rising or setting of the Sun on the solstices or equinoxes. Poised in perfect symmetry, the Midsummer Sun reaches the moment his power peaks and in one magical instance, his power begins to wane. Not one of the original Sabbats were honored in the early Celtic days before and during the reign of the Druids. In that context, it is a relatively new celebration honoring the abundance of summer and ringing in the waning celestial year. The holiday is more of a Welsh tradition that has been slowly incorporated into many craft traditions. There were most probably festivals in early Celtic days, after all the solstice is an important time of the growing season. The God comes in two forms in this festival as the Oak and the Holly King. Just as these two battled for supremacy during Yule, they do so again during the Summer Solstice. Only this time the Holly King wins the battle to represent the waning of the celestial year.

Traditionally, Summer Solstice marks the onset of the Sun’s dying strength, the season itself is one of abundance. Flowers, herbs, and fruit are in full bloom and heavy with the weight of their fruit, much as the Earth Goddess herself. While the goings on at Beltane have a playful nature, the parched heat of Midsummer creates in us a breathless fiery passion. The need to explore new things, the anticipation of what the world has to offer in the later months. Midsummer is an erotic, sexy time of year, as the sun blazes hot upon us in full flower and the Summer skies collide with flashes of heat lightning, and thunderclouds, fire dancing and throwing fire wheels has long been a surviving custom, as have Midsummer weddings.

As a spiritual holiday, the Mid-Summer festival is a time to honor your elders. Education provides each of us with great knowledge, but experiences beget wisdom and it is time to prepare for the late summer growing season. Place a rooting plant in a new pot with fresh soil allowing it to settle into a new home before the cold months arrive. For me, this feels like the combination of energies of the God and Goddess. The plant represents the birthing of the Goddess who is bearing her first child at this time. Whereas the soil and potting process represent the grounding and cultivating energies of the God.

Begin your festivities at sunset the night before the solstice. Prepare a simple altar where you can honor the passing strength of the Oak King and the movement of the Divine God into the wise Holly King. This night is a good time to focus on yourself and the current status of your goals.

On the day of the solstice, begin your day with a small blessing ritual. Thanking the Oak King for the blessing he has brought to you thus far. Focus this ritual on just the Oak King. Spend the morning harvesting your early summer vegetables. Or take a drive to the country and a fresh farm market. You’ll be looking for corn on the cob, green beans, cantaloupe, watermelon and strawberries.

As in centuries gone, the solstice is a time to take the measure of the plants in growth, estimating the harvest and winter stores. Families and households merged long ago past the agricultural year were readily recognized as being symbolic of the life cycles of the Lord and Lady, whose energy was embodied within the land itself.

Bonfires lit the hilltops as the waste from the field was ignited in the offering, as part of the handfasting ceremony a young bride and groom would jump the flames, together binding their lives to that of the earth, sharing themselves and committing their offspring to its service.