Litha, the Fourth Sabbat | Honoring the Summer Solstice

Litha, the Fourth Sabbat | Honoring the Summer Solstice

Also known as Midsummer, Litha (pronounced LEE-thuh) is the fourth Sabbat on the Wheel of the Year, and it’s celebrated on the summer solstice. Litha is in between Beltane and Lammas on the wheel.

In 2021, Litha falls on June 20th in the Northern Hemisphere and December 21st in the Southern Hemisphere.


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field of sunflowers

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year. The word “solstice” comes from the Latin word solstitium, which translates to “sun stands still.” During this time of the year, the sun does indeed seem to hang in the sky without moving.

Litha marks the halfway point for the light half of the year. From this point on, the days will start to get shorter until we officially transition into the dark half of the year after Mabon at the autumnal equinox.

For those who worship the God and the Goddess, Litha is the time when the Sun God is at his strongest. Other cultures worshipped deities during this time as well, including the Athenian Greeks who honored Athena with their midsummer festival Panathenaia and the ancient Romans who honored Vesta during Vestalia. Christians converted midsummer pagan celebrations to the Feast of St. John the Baptist.

For those who do not worship deities, or who incorporate Wheel of the Year themes and practices into their own religious or spiritual beliefs, Litha is a symbol of summer, sun, growth, and prosperity. It also represents inner power, positivity, and light.

Stonehenge at sunrise or sunset

Litha History & Origins

Just about every agricultural society has acknowledged the longest day of the year in some fashion. Ancient stone circles, such as Stonehenge, were oriented toward the rising sun on the day of the summer solstice.

Midsummer in many cultures was celebrated with great hilltop bonfires that represented the power of the sun. Cinders from the fires were then scattered across the fields as an offering to protect the crops.

In Europe, the practice of setting large wheels on fire and rolling them down a hill into water became part of the midsummer celebration. This might have been to symbolize the sun being at its strongest but also marking the moment it will begin to lose its strength. Or, perhaps, the water dowsing the fire might have been to represent the importance of rain and a prayer to prevent drought in the coming hot, dry months. The exact cause isn’t known.

Litha is across from Yule on the Wheel of the Year, so for people in the Scandinavian countries, midsummer’s celebration of light was an important contrast the shortest day of the year in the middle of a harsh winter during Yule.



Arranging the Litha Altar

Litha’s colors are green, purple, and gold. Some of the plants most commonly associated with Litha include oak, fennel, mugwort, St John’s wort, lavender, honeysuckle, ivy, rose, wild thyme, fern, yarrow, and elder.

Remember that Litha is a time for honoring the sun and the bounties of the earth. Flowers, plant sprigs, and wood are great additions to the altar. Anything sun-themed will fit right in.

For crystals, consider amber, garnet, jade, and emerald for the Litha altar. Candles are always going to be a good choice since fire is such an important symbol.

Celebrations & Rituals for the Summer Solstice

If you’re going to be setting large wheels ablaze and rolling them down hills, professional supervision is recommended!

A safer way to celebrate is to have a good old-fashioned bonfire.

Litha is also a time for harvesting, so if you have an herb, vegetable, or flower garden, take some time to harvest under the midsummer sun. Arrange freshly cut flowers in vases and enjoy fresh fruits that are in season, such as strawberries.

While planning a visit to Stonehenge may not be an option, you can livestream the summer solstice over Stonehenge.



Litha Recipes

Below are a few recipes to celebrate Litha:

HONEY CAKES

1/2 c sweet white wine
1 egg
2/3 c flour
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 c honey
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Oil

  1. Beat the egg and wine in a medium bowl.
  2. In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, and sugar. Stir into the egg/wine mixture and let stand for 30 minutes.
  3. Mix the nutmeg and honey in a small bowl and set it aside.
  4. Heat the oil at about 1/2″ thickness in a frying pan. Pay close attention and don’t let the oil get so hot that it starts smoking.
  5. Scoop the batter into the oil one spoonful at a time and let it fry to a golden brown, then remove the cakes and drain on paper towels. Dip into honey and enjoy!

MIDSUMMER COOKIES

3/4 c butter
2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp lemon rind (grated)
2 c flour
1 c pecans (finely chopped)

  1. Cream the butter in a mixing bowl, gradually adding the brown sugar and mixing thoroughly.
  2. Add the eggs, lemon rind, and lemon juice. Mix well until evenly blended.
  3. Cover the bowl with a towel or cloth napkin and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, shape the dough into 1″ balls and place on a greased cookie sheet approximately 3″ apart. Bake at 375° for about 20 minutes. Cool before eating. Enjoy!

FAIRY NECTAR

2 c milk (per serving)
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
cinnamon

  1. Warm the milk, but don’t let it boil.
  2. Add honey and vanilla, then sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy!

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Have Fun!

However you choose to celebrate Litha, there truly is no “right way” or “wrong way.” Choose the practices that best apply to you and make them your new tradition with your own personal spin.

Do you have any special traditions you’d like to share? Please post in the comments!

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