The Summer Solstice | Litha’s History and Ways to Celebrate

The Summer Solstice | Litha’s History and Ways to Celebrate

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.

This year, Litha falls on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in the Northern Hemisphere.

This article will explore Litha’s origins, history, and spiritual significance, plus provide tips to celebrate the Sabbat with rituals and recipes.

field of sunflowers
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What is the Summer Solstice?


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.

Because of the Earth’s 23.5° tilt, the Northern Hemisphere is leaning toward the sun in June. This results in more daylight for the Northern Hemisphere while the Southern Hemisphere experiences its shortest day of the year.

According to Earth.com:

The positioning of the Earth during the Summer Solstice causes the sun’s light to hit the Tropic of Cancer at a 90 degree angle. The angle of the sun’s rays over the Earth at this time gives the North Pole 24 hours of sunlight, while the South Pole remains dark for 24 hours (signifying the Southern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice).

Summer solstice

Why We Celebrate Litha and the Summer Solstice


Litha is an ancient celebration that is still observed by Pagans, Wiccans, and modern-day witches. It’s one of the four Greater Sabbats (solstice and equinox celebrations), making it an important nature-based holiday.

Litha is the longest day of the year, but it also marks the critical halfway point for the light half of the year. The days will start to get shorter now until we officially transition into the dark half of the year after Mabon at the autumnal equinox.

Historically, the solstice was a time of celebration across many cultures around the globe. For those who worship the God and the Goddess, Litha is the time when the Sun God is at his strongest.

Other historical celebrations included 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
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRBFJg3Plsk

Litha Origins & History


The exact beginning of solstice celebrations is unknown, but just about every agricultural society has acknowledged the longest day of the year in some fashion. Ancient stone circles such as Stonehenge were intentionally 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 to the shortest day of the year in the middle of a harsh winter during Yule.

Decorating the Litha Altar: Colors, Crystals, & Symbols


Litha’s dominant 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
  • Elder

This year, we’ll be treated to a beautiful Litha night with a nearly full Strawberry Moon! The Strawberry Moon will reach its peak on Friday, June 21, 2024 at 9:08 p.m. ET. Because the full moon coincides with the sun being at its highest point of the year, the moon is sure to be a stunning sight as it seems to hang low in the sky thanks to the “moon illusion.” You definitely won’t want to miss the full moon rising on the solstice!

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. These crystals can also coincide with your Strawberry Moon altar.

Candles are always going to be a good choice since fire is such an important Litha symbol. (Check out my post to learn about which candle colors will best match your intentions.)

Ghost Realm candle by Old Soul Artisan

13 Ritual Ideas to Celebrate 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…

1. While planning a visit to Stonehenge may not be an option, you can livestream the sunrise and/or sunset over Stonehenge on the summer solstice.

2. Have a good old-fashioned bonfire. This was a powerful way for our ancestors to honor the sun, and it’s still a great way to tap into the energy of Litha.

3. Spend time in your garden. Litha is a time for harvesting, so if you have an herb, vegetable, or flower garden, take some time to harvest under the midsummer sun.

4. Arrange freshly cut flowers in vases to decorate your altar and home.

5. Enjoy fresh fruits that are in season, such as strawberries.

6. Watch the sunrise/sunset. You can take this a step further and make it a more active part of your Litha ritual by adding prayer, yoga, or another activity.

7. Make sun water. The process is almost identical to making moon water except you’ll charge your jar of water with the sun’s rays instead of moonlight.

8. Redecorate! Give your altar a summery refresh with crystals like sunstone, amber, citrine, tiger’s eye, or carnelian that are associated with the sun. If you’re feeling ambitious, now would also be a good time to switch things up in your home space as well. Change can help us feel revitalized.

9. Spend time outside. Reset your energy with an outdoor ritual to connect with the earth and sun. Earthing/grounding allows your body to exchange electrons, providing plenty of health and spiritual benefits.

10. Sing and dance! You can do it alone, with friends, or at a local solstice festival. Let the spirit of the season move your body in merriment and celebration.

11. Set aside some time to reflect in your journal. Litha is the longest day of the year… how are you feeling about this year so far? What have you accomplished? What goals do you need to continue working toward? How are you channeling the intense energy of the season into productivity toward the intentions you’ve set?

12. Cleanse your space. Although white sage and palo santo are typically the most popular choices for smudging and smoke cleansing, there are a lot of other options to consider based on your intentions. (Mama Wunderbar is a fabulous company I highly recommend, and they offer several beautiful, sustainably sourced, handmade smoke-cleansing bundles that would be perfect for a Litha celebration (including a summer solstice ritual kit). You also might check out their Floral Palo Santo Sticks” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener”>floral palo santo sticks, Floral Sage Smudge Kit” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener”>floral sage smudge kit, any of which would be well suited for Litha. You won’t be disappointed!)

13. Use flowers or other natural materials for crafts. This is a great way to introduce kids to Litha (or enjoy some decompression time for yourself). Craft ideas:

  • Birdhouse
  • Flower crown
  • Wreathe
  • Wind chimes
  • Suncatcher
  • Painted rocks
  • Sand sculpture
  • Pressed flower art
  • Outdoor painting
  • Pebble mosaic
  • Floral arrangements

Simple Litha Recipes


Below are a few easy 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!

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.

Litha ritual ideas
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Award-winning fantasy author, freelance writer, spiritual explorer, and sole founder of Green Witch Lunar Witch. She created her first website in 2016 and published her first novel two years later. Sara spends most of her time writing, creating, and daydreaming.

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