….. came to us during lockdown in a warm haze of sunshine, flowers, garden games and cider.
When the wheel of the year reaches Litha, summer is finally here and the longest day of the year is upon us.
Most of us find joy in the summer months, even if we don’t like the heat, the biting insects, the buzzing insects or the need to cut our grass again after every inevitable rain shower we can find beauty in the pretty summer clothes or the smell of sunscreen reminding us of happy summer get-a-ways, we can enjoy the smell of that grass when it’s freshly cut and whilst avoiding wasps at all costs we can enjoy watching a honey bee harvest our gardens or watch a bumblebee fly impossibly, on those thinnest of wings, on its merry way.
We can watch butterflies in all of their beauty floating from flower to flower like delicate fairies, enjoy the array of scents from an abundant choice of flowers, and drink cool wine/beer/cocktails/cider at pretty much at any time after noon when we’re not working because it’s that rarest of things outside (for us UK dwellers, and especially us Northern UK dwellers) – hot and sunny. We set up paddling pools in our gardens and laugh whilst our children splash and jump chase each other, and then we put down our summer read to tend to them when they hurt themselves. We apply cream, plasters and cuddles then watch them repeat the proceeds. We get nettle stings, we have picnics and we are determined to have a day at the beach, all because it’s now summer. That longest day of our earth year.
But what really IS Litha. Yes, it’s the coming of summer, but why would that be a cause for celebration? I’ll tell you why.
At Beltane we celebrated the coming together and marriage of the May Queen and the Green Man and rejoiced at the fertility and blooming life all around us.
Now, at Litha, the May Queen, a Goddess of the Earth in her own right, is swollen in her belly and has embraced her new role as Earth Mother. She is ready to bring new life to the earth and is the embodiment of the Mother figure in the Maiden-Mother-Crone trinity. She walks the soft grasses of meadows, the shadows of the woodlands and the earthy ground of crop fields, bringing life and vitality to all she touches, blessing us with bountiful and full harvests in the months to come. As she feels her footfalls on the earth beneath her she knows that now she is birthing new life she will move towards her transition to the wise and welcoming Crone over the coming darkening days between Litha and Yule.
Her husband, the strong and steadfast Green Man, also known as The Oak King, has grown older since his triumph over the Holly King at Yule (this story is circular, please follow me through the entire turning of the Wheel of the Year). After reaching maturity at Beltane as he weds the May Queen, he has now grown older after giving his all to his new bride, our constant mother earth, and the full and alive earth they have protected and nourished to maturity.
It is at this time, on this night, that the Holly King, who has licked his wounds and who is now at his full strength, takes the Oak Kings / The Green Mans triumph from him and re-starts his rule over the lands once again to lead us away from the long lazy days of summer.
So as the May Queen finishes her walk across the lands spreading her blessings on the coming harvests, she diminishes with her conquered husband to rest by his side. The May Queen, now our Earth Mother and Goddess does not sleep along side him straight away though, she spends time getting to know her slow transition into the Crone, embraces her changed form and sends whispers of her gathered and growing wisdom out onto the winds for the trees, plants, grasses, animals and spirits to hear and embed into their own psyches of knowledge and intuition. Eventually she will sleep, she will rejuvenate, and be reborn once the darkness has come, has shrouded us, and has started to once again lose it’s fight with the Sun God.
At this moment, however, it is the Sun God and the Oak King who have lost this never ending battle. From the very moment of climbing to his highest point in the sky and bringing about the shortest night of the year, the Sun Gods power begins to wain and day by day the darkness of the night becomes longer, the warmth starts to slowly leave the night, and then as the May Queen falls into slumber and the Holly King walks abroad, tall and proud, the warmth leaves sunlit hours too, frosts and chills surround us and the Holly King stands truly victorious in his cold dark world.
To paint such a picture gives chills and you could be forgiven for feeling that the Holly King is a dark God, an evil God and one of malcontent. This is not the case. What the Holly King brings us is balance and rest. Contrast and rejuvenation.
To me, this is one of the most important lessons and reminders of Litha, that we all must have balance and rest, just as the natural world around us does. Crops are planted, grow, are cut down for harvest, then the cycle repeats. The trees lose their leaves in darker months and burst back to life with greenery as the lighter months again prevail. Just as the Wheel of the Year spins without pause, Litha teaches us that we must hand back over to the darkness to appreciate the light when it comes back to us.
The Holly King brings us warm fires, pretty lights and family time in warm cosy rooms. He brings us celebrations of light and merriment. Without his dark days, how could we find true happiness in the lighter days? And without the biting frosts of winter how could we appreciate the warm touch of the Sun God on our bare skin at Litha? Without the frosts and chill on the grounds, how would our flowers know when to grow or animals know when to retreat into burrows and hibernation? Balance is key to everything on our magical earth and we must remember to honour it.
So what do we do to celebrate Litha? This year for me was about lots of fire, flower crowns, telling stories of the summertime and fairies to the little ones, and giving thanks for the blessed life we have together.
If you have the means, a roaring bonfire with flames high into the air and burning late into the night and early morning is a great way to celebrate the Sun God, to be worn this longest day where it doesn’t quite get completely dark, and to feel the warmth of the flames that will warm you in the coming months. It is customary to take embers and remains of the fire over the coming days (only once everything has cooled and it is safe to do so) to use as kindling and ash in the bottom of your fires over the colder months, keeping with you the life and soul of the May Queen and The Oak King.
If you don’t have the means / space / inclination to build a big bonfire that’s in no way makes your celebration of Litha any less meaningful. A candle burning with the intent of the sabbat has as much symbolism and honour for the Gods and Goddesses as a bonfire.
Again, only if it is safe to do so, another custom is to make a wish whilst jumping over the fire. PLEASE PLEASE take a lot of care and be sensible if you want to try this. CHILDREN DO NOT TRY THIS. You can achieve this with even the smallest of fires – pop some tea lights in jars of step over the hot coals of a BBQ pit once the fire is out and the embers are glowing.
Make your own flower crowns from vibrant summer blooms and dance in bright and comfortable clothes around and beside your Litha fire. The most firey colours are ones to wear on this Midsummer’s day – red, gold, orange, yellow and deep browns are the colours that I choose to wear during this celebration.
The final brief point I want to make about Litha, as I think this post is long enough, is that it is a wonderful time to spend time working with the Fae. I will create another blog post about the Fae as there is so much to talk about and I want to make sure I do the subject justice.
Stay Wild & Blessed Be.