Litha – The Most Powerful Day of the Year

Litha 2020
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Midsummer; the summer solstice, or Litha, as it’s known among pagans throughout the world is the most powerful day of the year.  It is on this day that we celebrate the Sun and all things related to it.  In every culture the sun has been treated with the highest level of respect and in some cases, even worshiped.  And why not?  It is the core center of all life due to it’s light and energy, and without it, there would be nothing.

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year.  Oddly enough, it invokes both happiness at the light, but also a sweet sorrow as after today, the night will once again start to gather strength until it dominates the day.

Midsummer is the Pagan celebration of the Summer Solstice.  In 2020, Litha will be on Saturday June 20th (in the U.S,) and is also the official start of summer.   In ancient times, this celebration would go long into the night and our ritual is about upholding some of those traditions and stories.

Litha is a fire festival and this ritual should be performed at night.  Please, plan accordingly and ensure you have enough space to safely light and maintain a torch procession and bonfire throughout the ritual. Some rituals begin with the participants already gathered in the circle area, but this ritual starts with a processional entrance, so plan on having an assembly area for all participants to gather beforehand (at least fifty feet away from the circle area or more would be great)  Also, encourage everyone to come wearing white (either a light tunic, robe, dress, or gown).

Any portion of the ritual that is bracketed by <> symbols should be understood as instructional notes and not to be spoken aloud.

What items you’ll need to collect for this ritual (as written)

Yellow Altar Cloth
Gold Sun Candle (a taper-type will work best)
Goddess Candle (White)
God Candle (Yellow)
Midsummer flowers and herbs – heaped in droves on the altar
(Wildflowers, tansy, peppermint, motherwort, comfrey, hound’s tongue, dandelion, and rose petals just to name a few)
Sturdy White Taper Candles for each participant (these will be used as torches, so don’t skimp)

<This ritual requires assistance.  At the start of the ritual, the Leader will be with the participants at a predetermined assembly area, far from the circle area.  One person will need to light and attend the bonfire (the participants will use it as a beacon.  The second person will stand in the East, the direction from which the sun rises, to ‘receive’ the procession as they arrive at the circle.  Once they each cross the barrier of the circle, they are to be directed to walk clockwise and form a human circle around the fire.>

Litha

Torchlight Procession

<Have everyone gather in the assembly area – please take extra time to talk about fire safety and have a plan in case something gets out of hand.  The Ritual Leader will light the Sun Candle and all others shall be lit from it as the participants pass one by one.  Leave spacing of more than a body length between each person for the entire procession (this is why a longer distance away is better)>

<Ritual Leader should say aloud the following to start things>

Behold!  I hold the Litha Sun Candle.  It symbolizes all the energy and light that the Sun God has shared with us on this Midsummer day, and all the remaining days of our lives.  It is infinite and a powerful reminder that we owe everything to the sun.

Take a few moments to ponder on the wonder of the sun and all that it provides as you make your way to the circle area.

<have each person approach the Leader, who will light their candle from the Sun Candle – remember to keep a lot of spacing as this gives each person time to ponder in silence.>

<the Ritual Leader shall be the final person in the procession and should proceed to the center of the circle once all are assembled in silence>

The Ritual

On this night, we celebrate Litha by paying the greatest honors to the Sun God and to the Sun itself !

Turn your eyes to the East, the direction of the rising sun and the spirits of air.  The direction of new beginnings,  enlightenment, and illumination.  We call upon the great eagle, the owls, the hawks, and all the other winged creatures to help us fly high into the spirit world so that we may commune and gather wisdom!  <light yellow candle in the east>

Now to the South, the place of the noon day sun and the great spirits of fire.  The direction of passion, creation, and wisdom.  We call upon the great serpent and the snakes to help us understand the great transformations as with the shedding of an old skin for a new one. Teach us to shed the past and the unwanted associations that come with it. <light red candle in the south>

Turn to the West, the place of the setting sun and the mysterious and magical water spirits.  The direction of reflection and introspection.  We call upon the great whales, the dolphins, and the sea creatures which reside in the deepest trenches to help us find the hidden energies in places yet undiscovered; even if those places reside within us.  <light blue candle in the west>

And finally we turn to the North, the place of the ancestors, the ancient ones, and the great spirits of Earth.  The direction of prosperity, abundance, sustenance, and inner wisdom.  We call upon the wolf, the bear, the great buffalo, and all the mighty beasts of the plains, to lead us to the wisdom of our own dreams and to overcome the fear of change.  <light green candle in the north>

Great Goddess, Blessed Lady of the Moon and Stars, Queen of that which our eyes may see and our mind can comprehend.  You who are known by many names, and who’s spirit is echoed in the heartbeats of our children and the whispers of the elders.  We cherish the gifts you heap upon us and  humbly ask for your blessings, your guidance and for your comforting presence in our circle this night. <light Goddess candle on the alter>

Great God of the Sun; your names are many, and your deeds many more.  On this celebration of Litha, we call upon Áine, and Alaunus, and Belenos, and Étaín.  We call upon Macha, and Usil, and Sól, and Dažbog, and Hors.  We call upon those without names and those unnamed.  Continue to bless us with your light, you warmth, and your comforting radiance. <light yellow sun God candle on the alter>

Introduction

Tonight we are gathered here to celebrate Litha with a great festival of fire!  We use fire to symbolize the great heat, light, and power of the Sun, and on this day, the sun is at it’s zenith point in the sky and more powerful than on anyo other day of the year.  History tells us of many different celebrations performed by our ancestors across the ancient world, and tonight we shall engage in those traditions to honor the Sun God.

But, before we begin, I implore each and every person gathered to take a moment and reflect on the blessings we all experience from the great Sun God.

<leader should allow a few minutes of silent meditation>

Music of Litha

Now, as we embark on this midsummer rite, we take pause to enjoy this musical selection from Spirits of the Sacred Groove, entitled ‘Parlipap.’  It’s a musical journey complete with a host of interesting and changing sounds that are guaranteed to lift the energies in your circle.

Litha Traditions & History

The Agrarian-based societies of our ancestors were highly dependent on the sun for success, and it’s no surprise that the sun was a main focal point in many of their practices and rituals.  On Midsummer, the sun would hang in the sky for what seemed an eternity.  The Latin word used to define this day is Solstice, which loosely translates as “sun stands still”.  There are some who believe that Litha was not celebrated in the ancient world, since no written records exist of the old Celtic practices exist, but most students of paganism do not subscribe to this theory.  The longest day of the year has too much significance to believe that it would be ignored.

Our ancestors also believed that Litha was part of a bigger annual conflict between the light and the darkness.  They personified these halves of the year with two great kings; the Holly King, that ruled in the winter, or the dark half of the year, and the Oak King, who ruled in the light half.  Each year two great battles would take place; one on the Summer Solstice and the other on the Winter Solstice.  Also on each solstice, the ruling king was vanquished for six months, with the winning King taking the throne for his time.  On Midsummer, the Oak King meets his nemesis in mortal combat, only to be defeated and forced to retire to Caer Arianrhod (the Northern Lights) until he can retake the throne at Yule.

The people would celebrate this great battle and the changing of the seasons in many different methods, but regardless of the method, the celebrations always contained a lot of fire.

Setting the Watch

Each town and village would make preparations for the evening festivities by building a huge community bonfire the night before the celebration (this practice was called setting the watch).   Additionally, individual landowners would build similar, albeit smaller bonfires on their property; also in preparation.  At night, torches were carried from bonfire to bonfire, setting each ablaze as they passed.  Those fires would often be tended throughout the night and the villagers would stay up to watch the sun rise the following morning, honoring the Sun God.  The following day, the ashes were gathered and scattered throughout the fields as a blessing to strengthen them.

In some traditions, it was believed that these bonfires (also called balefires) were seen as a critical.  They believed that the sun needed strengthening on Litha and fires across the countryside would be the source of new energy.  Also those same people would set alight giant wheels bound with straw or barrels covered with pitch, and roll them down steep hillsides.  These practices served multiple purposes; first to recharge the sun, and further to drive away evil and promote fertility.   Historically, we know that people would dance around the fires until finally leaping through the flames as a purifying or strengthening rite.  Couples would grasp one another’s hands and make the precarious jump together, as a sign of strengthening their bond to one another.  Unmarried young people would leap across in hopes of finding a partner in the coming year.

<Ritual leader should give everyone a quick fire safety briefing (again) to prepare for the jumping of the fire>

The Leap of Fertility

Before we leap, we offer the Sun God this prayer:

All that we need hangs high above the land
Light and warmth radiate to the ground below
The land thrives and becomes ever greener
On this, the longest day of the year
We honor the great and powerful Sun God
The steward of life and giver of hope
Our homes are always open to your light
Our hearts are always open to your love
We celebrate tonight, for tomorrow
The journey into darkness begins again

<each person or couple should approach the ‘jump area’ and say aloud their individual prayer or words of hope to the Sun God>

As you jump across the fire, remember that by doing so, you’ll be protected from evil in the coming year.  A warning to couples though – if your hands come apart during the jump, then you’ll face a difficult year in your marriage.

<let the jumping begin>

The Lesson of Equilibrium

On a closing note, we would be remiss to not expand our conversation on the significance of this day of perfect balance, and the lessons it can teach us.  We see how the two great kings – complete opposites – balance the seasons.  The opposing forces of light and dark work harmoniously in the big picture.  Our lives are filled with opposing forces but with some practice, we can bend and shape them to work in harmony.  Leave here with this thought on your mind and try to apply it to your life.

Cakes & Ale

<At this time, you may serve refreshments to the group if you’ve prepared them in advance, but remind everyone to remain in the circle>

Closing the Circle

Great spirits of the North, leave us this night with a portal to the knowledge and a peaceful slumber.  Help us to retain the secrets our own dreams whisper in our ears and to share that which we have learned, freely with our fellow human soul. <extinguish green candle in the north>

Great spirits of the West, as you leave our Litha celebration, prepare us to accept the hidden mysteries of the universe and to forge a pathway for our sons and daughters to follow.  Help us to understand that sometimes endings are new beginnings clothed in a different cloak.  <extinguish blue candle in the west>

Great spirits of the South, we cannot begin to express the thanks for the great energies of light and heat, but we can ensure that honor is given where honor is deserved in all aspects of life.  Help us  to remember that giving due credit for advances should not be considered faulty logic, but rather seen as inspiration for us all. <extinguish red candle in the south>

Great spirits of the East, as you depart, leave us with the reminder that we should be mindful of what the universe has to share with us and that the work we do in the mental realm will reduce the work needed in the physical realm.  <extinguish yellow candle in the east>

Great Goddess, we again thank you, as we have thanked you many times before.  We sing high praises for your wisdom and love, for your forgiveness and respect, and for your never-ending wellspring of love. Thank you for sharing this night with us in our sacred space. <extinguish Goddess candle>

Great Sun God; we have spoken your many names.  We have offered our highest praises and have celebrated your exodus for the dark half of the year, but not just yet.  Through the next few months, each of us shall offer personal praises and thanks for the light and heat of summer as our crops develop, the forage plants thrive, and the livestock grows fat and healthy.  Thank you for sharing in our sacred space this night!  <extinguish God candle>

The Circle is Open But Unbroken

This Litha Rite Has Ended !!!!

So Mote It BE!!

Additional Reading

The Gypsy Thread is a great resource for pagan and moon ceremonies.  You can browse the archives at this link.  As always, you can copy them for use without cost or copyright infringement.  Some knowledge is too valuable to be sold; it must given away freely to those who would  ensure it’s survival.

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