Throughout time, the sun has been revered by nearly every society, culture, tribe, and clan. It was/is the quintessential center of all life due to it’s light and energy, and a focal point of many celebrations and rituals throughout the year. The summer solstice, also known as midsummer, Litha and Alban Heruin is the longest day of the year (based on total sunlight hours). After today, the night will once again start to gather strength until it dominates the day, but not for many months.
Midsummer is the Pagan celebration of the Summer Solstice. In 2019, the Summer Solstice will be on June 21st; considered the official start of summer in the northern hemisphere. This is a nighttime ritual, so plan accordingly and ensure you have enough space to safely light and maintain a bonfire throughout the ritual. Some rituals begin with the participants already gathered in the circle area, however this ritual starts with a processional entrance, so plan on having an assembly area for all participants to gather beforehand. 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
(Mugwort, Chamomile, Rose, Honeysuckle, Lily, Oak, Lavender, Ivy, Yarrow, Fern, Elder, Wild Thyme, Daisy)
White Candles for each participant
Holly Wreath (in reserve for later)
Oak Wreath (on the alter)
Oak branches (enough for everyone)
<The leader will assign someone (or two people) to act as starters for the procession – it will be their job to line up the group and distribute and light each person’s candle from the Midsummer candle as they pass on the way to the circle>
<the bonfire should be lit prior to anyone moving>
All those who gather tonight for this midsummer fire ritual do so in perfect love and perfect trust. I hold the Sun Candle as a symbol that all life is connected to the great sun and it’s passing energy.
<start processional and light each person’s candle from the Sun Candle>
Meditate in silence as you make your way to the circle area.
<the ritual leader will greet the procession as they cross the boundaries of the circle area guiding them to walk clockwise in the direction of the sun as they fill the area>
Tonight we gather on the eve of this, the longest day of the year, to celebrate the sun and to celebrate life itself…..please turn your attention the the east…
Great spirits of the East, the birthplace of spring and the direction from which the sun rises each day – we call upon you to bless us with the power of renewal – just as the sun rises and a new day dawn’s over the horizon. Guide us throughout our lives just as the sun guides those who travel the world seeking adventure and enlightenment. <light yellow candle in the east>
Great spirits of the South, the direction of summer and of light – we call upon you to illuminate the darkest areas of our lives; to bring new ideas and fresh thoughts forth from our selves – just as the warm summer sun bathes the new shoots and budding plants with life-giving warmth and light. <light red candle in the south>
Great spirits of the West, where fall has it’s origins – we call upon you to raise out vibration to a higher level so that we may make progress in our earthly tasks before the season of warmth and light comes to an end – your constant reminder that life must be balanced with work and leisure shall keep us grounded and focused. <light blue candle in the west>
Great spirits of the North, where the cold of winter lies in wait – we call upon you to bring us closer together as a community – for as the bounty of summer passes into fall and finally winter, our dependence on one another is critical to surviving the season of darkness. <light green candle in the north>
Great Goddess, Blessed Lady of the Moon and Stars, Mother, Maiden, and Crone, Giver of Life and Understanding – We know you by many names, we see you in the eyes of our children, we hear your words calling upon the winds, and we cherish the gifts you heap upon us. We humbly ask for your blessings this night; for your guidance and for your comforting presence in our circle. So Mote it Be! <light Goddess candle on the alter>
Great God of the Sun, as we gather on this midsummer eve, each one of us has many thinks to be thankful for – our families, our crops, our livestock, and our children – all of these would not be possible if not for the warmth, light, and heat given freely to us and the rest of the world. On this night we honor you and we honor the blessings of the sun! <light yellow sun God candle on the alter>
Tonight we are gathered here to celebrate midsummer with a festival of fire! On this day, the Sun God is more powerful than any other day during the year, so we offer praises and affection with fire. Looking back to ancient times, our ancestors celebrated Litha with the burning of balefires as they thought it would strengthen the sun; as if it needed more energy. Fire was also significant as it was considered the greatest cleaning force in the world – it was believed to drive out evil, wipe out disease, and even used for divination by some people.
But, before we begin, take a moment to meditate on the blessings we all experience from the great Sun God.
<leader should allow a few minutes of silent meditation>
Music of Midsummer
Now, as we embark on this midsummer rite, we shall get our collective blood flowing with a wonderful musical piece by Mina La Voisin – it’s a wonderfully magickal and beautiful journey into our pagan roots.
The Litha/Midsummer Story
In many of the ancient Celtic traditions, midsummer marks a time of conflict between light and darkness; being a balanced day, it makes perfect sense. The Oak King and the Holly King were constantly fighting for supremacy and control of the entire year. At the winter solstice, the Holly King is conquered by the Oak King, who rules until the summer solstice. At the summer solstice, the cycle reverses and the Oak King is vanquished by the Holly King. During these conflicts, both are also fighting for the favor of the Goddess. Once the Oak King is slain, he goes to rest in Caer Arianrhod (A palace in the heavens, also known as the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights) until they do battle again at Yule. The Oak King and Holly King are considered twins or two sides of a whole; neither able to exist without the other.
Many rituals have been written about mock battles between the two Kings; tonight we’ll symbolically honor this tradition, with a ceremonial exchange of wreaths.
<leader holds up the oak wreath and walks around the fire>
Great Oak King! Brother! Kinsman! Lord of the Forest! We bid you farewell until we shall meet again!
<leader throws the oak wreath into the fire>
<leader then takes the Holly wreath and holds it high overhead and walks the circle>
Great Holly King, we welcome you back with open arms and gratitude ! Each person gathered shall give their individual prayer of thanks. <passes the wreath so that each person can offer their own individual blessings and prayers>
<the Holly wreath is then place on the alter where the oak wreath once was>
We are now entering the dark half of the year, but tonight we celebrate with fire!
In ancient times, towns and villages across Europe would prepare to celebrate midsummer by building a huge community bonfire the night beforehand (this practice has been called “setting the watch”). In those days, fire was considered the strongest defense against evil. Individuals would also build bonfires on their lands and throughout the night citizens would carry torches from fire to fire, treading through herds of livestock and dwellings. People would usually stay up all night to watch the sun rise, honoring the fullness and strength of the sun. Once the fires were burned out, coals from the bonfires were often scattered throughout the fields the next day to strengthen the crops. Holy wells and other sacred places were also blessed and protected by having fires burning in close proximity. Since fresh herbs were at their fullest potency around that time of year, they were gathered and burnt in the sacred fires to release that potency into the surrounding air.
<pass out oak branches to everyone>
The mighty oak tree has always been revered and it has played a significant role in midsummer activities. The Celtic name for Oak is ‘Duir’ which translates as ‘doorway’ – tonight we are passing through a symbolic door; the one that opens to the dark half of the year. Our ancestors would use oak for their fires because it gives off great heat and burns slowly. For special occasions or magickal rites, fires were kindled from oak, usually sparked into life by rubbing two oak sticks together. The preferred wood for a midsummer solstice fire is oak. So tonight, we honor the great Oak Tree and the ways of our ancestors by keeping the tradition alive.
Fire is also an integral component of a midsummer celebration as we have seen. Each of you were given a candle as you entered the processional tonight. This candle was lit from the Sun Candle; a passing of the flame from the source the the individual to be further spread across the lands. I’d like each of you to place that candle and your oak branch into the community bonfire, where the flames will consume them and the smoke will transport that energy across the lands.
<have everyone carefully approach the fire and place their items in the flames>
Majestic and powerful
Burn hotter and brighter
As we add our energies to the flames
Carry forth the message
Carry forth the power
Prepare our people for the coming darkness
Fresh herbs, either wildcrafted or cultivated, were plentiful during midsummer and our ancestors would use them ritually to purify and protect themselves.
<distribute fresh herbs to everyone>
By thy power, oh sacred herbs, may the Sun God burn away the hurtful, the troublesome, and the painful, leaving us purified and filled with warmth and light
<have everyone add their herbs to the fire>
Feel the power of the sun as it radiates outward – Embrace its energy and remember that you always carry light within your heart from this point forward.
Now that we have a proper bonfire – one complete with the strength of the mighty oak, the fire of the mighty sun, and the magick of the herbal mysteries of the earth, it’s time to cleanse our bodies and souls by jumping over the bonfire. This tradition has more meanings across more cultures than we could possibly discuss, but has a few elements which are consistent across them all. Unmarried women jump across for luck in finding a mate in the coming year. Couples jump across holding hands – if they can make the leap without breaking the bond, then it’s said that they will have a prosperous year. If they lose hand contact during the jump, the relationship is doomed. Everyone who jumps across is believed to have their soul purified and will be safe from all things unnatural. Tradition also states that whoever jumps the highest will have good luck that year.
<Carefully instruct and coordinate the fire-jumping festivities>
Cakes & Ale
<At this time, you may serve refreshments to the group, but remain in the circle>
Closing the Circle
Great spirits of the North, we thank you for your attendance in our circle, stay if you will, go if you must in perfect love and perfect trust. <extinguish green candle in the north>
Great spirits of the West, we thank you for your attendance in our circle, stay if you will, go if you must in perfect love and perfect trust. <extinguish blue candle in the west>
Great spirits of the South, we thank you for your attendance in our circle, stay if you will, go if you must in perfect love and perfect trust. <extinguish red candle in the south>
Great spirits of the East, we thank you for your attendance in our circle, stay if you will, go if you must in perfect love and perfect trust. <extinguish yellow candle in the east>
Great Goddess, we thank you for your wisdom and love. Thank you for sharing this night with us in our sacred space. <extinguish Goddess candle>
Great Sun God, tonight we have celebrated your exodus for the dark half of the year, but have also celebrated all that you provide for us as human beings. We honor your strength and praise the light and heat of summer. Thank you for sharing in our sacred space this night! <extinguish God candle>
The Circle is Open But Unbroken
This Midsummer Night Rite Has Ended !!!!
So Mote It BE!!