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Thursday, June 21, 2007

TT #45: Litha

TT45

Thirteen things about Litha

Today we celebrate Litha, also known as Midsummer, Summer Solstice, Alban Heruin, Sun Blessing, Feill-Sheathain, Vestalia, Thing-tide, All Couples Day, Feast of Epona, Saint John's Day, Ivan Kupala Day or Gathering Day.

  • The Summer Solstice is the longest day and the shortest night of the year. It is a day to honour the sun as it is in its height of power. From now on, the light will begin to wane and the darkness will predominate. Since ancient times Litha has been celebrated with gatherings, singing, dancing and feasting. It is a time to celebrate in childlike joy and also to prepare for the coming time of harvest.

  • On Midsummer, the Holly King defeats his twin brother the Oak King and begins his annual reign. On Yule, the Oak King will defeat the Holly King and reign until Midsummer.

  • Our modern calendars are quite misguided in suggesting that ‘summer begins’ on the solstice. According to the old folk calendar, summer begins on May Day and ends on Lammas (August 1), with the summer solstice, midway between the two, marking midsummer. This makes more logical sense than suggesting that summer begins on the day when the sun’s power begins to wane and the days grow shorter.

  • Midsummer is a time to absorb the Sun's warming rays and it is another fertility Sabbat, not only for humans, but also for crops and animals. Witches consider the Goddess to be heavy with pregnancy from the mating at Beltane - honour is given to Her. The Sun God is celebrated as the Sun is at its peak in the sky and we celebrate His approaching fatherhood - honour is also given to Him.

  • In Nordic and Germanic traditions, this is a night for general divination and vision questing, a time when the power of the sun makes it easy for humans to access the unseen worlds. To this day Midsummer is a prominent Scandinavian holiday, and prophetic dreams play a large part of their folklore. The Danes used to place the toxic herb St. John's Wort under their pillows to induce these dreams. Mugwort is just as potent, and non-toxic, and used by Celts and the English in the same manner.

  • Midsummer is also when the realm of the Fairies is most astir; Fairy Magick is very powerful now. So take care when performing spells at this time esp. at night. The Fairies can be very mischievous and unpredictable. Put out gifts for the Fairies: milk and cream, cakes and honey, coins, ribbons and colorful stones... Catch a jar of fireflies if you can. The green glow represents Fairy Fire deep in the heart of the forest. Make wishes on them and just before dawn set them free to carry on with their business and to carry your wishes to the Goddess.

  • A curious Litha custom includes cutting down a fir tree and decorating it in ways similar to a Yule Tree. Decorations include ribbons, colored eggs, hoops, bows, garlands of flowers and bells. On the night of Litha, the summer tree was thrown into the fire and burned.

  • Other Litha customs included carrying an ember of the Litha bonfire home and placing it on one's hearth and decking one's home with birch, fennel, St. John's Wort, orpin, and white lilies for blessing and protection.

  • "Solstice" is derived from two Latin words: "sol" meaning sun, and "sistere," to cause to stand still. This is because, as the summer solstice approaches, the noonday sun rises higher and higher in the sky on each successive day. On the day of the solstice, it rises an imperceptible amount, compared to the day before. In this sense, it "stands still."

  • Stonehenge is the one thing above all others which springs to mind when "summer solstice" is mentioned in Britain. Stonehenge is a perfect marker for the Summer Solstice - the midsummer sunrise dawns over the magnificent Heel Stone, and creates a shadow that reaches deep into the heart of five pairs of sarsen stone trilithons (two upright stones with one laid across the top) arranged in a horseshoe open towards the rising sun. It is watched by thousands from within the inner circle of the People's Temple - today as in the past.

  • Litha is also a time of maturing and maturity. The maturity of the Sun's power, the maturing of the Child within the Womb of the Goddess and the maturing of the grain in the fields. It is our creativity and our fertility which has also come into maturity and we celebrate this as well. Fertility can also be celebrated at Litha as well as Beltane and many rituals include the plunging of a spear or lance into a cauldron or running water to enact the sacred union.

  • Midsummer Eve is the evening of herbs. The herbs and flowers gathered this night are considered exceptionally potent. St John's wort, burdock, thorn, and nettle , harvested on Midsummer Eve are hung on doors and windows and placed around the home for protection. Houses are decorated with fennel, orpine (also know as Sedum, live forever, stone crop), St. John's Wort and birch branches. Royal Fern (Raithneach na Ri) seeds which are gathered on midsummer are said to make the possessor invisible. They who find Royal Fern blossoms on Midsummer's eve become wise, lucky, wealthy and and all around happy folk. Women wear braided circlets of clover and flowers, while men wear chaplets of oak leaves and flowers around their heads. In times past livestock were also decorated with garlands made of flowers, foliage, and oak leaves.

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of my favourite works by Shakespeare. He captures all the magic of the occasion in a fairytale setting.

sources: Google, Wikipedia, Witchvox, Midsummer by Anna Franklin.


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46 comments:

  1. No wonder Nick and Puck and Co. engaged in such romantic mischief! From what you've posted here, what choice did they have? As you said, we've been singing, dancing and celebrating these warm nights away for centuries! Thanks for a well-written, informative TT.

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  2. Happy Solstice. I've been so preoccupied by things that I completely forgot it was today. Soon it will be fall again, my favorite time of the year.

    Happy TT. Stop by to see some roses. :D

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  3. Happy Summer Solstice! and TT also Great list. I have a list up too (13 post picks).

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  4. It's also my little brother's birthday....

    www.badjokesandovenchips.blogspot.com

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  5. One of my favorite places is the Stonehenge. I'm amazed by that place every time I remember my visit there. I also voted for it in the New 7 Wonders of the World and I hope it gets included in the list.

    Happy Thursday!

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  6. Is it that time of year again alread! I'd not even noticed the date till I read your TT. Enjoy the Solstice

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  7. Happy Solstice! This was very informative, thank you!

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  8. So, Tink, will midsummer bring growth and maturity to my kids? Aargh...

    Neat stuff on here; I love coming here and learning all that you have to teach!

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  9. Interesting. My TT is also posted.

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  10. Very interesting list. I love Summer so I'm definitely celebrating. :-)

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  11. Great minds think alike. :) Interesting and informative TT -- I, too, love A Midsummer Night's Dream. Happy Solstice!

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  12. Happy Solstice to you on this most enchanting of days!

    Blessings,
    Titania

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  13. What a great 13!!! Blessed Solstice to you and yours!

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  14. Happy Solstice- what a great list, I agree with what you said about the beginning of Summer being in May.

    This is a great time of year with the long days.

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  15. Hi Tink
    Happy Summer Solstice - tis Winter Solstice here in Oz. Can't wait for our Summer Solstice! I am beginning to understand what it all means. Must read MidSummer Night's Dream too, have only seen it on tv - which is never a good thing.
    Cheers

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  16. Interesting read! Thanks! Happy TT.

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  17. Very interesting list! :)
    Thanks for the information.

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  18. This was absolutely lovely and intriguing! Thank you for sharing all of this, now I know a bit more about a special day of the year!

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  19. Happy Litha! This was so interesting; I really learned a lot. Great list!

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  20. Lithia is a big name in our valley. It is the name of a park in Ashland where the Shakespeare Festival is held between February and October which is named after the mineral water springs and the creek that runs through it. It is also the name of a local car dealership that acres and acres of new and used vehicles in several lots scattered throughout the valley.

    I knew the word was related to stone and minerals as in lithium, lithosphere and lithology. But I had never heard of its association with Midsummer's Eve before.

    I always learn something when I visit you.

    my tt is about my first visit to a book store in five years.

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  21. I always hate to think summer starts when the days are getting shorter. Thanks for letting me know that it is really Midsummer. Our concept of time is so messed up!

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  22. Thanks for the info. I didn't know anything about Litha.

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  23. Wow, that was a great TT! So much I didn't know and yet it all still makes sense...um, except the decorating of the fir tree, can't get my head around that one :-)

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  24. Hi, my TT this week was about the winter solstice!

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  25. A Blessed Litha to you, Tink! Great list, very interesting.

    I'm a "Midsummer Night's Dream" fan too.

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  26. I didn't know any of this. Very fascinating information. Thanks so much for sharing. Happy Solstice to you!

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  27. Blessed Litha to you and yours. May your journey to the dark half of the year offer you reflection and insight that guides you through the coming darkness.

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  28. I don't do the Thurs. 13, but I wanted to stop in and say Happy Litha to you! I love the list

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  29. Today was my grandmother's birthday. Thank you for reminding me why she was who she was. She could have been no other way when being born on such a glorious day - LC

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  30. That was very interested I only wish that summer really would come back, as you probably too, we had it in April !

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  31. I'd really love to see Stonehenge someday. It's on my list of places I need to visit. Happy summer solstice!

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  32. I'm just reading A Midsummer Night's Dream. perfect for today.

    Happy solsticeonwyk, and T13

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  33. Today in Denmark is called St. Hans Aften (Night). They get together and have a big bonfire and burn a witch in effigy... I never much liked that tradition!!!

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  34. For the past two nights I've been too supercharged with energy to get much sleep - yet I haven't been tired the next day. I figured it was due to something planetary. It's probably the power of the solstice. This is a great TT! Thanks for the caution about the Fairy Magick.

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  35. These are some fascinating facts--thanks! I love the idea of decorating for the summer solstice the way we do for the winter one.

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  36. Great work! Happy Litha to you too! ;) Come see my TT.

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  37. Very interesting! I love summer too! :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  38. Very interesting T13. I had no idea about most of what you've written here today.

    Thanks for visiting my T13!

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  39. Great list! Happy TT!

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  40. Cool list! Happy Solstice!

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  41. Wow, a ton of people picked this subject today!

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  42. This is very cool Thank you for explaining this. Wow!!!! Thanks for stoppin by. Sorry I am late visiting you. I had to go to work yesterday. Darn Darn

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  43. Hi Tink, down here 21 June is actually the shortes day and the longest night. Does that mean there is a different Litha on the southern halve of our planet?? How does that work??

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  44. The witches in the Southern Hemisphere (all you Australian and New Zealand witches out there) reverse the Sabbats due to the opposite seasons. When we celebrate Midsummer, your half celebrates Midwinter, our Spring-equinox is your Fall-equinox, etc.

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