Litha is an ancient pagan holiday that celebrates the summer solstice, also known as Midsummer (around June 21). It is one of the eight sabbats of the Wheel of the Year that are still celebrated by modern-day witches. Many traditions all over the world have some version of celebration at the summer solstice, which marks the longest day and shortest night of the year.
Litha: A Battle Between the Oak King and Holly King
Pagans of old believed this was the moment of a great battle between the Oak King, who presides over daylight, and the Holly King, who presides over the night.
On this day, the two would fight, and every year the Holly King would win, causing the night to stretch longer every night until Yule, or winter solstice, when the Oak King would again take the throne, stretching the daylight until the summer solstice when the Wheel would turn again.
Thinning of the Veil at Litha
The ancients believed that Litha was the time when the veils between the human and the faerie world would thin.
Litha is also traditionally a celebration of the ancient Irish goddess Danu, likely an earth mother goddess, who is said to be the mother of the Tuatha Dé Danann, a supernatural people who once ruled Ireland until being defeated on Litha and retreated to the faerie lands, becoming the faeries of mythology.
Sun Energy at Litha
Energetically, the summer solstice is the moment when we are most imbued with heat and light energy. This can be wonderful and intense, but it can also make us feel a little unbalanced if we’re not getting enough time in rest and darkness. It feels similar to the energy of the full moon: lots of light and energy, but that can come with some intensity of emotion and disturbed sleep.
This can be a beautiful time of year, especially if we can take some time off from work to enjoy the sun, the shade, and being near water. The days are meant to be long and lazy, especially as we move into the official summer season. While the light is building in the spring, there’s plenty of energy to start new projects, come up with new ideas, and grow our intentions. But after the summer solstice, when the Holly King takes over, the light slowly begins to wane and the energy shifts. This peak moment of the year is a time to rest, to receive, to reflect, and to enjoy rather than to work hard. (Celebrate Litha with this easy ritual.)
Extroversion at Litha
At the summer solstice, we are also at the peak of the bright half of the year. While the darker half of the year, during fall and winter, is a time for introspection and spiritual work, the spring and summer are times to see and feel spirit and magic in the outside world. It’s a time to be outside, to connect with people, plants, and animals, and to see the magic of spirit in the natural world.
Some of us find that we are less motivated to pray, meditate, or practice rituals during the summer season, but that’s not because Spirit is any less present. It’s rather that our communion with the divine can happen in smelling a flower, watching the waves crash onto the beach, or laughing with a friend in the sunshine.
Litha as a Fire Festival
Litha is traditionally celebrated as a fire festival. Bonfires are lit to be gathered around with friends and family, and small fires were sometimes jumped over in a symbolic gesture of stepping through the portal from one part of the year to another. Jumping over a fire also symbolizes cleansing anything from the last half of the year that we are ready to release before the wheel of the year turns again.
Celebrate Litha with this guided meditation.