21st June or 21st December in the southern hemisphere.
The festival of Litha, the summer solstice, is a celebration of the triumph of the fertility of the land and the abundance of summer, of the god as Sun King on the longest day of the year fertilising the land, with the sun is at its zenith. Nature is alive, and fields and fruits are growing towards harvest, but the blessing is mixed, for once light reaches its apogee it can only decline.
Litha is a fairly modern term for the summer solstice, and it may be derived from an Anglo-Saxon word for ‘moon’ that referred to the sixth and seventh months of the year. The Druidic name for the festival, Alban Heruin or ‘Light of the Shore’, is very appropriate for this turning point of the year, lying at the midpoint between Light of the Earth and Light of the Water (the Druidic terms for the equinoctial celebrations).
In the past, midsummer fires were lit for purification, protection and in the hope that the sun could be kept powerful for long enough to ensure a good harvest. People would leap over these fires in the belief that the crops would grow as high as they could jump. Drumming, dancing and singing were common, making this festival a noisy and social time. The full moon in June is known as the Mead or Honey Moon, and mead is a traditional drink for Litha, just as June is a popular time for weddings and hence honeymoons.
Litha is a pivotal time, like Yule, where, in reaching its peak, the sun will move into decline. This turning of the wheel is represented through the decline of the Oak King and the beginning of the ascendancy of the Holly King. At his crowning, the Oak King falls to his darker aspect, the Holly King, God of the waning year (days grow shorter after Litha). The Goddess shows a Death-in-life aspect, being extravagantly fertile but presiding over the death of the Oak King.
Litha is a time of fulfillment of love, time to celebrate our energy and look forward to the fruitfulness to come. The summer quarter of the year runs from Beltane to Lughnassadh, so Litha stands at the midpoint of summer.
Litha is a time to consolidate your strengths and clear away negative thoughts and energies. It is a time to be joyful and full of life, while at the same time mindful of the waning of the light from now until Yule.
Midsummer, Celtic ‘Oak Festival’, Comhain
Druidic Name: Alban Hefin or Alban Heruin (Light of the Shore)
Check out the Litha ritual page, Litha recipes and Litha incense blends page.