Midsummer / Summer Solstice / Litha
At midsummer the solar tide has reached its peak, the sun seems to stand still momentarily before it begins to ebb. The heady days of spring are over and it’s downhill from here so we take the time to be thankful for our good fortune and for the people we share our lives with.
For me this day marks the start of summer, the peak growing season, and if we want to reap a good harvest this is the time to tend to what we have sown. Make hay while the sun shines! We nurture the garden, weed out the unwanted, top up that insulating blanket of mulch and sing to our plants. Daytime temperatures of 40C are not uncommon and we swelter through the nights. It’s the time of long hot days made tolerable in the knowledge that from now on they grow shorter till we reach the equinox when the night begins to engulf the day.
At this time of year some people celebrate the solstice singing about the Wiccan story of the Oak King and the Holly King and their perpetual struggle for life.
The Goddess of course won’t be ignored. Stories that celebrate her generative power are equally apt at midsummer. Listen to Lisa Thiel again, this track is called Spirit of the Plants.
This is a great time to watch How to Grow a Planet and remind yourself of how intertwined our lives are with plantlife.
In Australia around midsummertime we’re confronted with the remnants of the northern yule festivities in the guise of Christmas. Many of the traditions are out of time and place, still, gathering for a meal and giving each other a token of gratitude and appreciation would seem to fit with midsummer. For me, with the garden full of a myriad different plants all doing their thing it’s a perfect time to celebrate human diversity and this is one of my favorite chants for doing so. It’s great to sing with a bunch of friends so you can weave harmonies or sing in a round.
No consideration of Midsummer activities would be complete without thinking about how children might be involved in the festivities. Daisy chains and garlands are always popular spontaneous craft activities. A visit to your local botanic gardens provides the perfect opportunity to look at all the busy plants and insects at their peak. It’s a bit of fun for kids and adults alike to try and draw and name the flying and crawling creatures and flowers and plants they see. If the kids in your life like to sing Litha Song by witchyboyTV is a bit of fun, it does need some adaptation for Southern Hemisphere use however.
It might come as a surprise to our more conservative neighbors that white folk have a cultural heritage that includes remnant indigenous religious or spiritual practices. Here’s a video illustrating surviving Midsummer traditions from Sweden. If you’re of Irish decent you may associate this time of year with the Goddess Áine. Here’s a short prayer to Áine I wrote last Midsummer.
Summer is here with long days and bright
The hot breath of the north runs into the night
We welcome you Áine, Queen of the Sidhe
Goddess of the sun, of love and poetry
Our crops they grow fed by your fire
Stems and branches reaching up higher
The fruits grow full though still not ripe
You bring a promise of harvest’s delight
Shine on us Áine, bring justice and healing
Bless your people with love’s tender feelings
With a bonfire this night of the longest day
We thank you Áine and dance the night away.
For those who find technical explanations useful this video about the 2012 Summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere by Kurdistan Planetarium has illustrations detailing the passage of the sun and changes of season from a Northern Hemisphere perspective. If you’re looking for more detailed descriptions of formal Midsummer ritual this site has a good collection, thought those focusing in male divinity tend to be more numerous.
So what can you do to celebrate the midsummer?
If you need a call to action song for the summer solstice try this one:
Content on this page is written and coordinated by Cara. All rights reserved by the authors of the content.
Last updated 1 June 2015.