When is Litha: June 20-22
Litha pronunciation: LEE-tha
Themes: abundance, growth, masculine energy, love, magic
Also known as: Midsummer, Midsummer’s Eve, Gathering Day, St. John’s Day, St. John’s Eve, Summer Solstice, Alban Hefin, Feill-Sheathain
“Litha” is the name given to the Wiccan Sabbat celebrated at the Summer Solstice. This is the longest day and shortest night of the year, marking the pinnacle of the Sun’s power to fuel the growing season. From here on out, the Sun will set a little earlier each night until Yule, and so we recognize and give thanks for its warmth.
Though it’s typically celebrated on June 21st, the exact moment of the Summer Solstice varies from year to year. This is due to a slight misalignment between the Gregorian calendar and the actual rate of the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. The Solstice also occurs at differing local times, so depending on where you live, it may fall the day before or after the date listed on any given calendar. For this reason, a date range of June 20-22 is often cited in sources on the Wheel of the Year.
As the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky, the God is now in his full power, and the Goddess of the Earth is bringing forth the greatest abundance of the year. The crops are reaching their full maturity and the forests are bursting with lush growth. In just a few short weeks, the harvest season will begin, but for now we pause to celebrate the manifestation of what was planted in the early weeks of Spring. The warm sunlight is a welcome contrast to the cold and dark of Winter, and we bask in its comforts. There is a focus on the Element of Fire in honor of the Sun God, but recognition is also given to the Horned God of the forest and its wild animal life.
Ancient pagans celebrated the Solstice with torchlight processions and giant bonfires to ritually strengthen the Sun. Another tradition found among European cultures was centered on the need for balance between the Elements of Fire and Water—large wheels were set on fire and rolled downhill into creeks, rivers or lakes, perhaps as a charm against summertime drought. This is also the traditional time for gathering wild herbs for medicine and magic, as most are fully grown by Midsummer and the power of this particular day will add to their benefits. For this reason, Litha is known as Gathering Day in Wales.
To celebrate this Sabbat, you can decorate your altar with summer flowers, herbs and fruits, and summer colors like yellow, green and blue. This is a traditional time for rites of re-dedication to the God and Goddess, as well as divination related to love and romance. Keep at least one candle lit throughout the day to honor the Sun, and if possible hold your Litha rituals at noon, when the Sun is at its highest point in the sky. Have an outdoor picnic feast to bask in the warmth of the day, and eat fresh fruits and vegetables—ideally from a farmer’s market or harvested from your own garden. This is a good time for magic related to masculine energies and any situation that needs to be “fired up” in your life.
Litha was long known as Midsummer, an older name for the Solstice that emphasizes the actual course of the warmer months in the Northern Hemisphere. Summer was considered to begin around May 1st, when Beltane (or May Day) is celebrated, with June 21st marking the midpoint of the season. The name “Litha” is traced back to an old Anglo-Saxon word for the month of June, and came into use as a Wiccan name for this Sabbat in the second half of the 20th century. However, many Pagans continue to use the more traditional “Midsummer.”