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The Sabbats

Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)

Written and compiled by George Knowles.

 

Litha

The Midsummer Solstice

 

“He furnishes the world with light and removes darkness; he obscures and he illuminates the rest of the stars; he regulates in accord with nature’s precedent the changes of the seasons and the continuous rebirth of the year; he dissipates the gloom of heaven and even calms the storm clouds of the mind of man”

 

Pliny the Elder - A Roman naturalist.

 

The Litha festival is one of the lesser Sabbats of the Witches annual calendar and today (in the northern hemisphere) is normally celebrated on the 21st of June, this however can vary from the 20th to the 23rd of June depending upon the Earth’s rotation around the Sun.  The festival of Litha celebrates the arrival of summer when the hours of daylight are there longest and nights at their shortest.  Litha is also known as:  Alban Hefin, Alben Heruin, All-couples day, Feill-Sheathain, Feast of Epona, Gathering Day, Johannistag, St. John’s Day, Sonnwend, Thing-Tide, Vestalia, Whitsuntide or Whit Sunday.

 

Litha celebrates the peak of the suns annual rise at the Summer Solstice, the first of two annual solstices dividing the year (the second being the Winter Solstice at Yule in December).  The word “Solstice” is derived from two Latin words:  “sol” which means “sun”, and “sistere” meaning “to stand still”.  As the summer solstice approaches, each day the sun rises noticeably higher in the sky, but by the day of the solstice itself, its rise becomes almost imperceptible compared to the day before it.  In this sense and for the period of midsummer, the sun seems “to stands still” having reached its peak.

 

In legends of old, the summer sun begins to grow in strength at Beltane (the 1st of May) and starts its decline at Lammas (the 01st of August), with Litha midway between the two, marking Midsummer.  At this time the God is in his prime and the Sun is at its strongest, the Goddess is pregnant of the God and her fertility is reflected in nature.  As the powers of nature reach their highest point, so its bounty will soon be ripe for harvest.  After the hard work of the planting and before we reap its rewards, the rituals of Litha celebrate the suns life giving energy while all the riches of nature are in full bloom.

 

In days long ago the rites of Litha were boisterous communal affairs with Morris dancing, singing, storytelling and feasting all taking place in the village.  Traditionally it was the time for handfasting and weddings, when couples who met at Beltane, joined hands and jumped the broom to ensure a long and happy marriage.  Another custom was to dress the home with seasonal plants and herbs, and to collect and store those containing magical and medicinal properties for use throughout the year.  Amongst some of the most favoured at this time of year are:  Rue, Roses, Fennel, Orpine, Saint-John’s-Wort and Vervain.

 

          

Rue     -     Fennel     -     Saint-John’s-Wort

 

More commonly associated with the Winter Solstice and Christmas time, Mistletoe (the “Golden Bough”), Holly and Ivy are equally sought after plants used at the Summer Solstice.  The Druids of old specifically prized the mistletoe that grew in Oak trees (which they held to be sacred), and on Midsummer Eve would harvest the plant with a golden sickle.  Equally sacred was the Holly, which the Druids believed was special because its evergreen nature added colour to the earth when trees such as the Oak had shed their leaves.  The holly’s berries were also thought to represent the sacred menstrual blood of the Goddess.

 

Traditionally the Mistletoe, Holly and Ivy were used at the solstices to decorate homes and churches, later however, Church leaders banned their use from churches because of their pagan associations.  Since then their use was confined mainly to decorating the home with the exception of weddings and handfasting were it was strictly observed that men only wore Holly and women wore Ivy.  Jointly they were believed to possess mystical and magickal qualities, they were used in rites of divination, to cure various illnesses, and to protect the home and person from unwanted influences.

 

    

Oak Mistletoe     -     Holly     -     Ivy 

Midnight on Midsummer Eve or at noon on Midsummer Day is the best time to collect plants and herbs for use in magick.  Divining rods and wands cut at midnight were thought to be more powerful, while plants and herbs harvested at midnight doubly efficacious.  Many of the herbs collected at midnight were also used as charms to protect the house from fire or lightning, the family from disease and ill health, and to ward off negative witchcraft and the attentions of pesky Fairy Folk.

 

In England and across Europe it was an old custom on the eve of the Solstice to light a large bonfire after sundown; these served the double purpose of providing light for the revellers and warding off evil spirits.  In addition to the fires the streets would be lined with lanterns as torch lit processions paraded through the villages.  Led by Jack-in-the-Green and his maidens, and followed by Morris dancers and hobbyhorse riders, giant effigies of wicker men and dragons were paraded before being burnt on the bonfires in symbolic sacrifices to the sun.

 

The fire was a major part of the Litha celebrations and of old was used in many ways.  The most common was rolling a flaming wheel down a hill, a powerful solar symbol imitable of the sun’s course through the sky.  As the fire wheel (Catherine wheel) rolled down the hill, if the fire went out they could expect a bad harvest, but if the fire remained lit, the year would be blessed with abundant crops.  Another function of the fires was to sympathetically boost the sun’s energy so it would remain potent throughout the rest of the growing season ensuring a plentiful harvest.

 

People believed that the Litha fires possessed great power, and by jumping through the fire it would bring prosperity and protection for the coming year.  The charred remains of the fire would later be used to create charms against injury, bad luck and bad weather.  Ashes from the fire would be mixed with seeds not yet planted, and spread around fields and orchards to protect their crops.  After the embers had cooled farmers would then drive their cattle through the ashes to purge them of disease and illness.

 

Water is also an important ingredient of the Litha celebrations and is an excellent time for gathering magickal water for your spell work.  Many people who live near the coast conduct their rituals on the beach, others near sacred wells, rivers, or streams, and naturally use water in their rites.  If you don’t live near the sea, than gathering rainwater or dew from the trees or water from a free flowing brook will suffice, more particularly after a storm with lightening.  Water should always be collect in glass containers, never metal, and stored on a shelf off the ground or its power may be dissipated.  When needed it should only be used for magickal purposes.

 

According to folklore, Midsummer Eve is a night second only to Halloween for its importance regarding the Fairy Folk, who especially enjoyed riding about on this night hoping to catch the unwary.  To see them you had only to gather ferns at the stroke of midnight and rub them onto your eyelids, however be sure to carry a piece of Rue in your pocket to guard against capture.  For protection and to evade capture simply turn your jacket inside out, which should keep them from recognising you as human.  When travelling through the woods on this night, you should seek out one of the “ley lines”, the old tracks used to link ancient landmarks and places of worship, and stay upon it until you reach your destination.  Ley lines were popularly associated with mystical powers of protection and should keep you safe from any malevolent powers, as will crossing a stream of “living” (running) water.

 

In mythology, Litha symbolizes the end of the reign of the Oak-King.  As the sun nears the peak at the summer solstice (represented by the Oak King) and begins its decline back to winter (represented by the Holly-King), the two do battle.  This time the Oak-King is defeated by the Holly-King who then rules over the second half of the year until they meet again and do battle at the Winter Solstice.  This in essence is an enactment of the annual cycle of life, growth and death in nature.  The Oak King is the growing youth who reaches his peak in mid-summer, while the Holly King is the mature man whose life declines into winter, from where he is again re-born of the Goddess.

 

End. 

Sources: 

Microsoft® Encarta® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. 

Cunningham's Encyclopedia Of Magical Herbs - By Scott Cunningham 

A Witches Bible  -  by Stewart and Janet Farrar 

http://twopagans.com/holiday/Litha.html 

http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/lithathesummersolstice/p/Litha_History

http://www.netglimse.com/holidays/summer/summer_solstice_celebration.s

Plus others to many too mention 

 

Written and compiled on the 24th May 2008  ©  George Knowles

Best wishes and Blessed Be

 

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Correspondence Tables:

 

IncenseCandlesColoursMagickal DaysStones and GemsElements and Elementals

 

Traditions:

 

Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /

 

Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /

 

Other things of interest:

 

Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology)Esbats & Full MoonsLinks to Personal Friends & ResourcesWicca/Witchcraft ResourcesWhat's a spell?Circle Casting and Sacred Space /  Pentagram - PentacleMarks of a WitchThe Witches PowerThe Witches HatAn esoteric guide to visiting LondonSatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  /  Part 2 Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /  The History of ThanksgivingI have a Dream, the 1963 speach by civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King /  Auras by Graham Furnell - Part 1 and Part 2 /

 

Sabbats and Rituals:

 

Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)

 

Rituals contributed by Crone:  Samhain / YuleImbolcOstara /  BeltaneLithaLammasMabon

 

Tools:

 

Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron MagickMirror Gazing

 

Animals:

 

Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrowFoxFrog and ToadsGoat / HoneybeeKangarooLionOwlPhoenixRabbits and HaresRavenRobin RedbreastSheep SpiderSquirrelSwansWild Boar /  Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat

 

Trees:

 

In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow /  Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  ElderAlso see:  The Willow Tree (Folk Music)

 

Sacred Sites:

 

Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /

 

Rocks and Stones:

 

Stones - History, Myths and Lore

 

 Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:   / Apophyllite  / Amber AmethystAquamarineAragoniteAventurineBlack TourmalineBloodstoneCalciteCarnelianCelestiteCitrineChrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / FluoriteGarnet /  Hematite Herkimer DiamondLabradoriteLapis LazuliMalachiteMoonstoneObsidianOpalPyriteQuartz (Rock Crystal)Rose QuartzRubySeleniteSeraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodaliteSunstoneThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble

 

Wisdom:

 

Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakeningThe Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods

 

Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:

 

Murder by WitchcraftThe Fairy Witch of ClonmelA Battleship, U-boat, and a WitchThe Troll-Tear (A story for Children)Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-LanternThe Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark

 

Old Masters of Academia:

 

Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras

 

Biographies

 

Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)

 

Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)

 

Abramelin the MageAgrippaAidan A. KellyAlbertus Magnus “Albert the Great”Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” Alison HarlowAmber KAnna Franklin /  Anodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey  / Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite Austin Osman SpareBiddy EarlyBridget ClearyCarl Llewellyn WeschckeCecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey LelandCharles Walton /  Christina Oakley Harrington /  Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) /   Dion FortuneDolores Aschroft-NowickiDorothy MorrisonDoreen ValienteEdward FitchEleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” /  Dr. John Dee and Edward KellyDr. Leo Louis Martello /  Eliphas LeviErnest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry /  Fiona Horne /  Friedrich von SpeeFrancis Barrett /  Gerald B. GardnerGavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gwydion PendderwenHans Holzer /  Helen DuncanHerman Slater "Horrible Herman" /  Israel RegardieJames "Cunning" MurrellJanet Farrar & Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne John George Hohman /  John GerardJohn Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJohannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von EckartshausenLaurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis Spence /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General”Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata /  Monique Wilson the “Queen of the WitchesMontague SummersNicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellersMrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-RavenheartOld Dorothy ClutterbuckOld George Pickingill /   Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsusPatricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip Emmons Isaac Bonewits Philip HeseltonRaymond BucklandReginald ScotRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /  Rudolf Steiner /  Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & DruidsSabrina - The Ink WitchScott CunninghamSelena FoxSilver Ravenwolf /  Sir Francis DashwoodSir James George FrazerS.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  StarhawkStewart FarrarSybil LeekTed AndrewsThe Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather /  Thomas AdyVera Chapman /  Victor Henry AndersonVivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest

 

 

Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)

 

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