Litha: The Summer Solstice

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Beltane Fire Society

“Oh! thou clear spirit of clear fire, whom on these seas I as Persian once did worship, till in the sacramental act so burned by thee, that to this hour I bear the scar … Thou canst blind; but I can then grope. Thou canst consume; but I can then be ashes. … Light though thou be, thou leapest out of darkness; but I am darkness leaping out of light, leaping out of thee! … There burn the flames! Oh, thou magnanimous! now do I glory in my genealogy. But thou art but my fiery father … Leap! leap up, and lick the sky! I leap with thee; I burn with thee …”

— Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Litha is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and the apogee of the light. The summer solstice usually occurs around June 21st or 22nd. The date is called “Midsummer” by some Neo-Pagans.

The date corresponds roughly the Christian Feast of St. John, also called Johnmas, on June 24. The Neo-Pagan Oak King and Holly King have been compared to the John the Baptist and Jesus because John the Baptist was executed shortly after Jesus’ ascendancy (marked by his baptism). Jesus’ birth is celebrated at the winter solstice and John’s is celebrated at the summer solstice.

In the Neo-Pagan tradition, the summer solstice mirrors the winter solstice as the time when the Oak King comes to the climax of his power, which is both the time of his greatest strength and the beginning of his decline. Like Yule, Litha is an ambivalent time. The sun at its zenith and the fires which are lit to celebrate it cast shadows which will lengthen in the following months.

There is no universal outline for the Wheel of the Year. Every version differs in the details of the Mythos and which events are assigned to which point on the Wheel. According to one version, at Litha, the Goddess and her consort, the Oak King, consummate their union. Their consummation becomes a conflagration which will consume the Oak King. The fire casts a shadow across the land, foreshadowing the decline of the Oak King. Though the God of Light still reigns, the Dark God escapes his imprisonment and the Oak King begins his decline.

Return to The Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year.

2 thoughts on “Litha: The Summer Solstice

  1. Pingback: Litha / Midsummer | A Year And A Day

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