Sunday, 6 June 2010

Litha, The Summer Solstice 21June (2010)

There are 4 major Sabbats
& 4 lesser Sabbats
of the year,
also known as
Solar Festivals.
Litha is one of the lesser
of these Sabbats,
known as The Summer Solstice,
Midsummer's Day, & Vestalia
which falls & is celebrated
upon 21st June.

Despite its apparent lesser status, the festival has in recent times become the most prominent Pagan festival in the wider culture, perhaps due to media involvement documenting the celebrants mass migrations to festival locations...

The word Solstice itself derives from the Latin 'Sol Sistere' meaning "Sun Stand Still", refering to the days of the year when the apparent position of the Sun at noon is at its furthest from the equator.
The Summer & Winter solstices are the longest and shortest days respectively of the year.

Alhough the Solstice is traditionally known as 'the Mid-Point of Summer', modern society often uses it as the first 'offical' day of the Summer, and the beginning of the Summer hoildays.
This is ironic, because after the solstice the days begin to get get shorter, & the Solstice is effectively the beginning of the end of Summer, which properly begins with Beltane on May 1st and ends with Lughnasadh on August 1st.

In many
Litha is seen
as the time
the Oak King,
who represents
the waxing year,
triumphed over
the Holly King
who represents
the waning year.

The two are actually one God, the Horned God;
The Holly King is seen as the growing aspect,
The Oak King is seen as the wisdom of maturity.

The Goddess is also celebrated at Litha, as the woman heavy with child, who will give birth to the God at Yule.
She is also seen as the bounty of coming harvests, of protection and sustenance.
The ancient Romans saw this time as sacred to the goddess Juno who was the wife of Jupiter, the Goddess of women and children and the patroness of marriage
(hence so many June marriages perhaps).

For Christians, the summer solstice is close to the feast day of St John the Baptist.
Some ancient representations of St John show him as a Pan-like figure, which would follow as many Christian feasts were based on the older Pagan ones.

The midsummer Sun is also said to be a boon to herbs and herbalists have told that plants picked on this day have a special strength.
Such symbolism is often found in midsummer rites.

The Pagan fires, such as those of Beltane &more usually associated with the earlier May Day, may also be lit at midsummer, either to honour the summer Sun or to symbolically strengthen it.

Many ancient sacred sites were clearly designed for amongst other things, the Summer Solstice...
Stonehenge in Wiltshire erected around 2300 B.C. has an entranceway built so that the stones are aligned with the first rays of light from the Solstice Sunrise and is a popular gathering point for modern Druids, Pagans and others on Midsummer's Morning.

Fairies and other spirits are often thought to be abroad on the Solstice, especially in the evening.
The most well-known example of this is Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream" which presents Oberon and Titania as the fairie King & Queen.

video c/o xoxobleach

The Celebration of Summer Solstice at Stonehenge is a particularly popular among Contemporary Pagans, Druids and others who believed the Summer Solstice carries deep mystical and religious significance as the Weddimng of The Sun & The Earth, and has been a center of dramatic controversy in the recent past.

video c/o ProfMichaelTCooper

Whilst celebrations were held there as long as 10,000 years ago, from 1972 until 1985, the Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge had become free festivals "rife with drugs, alcohol, and celebrants climbing and defacing the stones"...

Archaeologists and Conservationists who regard Stonehenge & similar sites as treasures to be protected and preserved, along with English Heritage, the Government entity responsible for the site, therefore banned all solstice celebrations at the site in 1985 after the inflammatory confrontation between Pagan/New Age 'celebrants' and Police that came to be known as
the 'Battle of Beanfield'(the place where it occurred).

This 15-year ban was lifted in 2000 and English Heritage who manage access and parking etc for the occassion, estimate that over 20,000 celebrants regularly attended the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge.

Said Arthur Pendragon, a Druid leader...
“We see Stonehenge more as a temple than as a monument... as a living landscape, to be used to celebrate the seasons and quarter days [solstices and equinoxes]. Druids want to use sacred sites as they were originally intended.”

Wishing You Every Joy for a Wonderful Summer Solstice!

As the sun spirals its longest dance,
Cleanse us
As nature shows bounty and fertility,
Bless us
Let all things live with loving intent,
And fulfill their truest destiny.

(Ancient Wiccan blessing for Summer)