Free shipping on domestic orders over £40
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Litha, also known as midsummer, commonly occurs around the same time as the summer solstice. A celebration to mark the height of summer, the longest day of the year and the shortest night. This pagan holiday’s roots are buried in many different rituals and ceremonies. Some of the most well-known folk-lore tells tales of rural english villagers building bonfires to keep evil spirits out of their towns. It is also believed that if you sit in a stone circle on midsummers eve, you will see the fae. (Note: The fae can be mischievous, and interactions are best avoided unless you know exactly what you are doing.)
In parts of Ireland, it was customary to carry a pebble while circling the campfire. While walking, the holder would set a wish or request upon the stone before throwing it into the flames of the fire. Sun wheels were another form of celebration in Europe, where a wheel or ball of hay was set on fire before being rolled down a hill into a river or body of water. In Wales, it was believed that a good crop was guaranteed that year if the wheel went out before hitting the water. In ancient Egypt, midsummer marked the coming of the star Sirius and the nourishing floods of the nile delta.
As with all festivals and celebrations, you can celebrate this time of year in many ways. Below are some of our favourite ways to celebrate litha and midsummer:
Many herbs are reaching their peak during midsummer, so this is an ideal time to harvest them. When collecting herbs, remember not to over-harvest and to gather them before they flower. Only pick dry herbs for the preservation process. Wet herbs will mould and rot. Once you have taken your cuttings, gently shake them to dislodge any insects hiding in them. Air drying is not only the traditional way of drying herbs but also the easiest and least expensive way.
To begin, remove all of the leaves from the bottom inch or two of the stem (the cut end); also, remove any yellow or diseased leaves. Next, bundle around six stems together and tie them with string (the herbs will shrink as they dry, so you should check your string periodically to see if it needs tightening). Finally, hang the herbs upside down in a warm area or room, ensuring plenty of airflow around each bundle.
You will need your flowers of choice and some string to make a simple flower crown. Popular litha flowers include elderflower, lavender, mistletoe, and roses, but feel free to use whatever flowers call to you.
Invite a group of friends over and host an evening of music and dance. This is an evening of spiritual sharing, using hand drums to produce a rhythmic sound for dance and spiritual guidance. The drum is believed by many to be a sacred tool that can connect us to higher realms. With the mesmerising beat of the drums, this is a place for raising your vibrational energy.
Bonfires are a source of heat and a celebration of light. Traditionally lit to keep evil spirits away, nowadays, they are often seen as a place of gathering. So why not invite your friends and family to join you around the bonfire for a night of fun and festivities?
Feasting has always been a favourite part of celebrations, so why not combine your bonfire with a cookout? Foods traditionally associated with litha include honey, fresh vegetables and summer fruits such as elderberries and strawberries. Herbs are also popular, particularly fennel, lavender and thyme, and any other food you can cook on an open flame. And don’t forget mead is usually the drink of choice during litha.
Since litha is a celebration of the sun, set up an altar outside. If this is not possible, set your altar by the window allowing the most sunlight. If you plan on using an altar cloth, choose bright summery greens or yellows, perhaps even a gingham fabric. Once you have the base of your altar ready, you can begin layering it with items that speak to you. Below is a printable list of decoration ideas (click on the picture to print).
Remember, wherever you set up your altar and however you choose to decorate it, have fun. Your altar is personal to you, and with the height of summer upon us, it should encourage happiness and joy.
In many Celtic traditions, there is a legendary battle between the oak king and the holly king. These two kings constantly battle for power over the seasons and wheel of the year. During yule, the oak king conquers the holly king and reigns until litha. From litha the holly king returns to do battle with the oak king and defeats him. There are variations of this story; some say the battles are performed during the equinoxes, meaning the oak king is at his strongest during litha. Others believe the oak king and the holly king are seen as dual aspects of the horned god; each of these twin aspects rules for half the year.
Whatever legend you believe, the oak king has always been the significant entity during litha and midsummer. Celebrating the god rather than the goddess makes a nice change, so take this theme and run wild with it. Include oak wherever you can in your celebrations. Use it on a bonfire, and throw some herbs into the flames to enhance the heady aromas. Add oak leaves to your crowns and altars; if you take a walk, make an oak journey stick. However, you can try incorporating some oak into your festivities to recognise the oak king.
For information on celebrations, look at our blog, where you will find information on how to celebrate at other times of the year, such as ostara, lammas and samhain. And please remember to tag us @surrender_to_happiness on Instagram with all your litha celebration photographs. We love to see you enjoying these wonderful festivities.