Litha 23 June 2019 UUFM
Litha, an Anglo-Saxon word for the month of June. It was also used by JRR Tolkien and thereby gained favor in the Wiccan community. Pagans adopted the term for the Summer Solstice holiday.
At this Solstice, the Earth’s axis tilts the north pole as close as it will come to the Sun’s position. This creates the longest day of the year, and the shortest night for people in the northern half of our world. This is the beginning of Summer.
Astronomical observatories around the world, including Old Stone Fort Archeological Park in Manchester, TN and the world famous Stonehenge in southern England, observe this event. The Sun rises at the farthest point north on the horizon. The following day, it begins to rise further south on the horizon each day. Poetically, returning to its “home” in the Southern quadrant of “fire”.
Astrologically, this holiday begins the sign of Cancer, the crab, the lobster, the pinching hard-shelled, sweet-inside creatures. I used M&M’s to demonstrate cancerian energies in an Astrology class I taught.
The Astrological cycle is the solar, agricultural calendar. It is about 5,000 years old, developed by Babylonians. Babylonians, you see, did not have a Walgreens from which to buy your annual wall calendar. Farming communities needed a device, a mnemonic, to keep people attuned to the intense work of farming. Farming is not a natural way; agriculture coerces the world into giving you what you need, often with excess. Humans grew up as hunter-gatherers, getting what they need from the natural world. Agriculture is artificial, so you need devices like calendars and holidays to keep people engaged.
Cancer is the sign of mothering: nurture, protect, care and feeding. This is the time of year to nurture growing crops. Tend to them, water them, fuss over them as the heat grow intense.
This is the best time of year to harvest and dry medicinal herbs. The leaves are full grown and still contain theri effective compounds and essential oils. Those get used up dealing with heat, and also with developing seeds. Cut, bundle and hang them to dry out of direct sun and rain. Usually they are dry enough to store after 3 days.
Water your animals, too. They also need care in summer’s heat. In fact, this is a good time of year to nurture your own self. Relax, enjoy nature in its fullest growth. Rest, take vacation (perhaps to the beach!) Watch butterflies, lightning bugs, dragonflies and birds.
If you cannot stand hot weather, try eating spicy food every day. It can help you build your heat tolerance. Thai, Indian, Mexican cuisines are meant to help people deal with hot weather.
To best grasp the essence of this holiday, I want you to imagine sunlight sparkling on water. *~*~*~*
Wiccans know that at this holiday, the Oak King is defeated by the Holly King, in their eternal struggle for dominance. Oak rules as daylight grows, and sees to the budding of springtime. Holly, who rules when daylight wanes, will lose again at Yule, the Winter Solstice.
This is the time of year to honor your wells, your water source. Humans are fascinated by sparkling things – glitter, jewelry, suncatchers – because in the wild we have a real need to find and recognize water sources.
This is a time of year to honor the fae, your land spirits. They are heady with joy at this height of wilderness growth.
This is the time of year to honor the Sun, by whatever name you call it. Lugh, Apollo, Ukko, Ra, Nyame, Surya, Amaterasu, Enulanuhi, Xi He, just a few names. Also keep in mind that most pantheons have more than one deity associated with the Sun: the orb itself, its controller, its admirer, its primary magician or astronomer, its positions thru out the day.
How does one honor a well, a water source? Traditionally with flowers, branches that demonstrate growth, ribbons or rags (perhaps washing rags?), pins and jewelry. Create a water source for wildlife, if you can: a birdbath, rain garden, or small pond.
I wonder, tho, if the jewelry was a gift begging the well to produce during drought. Wells are treasure troves for archaeologists, and I think the archeologists are correct in this case, when they surmise an act to be religious.
How does one honor the fae? First, show respect. They are ancient and have long memories. If you wish to visit them, visit during the “between” times of day: dawn, sunset, midnight. Take good care of your gardens, trees, and property; the best care you can give. The fae know if you are doing your best. Do not cause unnecessary harm to insects or small animals. Plant things that attract those bees, butterflies and birds I suggested you watch, earlier. Bless your own land with offerings of cream, honey, shiny or bright-colored beads or candies. I am told they love jelly beans.
How does one honor the Sun? Watch the sunrise, use suncatchers, dance in spirals, spin, set out pinwheels, dress in yellow and orange. At Yule, we keep watch during the long night to see the Sun rise again. At Litha, spend the day outside if we can, and watch the sun set as well. Eat round, yellow cookies like vanilla cremes or lemon cookies, drink herb tea, set out a bowl of water to reflect the sunlight.
How do Americans celebrate? Did you know that Americans celebrate this holiday? We are a Cancerian nation, our national birthdate is the 4th of July. Our culture values motherhood, protectiveness, home life. We like to celebrate this time of year with cookouts, reunions, music, bright colored clothes, fireworks, swimming.
Other cultures celebrate, too. Many build bonfires, but to me it seems that nearly every festival involves a bonfire. One tradition is for young people to jump over the fire to capture the prosperity of this time of year. (Mostly, only the young people will do this.) Catholics honor St John the Baptist – again, water and light.
Litha is a time of prosperity and abundance. I recommend you bundle up your good things, and enjoy them.