The Summer Solstice – referred to as Litha by many practitioners – occurs on Sunday, June 20th, ushering in the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere (winter in the Southern). This celebration, held on the longest day of the year, is a time of solar celebration and great magical power.
For the Celts, Midsummer was replete with hilltop bonfires, celebrating the time for crops to grow, and honor the liminal space between earth and the spiritual realm. The custom was rooted in Ancient History when the Celts lit fires in honor of goddess, Áine (pronounced Anya) Chlair: Queen of the Fairies. Midsummer rituals involved spreading the ashes from the fires they burned in her honor onto the fields, to bless crops with abundance and fertility.
Celebrating the solstice at Stonehenge
The Romans celebrated Summer Solstice as a day sacred to Juno, goddess of women and children. This holiday was also sacred to Vesta, goddess of the hearth. In Austria, setting bonfires and lighting torches along the mountainous terrains is still practiced today. Latvian legend Midsummer Night’s Eve/St. John’s Eve (June 23rd) tells of those who spent the night awake next to the bonfire in search of a magical fern flower told to bring good luck.
Roman goddess, Vesta: goddess of the hearth
For practitioners of New Orleans Voodoo, St. John’s Eve on June 23rd honors Voodoo priestess, midwife and herbalist (not to mention local icon) Marie Laveau. On this day, head-washing ceremonies (a tradition which she started) are done. In the 1830s, Laveau began hosting annual feasts on the banks of Lake Ponchartrain marking a bold shift from the days when enslaved people were not allowed to gather in big groups and were forced to hide their practices from view.
Summer Solstice is a day to celebrate the energy of the Sun, and the beginning of the Waning Year. This is a time for welcoming the Sun’s power as it showers us in its rays, igniting our inner powers. We are at the height of the Solar Year, with all its life-giving energy at peak levels. It’s time to bask in the light and celebrate our achievements. This solar charge ignites the fires within, illuminating all that has been hiding in the shadows.
We enter Cancer on this longest day of the year, resting in the sign of the Crab until July 22nd. The Sun energy shines light on this time of expansion, and focuses around themes of the Self. It’s a time for us to bask in the glow of all that nourishes us; for us to hold gratitude for our nearest and dearest and all the ways in which our community gives us sustenance and how we give back. The energy of the Sun extends the opportunity for us to use this moment to explore personal power, what inspires and guides us toward our Truth.
This solstice foretells the coming of days gradually shortening once more as time moves along the Wheel of the Year. Litha’s colors are yellows and gold, plus all the colors of the rainbow, nicely aligning with Pride month. Its element is fire like the energy of the Sun itself. Animal associations for this day include bees, butterflies, cattle, horses, robins, wrens, snakes and sea creatures.
Herbs and flowers to work with are basil, calendula, chamomile, daisy, heather, lavender, meadowsweet, mugwort, mistletoe, peony, rose, vervain, St. John’s Wort, sunflower and thyme. Trees such as elder, oak, pine, rowan and fir are all symbolic of the season. Fragrances to burn as incense or used as essential oils are cedar, clove, frankincense, lavender, lemon, mint, myrrh, orange, pine, rose and sage. Crystals symbolic of the solstice are amber, carnelian, citrine, diamond, jade, lapis, and tiger’s eye.
The tarot card for the Summer Solstice is the Sun. The Sun card tells us to embrace life and bask in the joy of the sun. Through this, we are able to find a new perspective. Now it is time to reap the rewards of the hard work that has paid off. It’s time to do something fun, embrace the childlike sense of wonder that illuminates the beauty of the world around us. This energy liberates and transforms the fire locked inside. This fire has always existed, but the world has a way of forcing us to dim our shine. Take the time on this day to light that internal fire and let yourself look at the world in a whole new way, with optimism, energy and wonder.
Here’s to a gorgeous, regenerative Summer Solstice that aids us in connecting with the light within to be beamed out to the world at large.