As the wheel of time turns again we found ourselves at Summer Solstice. Nearly every agricultural society has marked the high point of summer in some way. On this date, Jun 21 this year, the sun reaches its zenith in the sky.
It is the longest day of the year, and the point at which the sun seems just to hang there without moving (“solstice” is from the Latin word solstitium, which means “sun stands still”). The travels of the sun were marked and recorded by almost every civilisation.
Lots of folks joined us for an evening of celebration in Barb’s fabulous back yard. We made a communal altar celebrating Litha, the Solar goddess, created painted and collaged solar symbols to toss in the fire pit, enjoyed video projections and music celebrating fire and water, sipped beverages and nibbled tasty goodies.
Thanks to Ty who set up the sound and projection system in Barb’s back yard, I was able to screen my videos Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis and Fragile.
Litha celebrates abundance, fertility, virility, the beauty and bounty of Nature. Early societies celebrated Litha with Fire rituals. In the Aegean islands on the night before the Summer Solstice, hoops were set ablaze, and the villagers would guide the Sun’s return by jumping though rings of fire. Early European traditions celebrated this time of year by setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into a body of water. Early Saxons in Britain marked Midsummer with huge bonfires that celebrated the power of the sun over darkness.
Our three-tiered altar was installed in Barb’s garden and dressed in red, topped with a ceramic head of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and craft. Each participant brought offerings to adorn the altar, including incense, candles, sheaves of grain, and other symbolic elements. Ty, Barb, and I planted red flags in the garden and swathed the altar in a Balinese sarong. Around the yard Barb added floating and stationary candles to bird baths and garden ornaments. A large orange sun pinata graced her gigantic magnolia tree. After a feast of tasty food, Randal entertained the assembled crowd with folk songs from his repertoire of guitar favourites.
As the sun grew low in the sky we painted and decorated solar offerings and later, when the sky was dark, and Venus, Jupiter, and Moon hung bright in the night time sky, we formed a procession, made wishes for the coming year, and offered them up to the Litha fire pit.
Symbols: Circles and discs are the most basic sun symbols; fire to celebrate the power of the sun, sun wheels, god eyes, mother goddess, ripening fruits, sun dials, feathers, and swords, blades. Goddesses Aphrodite, Astarte, Freya, Hathor, Ishtar, Venus and other Goddesses who preside over love, passion and beauty. Other Litha deities include Athena, Artemis, Dana, Kali, Isis, Juno, Apollo, Dagda, Gwydion, Helios, Llew, Oak Holly King, Lugh, Ra, Sol, Zeus, Prometheus, Ares, Mother Earth, Father Sun, the fey, fairy folk and Thor.
Tools: drums, rattles, bonfire, mirrors for reflecting the sun or bonfire, Earth circles of stone energy.
Colors: white, red, maize yellow or golden yellow, oranges, fiery reds and golds, green, blue and tan.
Stones: all green gemstones, especially emerald and jade. Tiger’s eye, lapis lazuli, ruby, diamonds, amethyst, malachite, golden topaz, opal, quartz crystal, azurite-malachite, lapis lazuli.
Animals: Robins, wrens, all Summer birds, horses and cattle. Mythical creatures include satyrs, faeries, firebirds, dragons, thunderbirds and manticores.
Herbs: chamomile, cinquefoil, elder, fennel, hemp, larkspur, lavender, male fern, mugwort, pine, roses, Saint John’s Wort, honesty, wild thyme, wisteria, oak, mistletoe, frankincense, lemon, sandalwood, heliotrope, copal, saffron, galangal, laurel, ylangylang, Basil, Betony, Dogwood, Oak, Rue, vervain, trefoil and verbena.
Incense: frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, lemon, pine, jasmine, rose, lotus, or wysteria.
Foods: fresh vegetables of all kinds and fresh fruits such as lemons and oranges, pumpernickel bread as well as Summer squash and any yellow or orange colored foods. Flaming foods are also appropriate, barbecued anything, (barbecues represent the bonfires….) but especially chicken or pork. Midsummer is also the time for making mead, since honey is now plentiful. Traditional drinks are ale, mead, sweet wines, fresh fruit juice of any kind and herb teas.
See more photos here.