Midsummer (also commonly called Litha) is the festival celebrating the Summer Solstice. This is held on the longest day of the year and correspondingly, the shortest night. In the Southern Hemisphere, this typically falls on or around December 21st. In many cultures, this is a time to honour the ascendency of the solar deities, and the strength of the life-giving sun.
A common Pagan interpretation of the Solstice is that it marks the transition from the Light half of the year to the Dark half of the year. From this point on, the days get shorter and the nights longer, suggesting the strength and potency of the sun (and solar gods) is beginning to fade. This can seem a bit counter-intuitive in Australia when the real heat of Summer hits in January and February.
Some traditions tell the story of the Oak King and Holly King, battling for supremacy throughout the year. The Oak King defeats the Holly King at the Winter Solstice, gaining in ascendency throughout the Light half of the year. At Midsummer, the Holly King returns to battle and defeat the Oak King, marking the decline of the Sun and the return of the Dark half of the year.
This dual-kingship linked to the sun’s potency or battles for the supremacy of light over dark plays itself out in many mythologies. For example, Greek Apollo killed the python representing darkness, and Egyptian Ra fought the serpent of darkness, Set.
Many cultures around the world, and many mythologies, have put their own spin on the solar transitions that occur throughout the year. Whatever pantheon you follow or are drawn to, there are sure to be some solar deities and sun myths to honour and celebrate at this time of the year. The guiding rule of Paganism comes into play as well – as an experiential religion, listen to your own instincts and guides to find a way to celebrate this time of year. And if none of the traditions work for you, feel free to create your own! Nothing says you have to honour the season in a particular way if that doesn’t feel right to you.
Below are some suggestions to help get you started as Midsummer approaches.
Creating a Midsummer altar is a great way to connect to the energy of the season. Below are some suggestions of what you could add to your altar.
- Pinecones and other vegetative god representations
- Sun images / solar wheels
- Greens and yellows, or strong orange/red sun colours
- Flowers (lavender, rose, marigolds, violets, sunflowers)
- Spiral imagery representing the sun’s passage through the year
- Honey or mead
- Statues or images representing solar deities
- Solar incenses such as frankincense, or tangerine
Below are some deities that have strong ties to the Solar energy of Midsummer or would otherwise be aligned to this season. In addition to solar deities, the queens of heaven who ruled at the sun’s high point can be helpful to work with. Thunder deities who bring the fertilising rain, and fire deities who reflect the burning heat of summer also align well at this time. Faerie energy is rampant at this time of year and can be an interesting (although tricksy) space to work in.
The solar gods/goddesses:
- Apollo / Helios
- Sulis / Sulis Minerva
- Shamash / Utu
The queens of heaven:
- Juno / Hera
The thunder gods:
- Jupiter / Zeus
The fire gods/goddesses:
- Hestia / Vesta
How to honour the festival:
There are plenty of ways to celebrate Midsummer. You don’t have to belong to a coven, Grove or other magical group to celebrate this festival! Below are a few ideas to get you started.
- Collect rainwater and leave it under the Midsummer sun for a full day to charge with solar energy
- Decorate a Midsummer tree with solar images and ornaments (this can be a Christmas tree in disguise if you’re not quite out of the broom closet!)
- Make floral wreaths using some of the beautiful solar-hue flowers in wild bloom at this time of year
- Practice divination, perhaps to see what blessings the coming harvest will bring you
- Perform a self cleansing (this may be a bath scented with oils, bathing your face in sun-blessed water or simply a shower taken mindfully with sacred intent)
- Observe the setting of the sun on Midsummer Eve and the rising of the sun on Midsummer day
- Charge your crystals during the height of Midsummer Day
- Spend the longest day of the year outdoors (don’t forget to practice sun safety!)
- Mix together an incense blend or create a smudge stick using solar herbs and flowers
- Create a blessing besom to sweep out the old energy and clear the way for the next half of the year
As always, remember that these are only suggestions to help get you started on your path. Follow your instincts and listen to your intuition to begin building a set of traditions and practices that are meaningful and sacred to you.
However you choose to celebrate the Solstice, whether by participating in a full ritual or simply honouring the day in solitude, we wish you a very merry Midsummer!