How to Celebrate Litha, The Summer Solstice

Author: Sarah Elizabeth Schantz

Litha is the pagan celebration of the Summer Solstice. Litha is often referred to as “Midsummer.”

Litha is pronounced “Li” as in the beginning sound of the word “lilt,” plus “tha,” as in “thuh.” This year, the summer sabbat occurs on June 21 at 3:32 a.m. 

As the summer solstice, Litha is officially the longest day of the year with the shortest night. This is the opposite of Yule, the Winter Solstice, when the night is the longest and the day is the shortest.

For this reason, Litha is quite simply a day (and night) to worship the sun.

When my children were still children, I was the High Priestess of my local coven. I’d host and organize all 8 pagan sabbats throughout the year. And every Summer Solstice, we’d go camping to celebrate Litha.

Gathering as many members of the coven as we could, we’d camp for 2 nights and 1 full day to observe the passage of the sun at this sacred time. We’d set up camp on the eve of Litha (usually in the mountains, less than an hour away from where we used to live in Lyons, Colorado).

This way, we could wake up to watch the sunrise on this auspicious day, when the sun ignites the longest day of the year — ranging from approximately 13 hours of daylight in Hawaii to 24 hours in northern Alaska!

We spent the day tracking the sun’s journey across the sky, observing both its varied expressions upon different earthbound surfaces — such as through the trees, in the woods, or shimmering across a lake.

We also watched the shadows the sun cast, including the shadows of our own bodies. We watched the sun’s descent into night, and honored it by lighting a fire.

How to Celebrate Litha with Daytime Activities

Observe the Sun

Quietly, our coven watched the sun come up, observing the palette of colors it painted the eastern horizon until the night sky turned blue. We listened to the nocturnal creatures going to bed and the daytime creatures waking up, most specifically the birdsong and chatter of insects.

We watched the wildflowers open their blossoms to the warmth and the light. As the day progressed, we tracked the way these plants literally reposition their bodies to follow the trajectory of this enormous star that fuels all life on earth.

Create a Litha Altar

Because this is a day to worship the sun, I believe it’s crucial to maintain an open flame on the altar, tending to it as needed. I use the tall votive candles as the container helps protect the flame.

Our coven found an impressive antler the mountains on Litha that we used in our Litha altar. This antler represented The Horned God, who can be seen as a manifestation of the sun, the Lord to the Lady, the son/Sun God born to the goddess come Yule when night is longer than day.

Many people place Gaia figurines on their shrine as a Litha ritual. For my altar, I usually signify Mother Earth by way of a potted marigold, the flower and the dirt doing a lot of symbolic work for me.

I like to also add as many sunflowers as I can gather, and make flower arrangements using zinnias, daisies, black-eyed Susans, chamomile, yarrow, and St.-John’s-wort. After I dismantle the altar, I try to dry these magically-infused botanicals to use in my spellwork, specifically the oils, candles, and spiritual baths I handcraft.

In addition to the fire and the flowers, I like to add a small basket of bounty in the way of fruits and vegetables, which I then leave to the fairies and other forest animals when the time comes to pack up.

I also often add The Sun card from one of my Tarot decks, and I will be adding it to my Litha altar this year, too (more on Litha altars below).

Celebrate Your Successes

Because Litha marks the zenith of the sun, when its “power is at its peak, it is a time to mark peak moments,” as advised by Cait Johnson and Maura D. Shaw in their book, Celebrating the Great Mother: A Handbook of Earth-Honoring Activities for Parents and Children.

Once the altar is erected and decorated, gather around it and take turns honoring each other’s power by listening to each person speak to what they have brought to “peak” in the last year.

When I acted as High Priestess for my coven, these rituals I always spoke to the power of the sun and its dual nature to both fuel the world and destroy it. This articulates the difference between honoring our power and abusing it.

You might also place objects on your Litha altar that celebrate peak achievements. As an example, I placed the hardcover of my debut novel Fig on my 2015 Litha altar, as it had just debuted that April. In 2016, I added the trade paperback that had just come out.

I think we live in a culture that doesn’t allow us to fully celebrate our accomplishments without being made to feel ashamed of such pride. Litha is the time to do this.

Lounging and Daydreaming

While you spend time outside during Litha, feel free to lounge and laze about, nap and daydream as the heat from the sun bakes the world and quite literally exhausts us.

It’s important to remember to relax, especially in our capitalist consumer-driven culture. It’s okay sometimes, even necessary, to do absolutely nothing. Doing absolutely nothing allows us to recharge. 

I’m dead serious about the daydreaming. Daydreaming is one of the most powerful spells we can ever perform, so doing so on Litha only magnifies the power of our intentions.

This is a time to daydream/fantasize about everything you’d like to manifest. Visualize your dreams coming true, and allow your thoughts to drift away as to invite visitation via visions.

Have a Picnic on Litha

 

Eat lots of fresh fruit and salads to relish in the visually abundant bounty of summer as generated by the Sun. With my coven, we tried to emphasize the bright fiery colors of the sun in the foods and libations we enjoyed.

Add marigold and nasturtium blossoms to salads or to dress up honey-sweetened yogurt. You can dip zucchini flowers in batter to make yummy golden fritters by frying them in hot oil.

Other festive recipes include anything spicy to pay homage to the “heat” of the Sun, like peppers. Preferred cooking methods include grilling over an open fire, particularly charred and/or blackened dishes, or using a flame to prepare the food.

One Litha tradition is to make homemade lemonade and iced tea (brewed in the sun). One year, when our coven didn’t go camping, we made a batch of dandelion wine at home.

 

Just as any dinner guest thanks their host for the beautiful meal they’ve prepared, we thank the Sun for growing our food. We eat dinner before the sunset simply to be able to fully appreciate the show to come.

This way, the cooking, consuming, and cleaning are all done by the time the sun begins its dramatic death, painting the sky with all the shades of fire.

Planting and Growing as a Litha Tradition

Because Litha is a sacred sabbat — and because so many plants are growing — it’s an auspicious time to forage ad to cut herbs to dry and use for culinary, medicinal, and magical purposes.

Depending on where you live, there are different wild-crafting books you can reference to guarantee you are collecting such plants without endangering them. For example, morels are found in early spring, and should be collected in mesh bags so their spores can be sprinkled to give birth to more as you walk the woods.

 

In Celebrating the Great Mother, authors Johnson and Shaw write that “vervain has been gathered at Litha for centuries to protect the home and banish negativity from it, and if you have mugwort in your garden, [Litha]...is the traditional day to harvest its leaves...for use in dream pillows and teas.”

Make Time for Play

No matter your age, make time for as much play as possible on Litha.

With my coven, we’d go swimming, play elaborate games of adventurous make-believe, tug-of-war, and make obstacle courses in the natural landscapes where we camped, bird-watching, and costume parties.

For the latter, we emphasized costumes that allowed us all to “shine” as bright as the powerful sun. We included lots of yellows, oranges, reds, and golds. This often involved making “sun crowns” from flashy metallic papers, gaudy costume jewelry, sunflowers, etc.

And dance parties were an absolute must. 

While “play” can include sports — everything from trail running to Frisbee, tag football to Masters swimming — it’s not the only kind of play you should start doing or continue to do. It’s also not the most ideal, by a long shot.

It’s way better if these sports are being played “just for fun,” but if you’re like me and have a competitive nature, then you know how easily it is to neglect that notion in favor of feeding ego and trying to win. I’m not saying to stop this kind of play, but I’m advising you to incorporate more creative play into your life, ideally into your daily routine (even if it’s just 10 minutes of timed expressive writing in the morning).

If you’ve longed to take up embroidery or start making pottery, do it! If you loved coloring in coloring books as a child but stopped because someone called it childish (or you feared that they would), go get yourself some of those gorgeous coloring books they make now and a set of lush colored pencils! Dig a garden bed today, or take Ikebana!

The Power of Laughter

In addition to daydreaming, creative and physical play, we all need to laugh more. You can watch more comedy, or take laugh yoga (yes, it’s a thing, and it’s MARVELOUS).

The aim is full belly laughter, but even if you only manage to choke on a giggle or two, it’s better than no giggle at all. Again, it’s chemical.

In an article titled, “Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke,” the Mayo Clinic lists all the short and long-term benefits of a good laugh. It stimulates internal organs via the intake of oxygen and releases endorphins, the latter being a natural high.

Because of the way laughter relieves emotional stress and physical tension, the long-lasting effects relieve pain, improve mood, boost the immune system. And if you’re laughing with others at the time, helps form meaningful connections.

How to use Charge Tools on the Litha Sabbat

Charge your tools in the sun — both ones use for magic and/or for trade — by placing them somewhere to soak up the energy of the sunshine on this powerful day.

You can say prayers and/or chant spells to further charge these tools with the strength and capabilities to work your will in the year to come.

Word of caution: while you can clarify cloudy quartz crystals if so desired, know that direct sunlight will fade crystals, especially amethyst. In fact, if you want to maintain that gorgeous grape purple color, keep your amethyst away from windows in general.

With the exception of The Sun card, I don’t charge my Tarot cards in sunshine, not even on the luminous Litha. I believe the mysteries of the arcana are best cultivated by the mysteries of the darkness, thus I only charge them in the light of the moon as needed.

I have an athame I use in ceremony that I will charge under the Litha sun this year, as well as a wand. 

I also place objects out that represent anything I need to have illuminated or “baked.” For instance, I plan on printing a copy of a current manuscript I’m working on, and charging it this summer solstice with the intent of infusing it with the power it needs (and that I need) to power through some of the challenges I foresee this book bringing.

Litha Celebration Ideas for Nighttime

After watching the beauty of the sunset in the, we light the bonfire to signify the sun still shining elsewhere in the world.

This represents the knowledge of the sun we all possess inside our bodies — the wisdom that this magnificent star will again come to shine on us again (and again and again) — while also accepting that from here on out, the days will begin to wane, growing shorter as autumn approaches.

We feed to the fire that which no longer serves us or must be banished. This can be done by actually burning particular objects, but can also be done via pen and paper (writing down what you wish to purify/banish).

“The great festivals of summer teach us how to use our power wisely for the good of all,” Johnson and Shaw articulate beautifully in their book, Celebrating the Great Mother.

To complement this “out with the old and in with the new” idea, we often burn the Yule log from the last winter solstice in the Litha fire, since we would have selected a new one for the Yule yet to come.

With my coven, we would look for a new branch to cut to cure for the next six months to work as the Yule log when the dark half of the year comes with the Winter Solstice.

Evergreens are a popular choice simply because of what they represent: life everlasting. But I love the aesthetic of birch, too.

Enjoy the fire. I recommend more playing and relaxing via storytelling, singing, and definitely roasting marshmallows or popping corn over the open flames.

The Sun Card and Litha

While I write about these Litha traditions in a past tense perspective, I do still practice alterations of the above traditions as a more solitary witch.

You don’t need to have kids to do any of the above, either. Litha is a time to embrace your inner child.


This is a lesson the Invisible kept insisting upon all this last year in countless Tarot readings I did for clients, friends, family, and even myself.

Shortly after quarantine, and then the CDC-mandated social distancing, I found myself doing more Tarot readings for clients than ever before, which led to the Tarot Tuesday divination/writing classes I now facilitate every month online. While I miss the ability for a client to physically touch the cards, I love the fact that we can record the sessions so easily, and I found a way for the querent to still be the one to “select” the cards.

I was doing a lot of readings for such a wide range of people that when The Sun card kept popping up (even when I experimented with using different decks), I knew I had to pay attention, to listen.

I found myself naturally referring to them as Zeitgeist cards. If you don’t know what “zeitgeist” means, it is a German concept referring to “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.”

This term resonates with me and I'm Volga-Deutsch, and because “geist” means spirit. I know that the Invisible forces I commune with via the arcana of the Tarot during readings is made from the fabric of my ancestors, the ancestors of my clients, as well as the ether of us all.

During quarantine, I spent time re-examining the readings I’d done for clients by watching the videos I’d recorded. A very clear message emerged:

While this was a pandemic-related prescription, a way to survive it, The Sun card continues to be a Zeitgeist card even now as the masks come off. We still don’t know what the future holds, and so much of what has happened to us as a result of COVID-19 is yet to play out — just as the sun casts a shadow, so does any major event such as this virus.

As Litha approaches, The Sun card keeps telling me that neglecting our inner child is what got us into this mess in the first place. In the readings, I saw how the murder of our inner child was the simultaneous death of our essential selves, our creative selves.

Even if we aren’t all artists or people raising children, the primary role and goal of being human is to create. The time is now.
Back during my coven camping trips for Litha, we did a lot of playing. But I don’t think I once stopped to contemplate the importance of doing so, the actual magic and ritual that it was. 

As a parent, I was accustomed to play being a major part of my day-to-day life (and as an artist and a writer, I loved it!). The journey downstairs to brew coffee always involved stepping over at least one elaborate parade of wooden, plastic, and stuffed animals marching across the living room.

A diaspora of dolls might be darting for the dining room. Bright watercolors hung on a clothesline we kept in the kitchen where often hilarious or curious narratives unfolded.

One frequent and dominating motif was the bright yellow sun that repeated itself in the kids’ artwork. Each sun was usually anthropomorphized by way of a big smile and bright shining eyes.

These suns either occupied the corner of the page or hung in full circumference with triangles radiating outward as if to illuminate our home with sunshine no matter the time of year.

Both playing and daydreaming alike are integral to our overall wellbeing and happiness as adults. The lesson the Invisible kept insisting on was not only to embrace our inner child, but to free our inner child from whatever cages we were forced to exile them to by conforming to society’s construct of what being an “adult” entails.

The Sun Tarot card kept telling me it’s the fact that we ever neglected our inner child to begin with that got us into this mess. In the readings, I saw how the murder of our inner child was the simultaneous death of our essential selves, our creative selves.

Even if we aren’t all artists or people raising children, the primary role and goal of being human is to create. The time is now.

It was such an extraordinary experience to watch my clients receive The Sun card and its message/lesson. The way they all smiled when I relayed the message I’d received from the Invisible that told me to tell them (and now you): “Whatever adult told you to kill your inner child is no longer in charge. You are in charge now. Find your inner child, resurrect them, take care of them, nurture and nourish them. The time is now. Don’t ever abandon them again.”

I believe that by locating our inner child we can literally talk to them, and by doing so, we will be better equipped to make decisions that will ultimately lead us to living happier, healthier lives.

Shameless plug: The “Writing Through the Tarot: To See To See” classes I teach for Writual Society are designed for this expressive writing I’ve just mentioned.

Get Ready to Celebrate Your Litha

This is all easier said than done, which is why I have been advising my clients to make or purchase dolls that will work to actually embody and represent their inner child.

One of my closest friends found a woman on Etsy who made a ragdoll that looks just like her, mess of curly red hair, glasses, and all.

I plan to make my own on Litha this year. The doll works as a visual reminder to find and free your inner child. But also, by being a doll, it activates the imagination and that sense of play that’s so innate to kids.

The doll becomes a confidant — someone we can talk to. The doll also becomes something we can physically hold and cuddle with, and by doing so, we simultaneously get to hold and cuddle ourselves.

This Litha, if you do anything special at all, just be sure to laugh, play, create, and daydream, and it will probably help to do all of the above if you’ve found or made your Inner Child Doll. 

After all, don’t you want to be as carefree, happy, and healthy as that naked little kid appears to be as he rides a white horse surrounded by sunflowers?

If you’re not sure how to begin your Litha celebrations, join us at The Writual Society for workshops, classes, and play >

About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Schantz
 
Sarah Elizabeth Schantz (she/her/hers) grew up in a bookstore and discovered the Occult when she was 9-years-old. She’s been a practicing witch ever since. Her novel Fig was selected as A Best Read of the Year by NPR and won a Colorado Book Award in 2016. Her next novel, Roadside Altars, has chapters based on the major arcana. Schantz employs the Tarot and other divinatory techniques to inform her writing process, and has been collaging her own Tarot deck since 2006. She is faculty at Lighthouse Writers Workshop and teaches her own writing series, (W)rites of Passage, and Tarot Tuesdays, a generative writing series that uses the Tarot. Her apothecary, The Witch Next Door, offers Tarot readings, customized rituals, and handcrafted spells.

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