Author: Jacqui Maranville
It’s that time of year! Summer is finally (almost) here. Whether you’re setting wheels on fire or taking five minutes out of your day to sunbathe, it’s time to celebrate the sun.
The summer solstice, also called Midsummer or Litha, marks the official beginning of summer, and this year it’s happening on Tuesday, June 21st.
Although Litha is the fifth sabbat of the pagan calendar, it celebrates the middle of the wheel of the year, and a new battle between light and dark.
These forces are mirrored in most other pagan practices as well, which means now is the perfect time to check out some of the different patron deities of the holiday, whether you’re most interested in the Hellenist Apollo, the Roman Juno (who’s name we borrowed for the month of June), the Germanic Sunna, or any of the other myriad gods and goddesses that personify the sun and the fertility it gives us.
What happens on the solstice?
In Celtic mythology, twin brothers, the Oak King and the Holly King, rule the Earth, and are locked in a constant battle for power. The Oak King represents light, warmth, and fertility, and the Holly King, darkness, cold and death.
During the spring and summer, the Oak King rules uncontested, but on the solstice, the Holly King awakens to lay claim to the planet. Their battles last through the summer months, bringing thunder and lighting with each clash of their swords.
The Irish sun goddess Áine is also the Queen of the Faeries. Many believe that on the summer solstice, the fae folk are able to cross over to walk the earth, and that Áine shortens the days to allow her people to walk freely at night, once all humans are asleep.
The summer solstice is the longest day of the year. Many places of the world will see 24 hours (or close to it) of continuous sunlight. So it’s time to celebrate by seizing the day and enjoying every possible second of sun, before the long nights of winter approach.
How to Celebrate Litha
Because Litha is such a culturally widespread holiday, it’s been celebrated hundreds, if not thousands of different ways throughout time. But most of them involved fire in some form.
Some people celebrated by dancing around hilltop bonfires, and believed jumping through the fire without injury would bring good luck. Others set fire to wheels and rolled them downhill into water, to celebrate the turning of the seasons.
In modern day, these aren’t exactly the most practical of celebrations, so here are a few different ways to join in the festivities, in case you— like most people— don’t live near a hill with a lake at the bottom. Spirituality is for everyone, and you should never feel limited by your ability to celebrate. Nobody’s keeping score here, so pick and choose whatever festivities speak to you and your means!
Make time for the Sun
Going to the beach is one of the best ways to enjoy the summer sun. Layer up with SPF 50 and take a few minutes to lie in the sand. Feel the warmth of the planet from below, and the light of the sun from above. Think about the ways you want to celebrate the warmth through the summer months. Listen to the ebb and flow of the tide and think about the things you want to surrender to the ocean’s pull.
The beach isn’t the only place you can enjoy the sun. Make time on the solstice to enjoy the sun. Whether you have time to take an entire day of outdoor activities or you only have 30 seconds to take a step out your front door, find time today to stand outside and blink in the sunlight. With every breath, let go of the stale indoor air and breathe in the warmth of the sun and all the light it brings.
Enjoy a Fire with the People you Love
If you have the space, the solstice is the perfect day for a backyard bonfire. A midsummer fire is the perfect time to make offerings to any of the gods you want to celebrate. Stay up late into the night enjoying the warmth of the fire for as long as you can with your friends and your family.
If a bonfire isn’t your style, do some grilling instead! Cook your food over the warmth of a fire and celebrate the bounties in your life by sharing a meal with others. Cool down from the hot summer sun with a little splash of water— set up a kiddie pool, have a water balloon fight. Celebrate the balance between the summer heat and the water you’re enjoying.
If you’re limited by space, bring a little fire into your life with a candle. Think about how even a tiny fire can still burn your hands— even such a tiny flame has all the potential of an enormous bonfire. A tea light is so small you could hold it in your hands. But that flame could be nurtured into a blaze strong enough to warm a family through the winter. Think about the small things you can do to bring light to yourself and others, and the things inside you that you’d like to nurture into something bigger.
Enjoy Products of the Sun
Plants need the sun to grow, and what better way to bring the power of the sun into your life than by celebrating with plants? Litha is the perfect time to enjoy fruits and vegetables. Find an orchard you can visit, and (with permission) pick your own strawberries. Pick up some fresh watermelon at a farmers market and enjoy a fruit salad! Or grab some frozen veggies from the supermarket and toss ‘em in the microwave.
Traditional summer fruits and veggies also include asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, tomatoes, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, and nectarines. Challenge yourself to include some of these with every meal of the day.
Foods aren’t the only plants to celebrate, take time today to stop and smell the flowers. Literally. Flowers take the light of the sun and turn it into something beautiful. Weave yourself a crown of wildflowers, or pick up a bouquet from your local florist. Even if you just take a few minutes to doodle some flowers on a scrap of paper, try and take a moment today to appreciate all the ways the sun brings life to our planet.
Decorate your Altar
For many years, the closest thing I had to an altar was a little shoebox I hid under my bed. I kept a couple of candles, my tarot deck, and a little pocket notebook for personal reflections. I’d print out a picture of the deity I was celebrating at my school library, and glue it to a piece of cardboard that I’d prop up against the shoebox if I had a second to do some meditation.
No matter how elaborate your altar is, the solstice is the perfect time to make it your own.
Can your altar be set up in the sun? Whether you have space to set up outdoors, or just a sunny window, set up somewhere you can appreciate the sunlight.
How do you feel warmth in your life? Decorate your altar with things that remind you of light.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Candles are the perfect way to celebrate warmth and light.
- Sunny colors like red, gold, oranges and yellows can bring a little extra cheer to any space.
- Bring some of the summer plants I mentioned earlier into your altar. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers are excellent reminders of the sun's warmth— even fake flowers can brighten up your altar. Oak trees are a traditional symbol of the sun, decorate your altar with leaves and acorns to honor the Oak King.
A Litha Tarot Spread
Card 1: What is bringing me light and warmth?
Card 2: What shadows in my life need to be illuminated?
Card 3: How can I leave these shadows behind?
Card 4: What bounties do I have to look forward to?
Card 5: How can I pull these bounties into focus in my life?
Card 6: What within me is ready to shine this summer?
Join Others on Your Tarot Journey
Litha is but one of the opportunities throughout the year to reflect, celebrate, and look forward to the future.
Practicing tarot as you navigate the Wheel and each sabbat can support how you process the changing of seasons and the growth that comes with them. Even if you’re just starting out on your tarot journey, there’s a lot you can gain from pulling and reading cards during these times of shifting perspective and goal setting.
When you check in with yourself throughout the year, you can be a better member in your relationships, your family, and your community. You can gain deeper wisdom along your path and have a more nuanced understanding of your surroundings.
The best part is, you never have to go through this journey alone! Join our community of like-minded Tarot lovers to get tips, answers to your questions, and access to special community events and workshops.
Join the Writual Society for a supportive tarot community!
About the Author
Jacqui Maranville (she/they) is a writer based in Baltimore, Maryland. Her spiritual journey of discovery began in 2019 and has taken her through different practices and traditions from all across the world. When she’s not writing, she’s perfecting a new cosplay, attending a new renaissance festival, or knee-deep in a swamp looking for frogs.
For more info on Litha and the Summer Solstice, including its history, astrology, rituals, spells, and more, grab the Litha Workbook.