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Litha

 

 

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About Litha

 

Litha is also known as Midsummer the Summer Solstice, and is the longest day of the year. It falls just before Christmas, between December 20 & 23  (June 21 - 24 in the Northern Hemisphere). From this point forward, the days will become shorter until the Winter Solstice celebrated at Yule. The Oak King dies at the hand of his brother, the Holly King (who will rule until Yule, when the Oak will again be reborn as king). This battle is again celebrated at Yule with the God in his guise as the Oak King prevailing and the days become longer again. (See Winter Solstice / Yule)

 

Some folk wonder why a day in December is considered "midsummer" when in many places the warm weather is just beginning. The calendar has changed many times over the centuries and our modern calendar depends less on the movements of the sun than in years past. Our Celtic ancestors counted Beltaine as the first day of Summer and Lughnasadh/Lammas as the last day of Summer. Counted this way, the Solstice is, indeed, the mid-point of summer.

 

Litha is another one of the four fire festivals. Bonfires would be lighted and it was considered bad luck to let the fires go out. [See Beltaine for more about fire festivals. Many of the activities described in the Beltaine craft and activity pages would be equally appropriate for Litha] It is the season of expansion, when the crops burgeon forth. We forget winters cares and spend our days basking under the brilliant light. The Summer Solstice brings us the longest day of the year - the zenith of the Sun King, and also His death as the Holly King dethrones him and takes reign over the now waning year. From now until Yule, the light will fade into darkness.

 

At Litha, the Goddess is the Generous Mother, Freya, Flora, Habondia, she who gives life and fruitfulness to all her children. Everything in nature is generous - otherwise we could not live. The apple tree makes hundreds of apples every year, when only one seed in one apple would be enough to reproduce the tree. Bees make honey so that the hive can survive the winter, but they keep on working all summer long, storing enough to share. Life could exist without climbing roses, striped butterflies, songbirds, raspberries, or wildflowers, but the Goddess keeps making new forms of beauty for us to enjoy.

The Goddess at Summer Solstice gives us not just what we need, but extra. We can feel close to her by being generous, giving more than were asked to give, and doing more than just our fair share. That way, we make abundance for all.
The rose is the Goddesss symbol at this time of year.
Now is the time when the God and Goddess are at the apex of their power. The Goddess is beginning to swell with the life of the young god who was planted at Beltaine. The world is bursting with life and almost everyone feels more at ease and happier than they will at any other time of the year.

 

Typical symbols are Solar Disk, Mistletoe, Feathers & Blades. Colours associated with Litha are Green, Gold, Yellow (Which also particularly symbolize an Australian summer).  Herbs for Litha are chamomile, cinquefoil, elder flower, fennel, lavender, mugwort, thyme (these may be burned); hemp, larkspur, pine, wisteria (may be used as decorations). Five plants were thought to have special magical properties on this night: rue, roses, St. John's wort, vervain and trefoil. If you aren't familiar with them yourself, you might like to visit the library a check a book about wild flowers, or click here.

 

 

Altar Arrangements - At the Summer Solstice, the family altar can be covered with flowers, especially roses. On or around the altar, you might also place things you have completed and let go of, or are trying to let go of. Add any fist fruits of the season and, of course, images of the sun, sunflowers, and other symbols of the holiday.

You might have a special section on the altar for things to give away. Take one thing off your won altar and bring it to the family altar, or find something special to contribute. Let the things stay during the holiday season to soak up blessings, then give them away before Lughnasadh rolls around!

 

Colours - Gold and green are two of the most Prevalent colours of this time of year. Not only do they represent the sun and the verdant forest, but they represent the colors of Faerie Fire Magic. Other colour accents include sea green and red (especially when red roses are added to the altar).

 

Incense, Herbs and Woods - rose, violet, fir, and cedar are good. Tangerine, frankincense, and frangipani also work.
If you want to work with herbs at this time, St. Johns wort is one of the most popular associated with Litha. Also connected with the holiday: basil, parsley, mint, thyme, violet, dragons blood, fern, vervain, and lavender.
Woods of Midsummer include oak, fir, mistletoe, and holly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CRAFT

 

Though typically for children in preschool, these activities can easily be adapted for older children.

 

 

 

Ocean in a Bottle (For little ones to remember summer fun at the beach!)

 

Materials

about C of clear oil

Blue food Colouring

A small clear bottle (such as a soda bottle) with label removed

Funnel

Water

Contact cement (optional)

 

Method

 

1. Pour about c mineral oil into the clean soda bottle. (It's probably a good idea for an adult to do this step)

 

2. Fill the bottle as full as you can with water (don't leave any air space )

 

3. Add a few drops of food colouring to the bottle.

 

4. Put contact cement (or similar glue) in the bottle lid and twist on the lid.

 

The child can make waves in the bottle by moving it slowly back and forth (Do not shake).

 

Tip - you and add some plastic sea creatures before gluing on the lid.

 

 

 

 

Bubble Pictures

 

This was one of my favourite activities when I was a pre-school teacher (and is still fun for us grown ups too!)

 

Materials

 

Edicol dye (powdered) or food liquid colouring

dish detergent

Shallow dishes or ice-cream containers

Drinking straws

White drawing paper or newsprint

Crayons or markers

 

Method

 

1.Mix 2t dye (or several drops food colouring), 1 T dish detergent, and about 1 C water in the dish or cake pan. Use a separate container for each colour.

 

2. Show children how to blow through the straw to make bubbles. Stress that they must not drink the paint solution!

 

3. When the child has a good head of bubbles on top of the water, carefully place a piece of paper on top of the bubbles and press just hard enough to break the bubbles, but not so hard that the paper actually touches the water.

 

4. Turn the paper over and allow it to dry. If desired, you may use more than one colour of bubbles on the same picture, but allow them to dry between colours.

 

Use crayons or markers to make fish and other sea creatures swimming through the bubbles.

 

 

 

 

Permanent Sand Castings

 

Materials

 

4 C clean Sand

2 C Corn Starch

4 tsp Cream of Tartar

3 C hot Water

 

Method

 

1. Mix sand, cornstarch, and cream of tartar in a large saucepan.

 

2. Stir in the hot water

 

3. Cook over medium heat until the water is absorbed and the mixture becomes very thick. [An adult definitely needs to do this step as the mixture must be close to boiling to work.]

 

4. Cool sand mixture until it can be handled.

 

5. Mould using your hands, plastic beach moulds or other moulds such as cake pans. Shapes may be removed from moulds more easily if the mould is sprayed with cooking spray or coated with cooking oil before the sand is packed into the mould.

 

One fun activity is to place the sand in a low flat mould such as a cake pan, then have the child make handprints or footprints and write their name with a stick or dull pencil. Add small shells around the edge of the moulded shape.

Mixture should dry and be fairly stable after a couple of days. Moulded shapes will break if dropped, but will last if handled carefully.

 

 

 

 

 

Treasures in a bottle

 

Materials

 

Small clear bottle such as a water or juice bottle

Clean sand

20-30 Small shells, starfish, beads, pebbles, etc. (They must fit through the mouth of the bottle)

Contact cement

Wax--broken crayons work well (optional)

 

Method

 

1. Fill the bottle about half full with sand.

 

2. Place the shells and other treasures in the bottle

 

3. Glue the lid on the bottle.

 

4. If using wax, you will need a small clean can such as a tuna or tomato paste can, a small saucepan full of water and a heat source such as a stove. [This part should be closely supervised by and adult--never heat wax directly over the burner!]

 

5. Place the wax in the small can and place the can in the saucepan full of water. Be sure the water doesn't come higher than the top of your can.

 

6. Heat the water to simmering and allow the wax to melt.

 

7. Dip the top of the bottle into the melted wax.

 

8. Allow to cool and repeat until the top of the bottle is covered with a thin coating of coloured wax (This makes it look like a really old bottle).

 

9. Turn your bottle on it's side and see how many of the treasures you can see and how many remain hidden in the sand.

 

 

 

 

 

Pretend Fireworks

 

 

Materials

  Tissue roll for each child

  Strips of crepe paper or ribbon for each child

  Construction paper in red, white, and blue

  Crayons or markers

  Star stickers or Glitter (optional)

 White glue

  Gluesticks

  Scissors

 

Method

 

1. Cut a piece of construction paper 10cm x 12cm for each child. Each child will also need several pieces of crepe paper or ribbon approximately 1cm x 20cm

 

2. Have the children decorate the paper as desired.

 

3. When they have decorated their paper, have the children turn the paper over so that the decorations are on the underside.

 

4. Have the children lay the decorated paper on the table with the short edge towards them. Use the gluesticks to cover the back of the paper.

 

5. Have the children lay the tissue roll on top of the glued paper and roll it up in the decorated paper.

 

6. Glue the ribbon or crepe paper inside one end of the tissue roll.

 

 

 

Pinwheels

Materials

 

  • Construction or other heavy paper

  • An unsharpened pencil or other stick

  • Pin with a large head, such as a corsage pin

  • 1 bead such as a 1/4" wooden bead or pony bead

  • Pencil

  • Scissors

  • Quarter

 

 

Instructions

 

1. Cut a square piece of paper (the larger the paper square, the larger your pinwheel will be).

 

2. Fold the square in half to form a triangle, matching the corners

 

3. Unfold the square and fold another triangle, matching the opposite corners.

 

4. Unfold the paper. You should have 2 folded lines forming an X in the centre of your paper.

 

5. Use the quarter to draw a circle in the centre of the paper. [black circle on diagram]

 

6. Cut the paper on the folded lines to the drawn circle [blue lines on diagram] Do not cut all the way to the centre!

 

7. Gently curl the corners marked with a red dot toward the centre of the square (do not fold them!) Poke the pin through each corner [red dots on diagram] and pushing the corner toward the head of the pin. Then stick the pin through the centre of the paper.

 

8. After pushing the pin through all the red dots, slide the bead on the pin behind the pinwheel and then push the point of the pin into the side of the pencil eraser or top of the stick you will be using.

 

 

 

God/Goddess Eye

 

I LOVED making these when I was a kid! Now my children share in the same fun!

 

Materials

 

  2 sticks the same length (you can use pencils or ice cream sticks)

  yarn in various colours rolled in small balls

  white glue

 

Method

 

1. Cross the sticks in the centre to form a + . Glue them where they cross to make it easier for the children to handle them.

 

2. Begin wrapping the sticks in a figure 8, then without tying off the yarn, and going clockwise, wrap the long end of the yarn under #1, around the stick, under #2, around that stick, under #3, etc.

3. Continue wrapping the yarn around each leg of the cross. Keep the yarn tight and push it toward the centre with each wrap so that the strands will lie close together.

4. Change colours whenever you desire. When ending a colour, tie a double knot close to the stick, put a drop of glue over the knot and trim off the end of the yarn.

 

5. When your "god/dess eye" is full, tie and glue the yarn as described above, and then form a hanging loop and tie and glue again. Trim off the end of the yarn.

 

 

 

 

Some fun activities for this time might include:

 

Shadow tag

water fights 

tug-of-war a

Stay up to welcome the dawn on this shortest night of the year.

Rub rowan on your eyelids and watch for faeries.

Tell the story of the Oak King and the Holly King

 

 

 

Midsummer Incense 1.

 

2 Parts Sandalwood

1 Part Camomile

1 Part Gardenia petals

few drops Rose oil

 few drops Lavender oil

 few drops yarrow oil

 

Midsummer Incense 2.

 

3 parts Frankincense
2 parts Benzoin
1 part Dragon's Blood
1 part Thyme
1 part Rosemary
1 pinch Vervain
a few drops Red Wine

 

(from Scott Cunningham's book "The Complete Book of Incenses, Oils & Brews")

 

 

 

FOOD

 

Banana Slush

 

  2 C Sugar

  3 C Water

  3 C ripe bananas, mashed

  3 C pineapple juice

  1 1/2 C orange juice

 1litre lemon-lime soda

 

Method

 

1. Boil the water and sugar together for 5 minutes. Cool.

 

2. In a large non-metal container, combine mashed bananas, juices and sugar mixture; mix well and freeze.

 

3. About 2 hours before serving, remove the banana mixture from the freezer.

 

4. Just before serving, pour the lemon-lime soda over the banana mixture. It will foam in the container.

 

Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

Sun-Day Salad

This recipe must be made several hours in advance and has a lot of ingredients, but it is worth the work! It was one of my children's favorite foods. It can be made in a regular mixing bowl, but is pretty enough to put in a fancy glass bowl...

 

  1 pk lemon, lime or orange gelatine (4 serving size)

  1C.crushed pineapple (drain and reserve juice)

  4 large bananas sliced into coins

  about 80 miniature marshmallows

  1/2 C sugar

  2 Tablespoons butter

  2 Tablespoons cornstarch

  1 C cream (to be whipped)

  1 C grated cheese (cheddar)

 

 

Method

 

1. Mix gelatine according to package directions for a moulded salad.

 

2. Stir in the pineapple, bananas, and marshmallows.

 

3. Allow to set.

 

Topping

 

1.            Add enough water to pineapple juice to make 1C.

2.            Mix the sugar, butter and cornstarch into the juice.

3.            Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens (should look like lemon pie filling)

4.            Whip cream and then fold in the thickened juice mixture.

5.            Top the geletine with the whipped cream mixture.

6.            Spread the grated cheese over the top.

 

Must be stored in the refrigerator and served chilled.

 

 

 

Soft Mead

 

 1 litre water, preferably spring water

1 cup honey

1 sliced lemon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

 

Boil together all ingredients in a non-metallic pot. While boiling, scrape off the rising "scum" with a wooden spoon. When no more rises add a pinch salt  & juice of 1/2 lemon.

 

Strain and cool. Drink in place of alcoholic mead or wine during the Simple Feast.

 

 

 

Midsummer Ritual Mead
 

2-1/2 gallons water (preferably fresh rainwater blessed by a Wiccan priestess or priest)
1 cup meadowsweet herb
1 cup woodruff sprigs
1 cup heather flowers
3 cloves
1 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup barley malt
1 oz. brewer's yeast
 

Pour the water into a large cauldron or kettle. Bring to a boil and add the meadowsweet herb, woodruff sprigs, heather flowers, and cloves. Boil for one hour and the add the honey, brown sugar, and barley malt. Stir thirteen times in a clockwise direction and then remove from heat.

Strain through a cheesecloth and allow the mead to cool to room temperature. Stir in the brewer's yeast. Cover with a clean towel and let it stand for one day and one night. Strain again, bottle, and then store in a cool place until ready to serve.

 

Midsummer Ritual Mead is an ideal drink to serve at Summer Solstice Sabbats, as well as during all Cakes and Ale Ceremonies and Esbats.

 

From "Midsummer Ritual Mead" is quoted directly from Gerina Dunwich's book "The Wicca Spellbook: A Witch's Collection of Wiccan Spells, Potions and Recipes"

 

 

 

Cold Tomato Soup

 

Ingredients:

 

2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped

 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped

 3/4 C. Herb blend, basil, chives, tarragon, parsley, dill, chervil, thyme

1/2 C. olive oil

3 tbsp. lemon juice

3 C. cold water

1 sweet Spanish onion, peeled and sliced

1 C. cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced

1/2 tsp. paprika

 

Method

 

Put chopped tomatoes, pepper, garlic and herbs in a bowl. Stir in olive oil, lemon juice, and cold water. Add onion, cucumber, and paprika. Chill in refrigerator for about 5 hours. Serve over ice cubes in bowls and garnish with fresh parsley or watercress.

 

 

 

 

 

Poems

 

 

 

POEM - Summer Invocation

by Trish Telesco

Fireflies and summer sun
in circles round
we become as one.

Singing songs at magick's hour
we bring the winds
and timeless powers.

Turning inward, hand in hand
we dance the hearth
to heal the land.

Standing silent, beneath the sky
we catch the fire
from out God's eye.

Swaying breathless, beside the sea
we call the Goddess
so mote it be!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POEM - Summer

Standing midst the Circle
I look at faces ---
all searching for that special spark
that sense of connection
which spans all words
and worlds.

We come together
to know the same magic
that moved the great stones
birthed the dragons
and touched even the stars
with its mighty song.

Together,
to sense the power
rising within us
like the glory of a summer sun
until we too sing
its timeless ballad.
 

Together,
until our souls dance hand in hand
with the Lady of Light
and Lord of the Fires
Rejoicing.

(From Llewellyn's 1994 Magical Almanac and is by by Marian Lore Singer)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEAGAN'S SUMMER SOLSTICE 

 

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Meagan. She lived with her mother Elizabeth, her father Michael and her brother Corwin. One day, Meagan was playing with her cat Starweaver. She was excited. Soon it would be Midsummer Day, the longest day of the year. Meagan knew that it was also called Litha. She and her family would celebrate all day with a picnic and a ritual at the farm that one of the coven members owned. Meagan had to be careful not to mention the word coven around her Gramma Lee and Grandpa Scott because they were Christian and might get upset about Meagan and her family being pagan. Meagan wished that her grandparents understood how nice all the pagans that she knew were. 

 

It was hot and Meagan was getting thirsty. She started back home to get a drink. On the way home she saw a woman in a nurse's uniform coming out of her friend Mrs. Hanson's house. Meagan slowed down. She had become friends with Mrs. Hanson after leaving a May basket on her porch. She wondered who the woman could be. 

 

Meagan sped up and ran the rest of the way home. She raced up the stairs and into the kitchen. "Meagan!" said her father, "you know the rule about running. We only run outside where we aren't likely to get hurt if we fall down." Meagan stopped by the refrigerator. "I'm sorry Daddy. I saw a lady in a nurse's uniform down at Mrs. Hanson's house and I was going to call her and see who it was. I was coming home to get a drink anyway." Michael nodded, "It was thoughtful of you not to stop at Mrs. Hanson's house. If she's sick, she might not want company. I tell you what...I'll call Mrs. Hanson while you get a drink." Meagan poured herself a big glass of herbal tea while her father went into his office to make the call. She looked for some cookies but didn't see any. 

 

Just then, Meagan's mother came in the door carrying several net bags full of groceries. Meagan's family always used cloth or net bags at the grocery store to help save the earth's resources. "I'll help!" exclaimed Meagan running up to her mother. "I'd rather you went to the car and helped your brother bring in the rest of the bags please," said her mother. Meagan went outside and found Corwin testing bags to see which were heaviest. "Here," he said, "these are the perfect weight for you." Meagan took the bags and took them inside. She helped put up the groceries. Meagan wondered why her father had not come back and told her about Mrs. Hanson. She asked her mother if she could take Mrs. Hanson some cookies when they made a new batch. "Sure honey," said her mother, "that reminds me, we should probably make three batches tonight so that we'll have enough for the picnic on Saturday. In fact, you might ask Mrs. Hanson if she'd like to go on a picnic sometime with us. She isn't pagan and I don't she'd enjoy going to Litha" 

 

"I'm afraid Mrs. Hanson isn't going anywhere for awhile," said Michael from the doorway, "I just talked to her on the phone. It seems that she's broken her leg. That's why she wasn't home last week, the doctor had her stay in the hospital so that it would heal better. She's home now, but he still wants her to take it easy. There's a nurse's aide who's going to come bathe her several days a week but she was wondering how she was going to get her meals. You know that she doesn't believe in convenience foods so I offered to bring over a helping of what ever we're having until she's back on her feet. I hope you don't mind." Elizabeth walked over and hugged him hard. She smiled up at him, "Why should I mind? You do most of the cooking! Besides, it was very kind of you to think of it." 

 

So that night after dinner had been made Meagan and her brother ran down the road with some reusable containers. Corwin rang the doorbell twice and unlocked the door with the key that their mother had given him. "Hello! Mrs. Hanson?" he called into the house as they brought in their packages. "I'm back in the family room," they heard her call from the other end of the house. Corwin carefully locked the door behind them and put the key into his pocket. They carefully took their packages into the family room. There was Mrs. Hanson sitting in a recliner. She had a table on either side of her, a wheelchair near her and a TV remote in her hand. She smiled when she saw them. "I didn't know how serious your father was about his offer," she said, "I really appreciate you bringing me something to eat." Mrs. Hanson was surprised when she saw what they had brought her. They had a drink, some casserole, some vegetables and some cookies for dessert. 

 

"We made lots of cookies today because we're going on a picnic on Saturday," said Meagan, "I wish that you could come but it's a family thing and mommy says that not just everyone can come." Mrs. Hanson smiled and patted Meagan's hand. "It's very sweet o f you to offer but I don't think I'd feel like it right now anyway. I tell you what, after I'm feeling a little better, perhaps you and I and your friend Cindy could have a picnic on my patio." Meagan nodded. Mrs. Hanson said that she would call Elizabeth and Cindy's mother Anna when she felt up to fixing a picnic. Corwin smiled, "I'll do you one better, why not just let us know when you feel like eating out on the patio and we'll have a potluck picnic!" Mrs. Hanson frowned, "What is a potluck picnic?" "Oh!" said Meagan, "that's when everyone brings one thing that they are good at making. I like to bring ice tea but I have to make sun tea because I'm still not old enough to pour hot water over tea bags. I don't want to get burned." Mrs. Hanson thought that was a good idea. 

 

Meagan and Cindy planned for their picnic so that they would be ready when Mrs. Hanson felt better. Soon she called their parents and made arrangements. They decided to have their picnic the Sunday after the Litha celebration. Soon it was Midsummer's Day. Meagan and her family packed up a picnic basket filled with good things to eat. They had brought yarn to make God's Eyes. Meagan and Corwin decided to look for sticks at the farm to make the God's Eyes. Meagan knew that they made God's Eyes to celebrate the sun at the height of its power. They spent the day playing, eating, singing and dancing. It didn't seem like very long before it was time for ritual. It seemed strange to have ritual while the sun was still up but Meagan's parents said that they would not be done until the sun went down. First the grownups all got dressed in their robes and went from field to field to bless the crops. Meagan and most of the other children stayed behind to set up the altar. They put candles in containers around t he altar and helped put the smaller stones around the fire pit while one of the grownups put bigger stones. 

One of the children had found a dead ash tree earlier in the day. Everyone was excited because they could make things from the wood without harming a living tree. Meagan and Corwin both had pieces of the tree to make a wand with. They brought them into the circle with them. Soon the other coven members began gathering. They were excited. Tonight they would also have a handfasting! Jeremy and Sybil had been handfasted for a year and a day at the last Litha celebration. Tonight they would be handfasted 'for as long as love lasts'. It was time for the ritual to begin. 

 

Meagan was still very excited when it was time to go home. She had had a good time and she still had a picnic with Corwin, Cindy and Mrs. Hanson tomorrow! But it was very late and she fell asleep in the car on the way home. Her father carried her into the house and put her to bed. Starweaver curled up beside her and purred. It had been a good day. 

by Kathryn Dyer

   

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