Blessed Yule to all of us in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a cold and rainy day here as I prepare the house for our Yule feast. Stay warm and cosy. Blessed Be!
Winter solstice or Yule is the shortest day, and also the longest night of the year. It marks the return of the Sun’s warmth and light, and the promise once again of a productive Earth. Pagans celebrate these aspects with candles, fire, greenery and feasting. At this time, Yule logs are burned. The Yule log must traditionally be the root of a hardwood tree, and in Australia mallee roots are ideal for this purpose, as are Tasmanian oaks and all types of Eucalyptus. The Yule log is burned down until nothing but a small piece remains, which is saved and kept to be used as a lighter for the following year’s Yule fire. A Yule tree is placed within the traditional Wiccan home, with a pentagram (five pointed star) at the top, symbolizing the five elements. Presents are exchanged and many Witches stay up all night to welcome the sun. This is symbolic of the Goddess giving birth to the God and then resting after her ordeal.
LITHA – NORTHERN HEMISPHERE
Blessed Litha to all in the Northern Hemisphere as you move into summer, enjoy the warmth and the new growth. Blessed Be!
Litha: Summer Solstice – 21st/22nd June
Litha (Midsummer, Gathering Day, Summer Solstice, Alban Heffyn, Feill-Sheathain)
Incense: Sage, mint, basil, Saint John’s Wort, sunflower, Lavender
Decorations: Dried herbs, potpourri, seashells, summer flowers, and fruits.
Colours: blue, green, and yellow
The Fire Festival of Litha
Midsummer or the Summer Solstice is the most powerful day of the year for the Sun God. Because this Sabbat glorifies the Sun God and the Sun, fire plays a very prominent role in this festival. The element of Fire is the most easily seen and immediately felt element of transformation. It can burn, consume, cook, shed light or purify and balefires still figure prominently at modern Midsummer rites.
Most cultures of the Northern Hemisphere mark Midsummer in some ritualised manner and from time immemorial people have acknowledged the rising of the sun on this day. At Stonehenge, the heelstone marks the midsummer sunrise as seen from the centre of the stone circle.
In ancient times, the Summer Solstice was a fire-festival of great importance when the burning of balefires ritually strengthened the sun. It was often marked with torchlight processions, by flaming tar barrels or by wheels bound with straw, which were set alight and rolled down steep hillsides. The Norse especially loved lengthy processions and would gather together their animals, families and lighted torches and parade through the countryside to the celebration site.
The use of fires, as well as providing magical aid to the sun, were also used to drive out evil and to bring fertility and prosperity to men, crops and herds. Blazing gorse or furze was carried around cattle to prevent disease and misfortune; while people would dance around the balefires or leap through the flames as a purifying or strengthening rite. The Celts would light balefires all over their lands from sunset the night before Midsummer until sunset the next day. Around these flames the festivities would take place.
In Cornwall up to the mid 18th century the number and appearance of fires seen from any given point was used as a form of divination and used to read the future.
Astronomically, it is the longest day of the year, representing the God at full power. Although the hottest days of the summer still lie ahead, from this point onward we enter the waning year, and each day the Sun will recede from the skies a little earlier, until Yule, when the days begin to become longer again.
Agriculturally, the crops are in full growth. They are reaching the pinnacles of maturity and coming closer to the harvest time. Most wild herbs are fully mature by Midsummer and this is the traditional time for gathering magickal and medicinal plants to dry and store for winter use. In Wales, Midsummer is called Gathering Day in honour of this practice.
Since this sabbat revolves around the sun, a candle should be lit for the entire day, especially if it is cloudy or raining. The fire represents the sun and is a constant daily reminder of the power of the God. Rituals should be performed at noon, when the sun is highest in the sky. The best rituals to perform on Midsummer are those dealing with masculine issues, masculine energies, or issues dealing with solar influence.
Many pagans choose to make protective amulets, in the week before the Sabbat, which are later empowered over the Midsummer balefire. Some witches choose to bury their protective amulets each Midsummer’s eve and construct new ones. Rue, rowan and basil, tied together in a white or gold cloth, is a good protective trio that can be carried in your pocket year round.
Midsummer is the time to formalize any relationship and couples that have been together a year and a day since the previous Beltane can make their marriage final. This Sabbat is also an excellent time to re-new wedding vows.
Sage, mint, basil, Saint John’s Wort, sunflower, mistletoe (specifically the berries which represent semen), oak, rowan, and fir.