The Keep Times Sunday School Vol. 3
By Samantha Helgeson
We in the Northern Hemisphere are about a week and a half away from Midsummer, also known as Litha or the Summer Solstice. This year Litha takes place on June 20.
Litha is considered a time of joyful abundance, where we celebrate the Earth and its prosperity, and we celebrate the power of the sun. This is the longest day of the year, so life and light are in abundance. Everything at this time is growing, expanding, and flourishing. Thus, it is a great time to align yourself with the energies of the sun and summertime.
There are many different traditions found surrounding this time of the year. Most of them involve some form of the element fire.
The tradition of rolling a flaming wheel has been associated with the Summer Solstice since before the 1400s. It was commonly practiced throughout Northern Europe, where the harvest would be forecasted by how long the flaming wheel would stay alight while rolling down a hill. If the wheel of fire went out before it reached the bottom of the hill the harvest forecasted would be quite poor, whereas if it stayed lit all the way down and continued to burn at the bottom of the hill the harvest would be abundant.
Other traditional ways of celebrating Midsummer were with hilltop bonfires, where people celebrated the power of the sun over darkness. People would gather around the bonfires, playing music, dancing, and storytelling well into the night.
In some traditions, the Summer Solstice is a time where a battle between light and dark takes place. At each solstice, the Oak King and Holly King battle for power, and during Litha, the Holly King (representing the dark) wins; thus, the days steadily begin to grow darker until Yule.
The Romans had a tradition called Vestalia in June, where they honoured Vesta, the goddess of the hearth. Vesta also guarded virginity and was sacred to women. Women would travel to the Vestal temple to make offerings and vows to the goddess. Those that were part of the Vestales, or Vestal Virgins, an exclusive women priesthood, would make vows of chastity and guard the temple’s sacred flame, as well as take part in rites for the eight days that the Vestalia took place.
Other traditions honour various solar gods and goddesses at this time, like the Egyptian god Amun-Ra, the Japanese Shinto goddess Amaterasu, the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli, and the Greek god Apollo. And some pagans use this time to honour the Green Ones, deities that represent an abundance of plants and growth.
Regardless of which tradition you may follow this time of year, it is the perfect time to harness the energy and power of the sun. It is an excellent time for empowerment, healing affirmations and cleansing, and expanding your desires and goals.
Take some time to celebrate and feast during Litha. Don’t forget to give thanks to Mother Earth for her abundance and set your intentions for what you would like to grow for yourself in the coming months.