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Litha: The sabbath of the Summer Solstice

The summer solstice has always been a focal point for the year. In the northern hemisphere of the earth on June 21-22, the sun reaches its zenith and stops its wandering for a while. The day is equal to the night and this, for the pagans, symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and the beginning of the Litha sabbath.

As in many other pagan festivals, on the day of the festival large bonfires are lit as a purification ritual. Many jump over the flames for blessing and securing a good harvest. In the old days, they celebrated the Mid-Summer Festival by setting fire to a wooden wheel, which represented the sun and putting the burning wheel to roll down a hill and fall into a lake. This symbolized the dual nature of the celebration. On one hand, we celebrate the biggest day but we know that from now on the sun will begin its descent, where slowly the days will become shorter and eventually with the descent, will come along the winter. Christians have introduced the festival of the Solstice in their calendar where they celebrate St. John the Baptist who is believed to have been born exactly six months before Jesus.

This holiday has been celebrated since ancient times. The tradition has it that, the Oak King is stronger against his brother the Rue King.

To celebrate the victory of the Oak King, the oaks were decorated with colorful ribbons. The feast symbolizes abundance and includes large feasts. However, it is also the season of purification; the celebration that washes away the danger and fear for the coming months with rituals including freshwater. Those who are engaged in witchcraft, in this celebration cast spells for new relationships or to renew the existing ones, as well as spells that include cleaning and purification of bad energy in the space, or getting rid of all the negative energies that have accumulated in the body and soul. Spells usually include fire, sun, beautiful flowers, and clear water.

It is a day that is considered magical in many cultures and that is why many pagans even today perform rituals for blessing. Herbs gathered on this day are considered very potent and many go out during the day to pick as many herbs as they can. Many neo-pagans gather in ancient places such as Stonehenge for their annual pilgrimage. At night the fires are lit to dispel the darkness and the evil. There are many beliefs and folklore is rich in small rituals performed around the fire. Even the ashes from a fire that lit in Litha have magical power and many people collect it to create an amulet that they will wear all year round for good luck.

Imaginarium Magazine Issue 6 2021

Anastasia Diakidi

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