Summer Solstice (around 21st June)
Midsummer, Celtic "Oak Festival," Alban Hefin or Alban Heruin (Light of the Shore)
Saint John the Baptist's Day (24th June)
Place in the Natural Cycle
Litha is the solar festival that marks the longest day of the year, with the sun rising and setting at its most northerly
points. The summer quarter of the year runs from Beltane to
Lughnasadh, so Litha stands at the midpoint of summer.
More About Litha
Litha celebrates the height of the sun's power and the abundance of summer. Nature is alive, and fields and fruits are growing
towards harvest, but the blessing is mixed, for once light reaches its apogee it can only decline. Litha is a fairly modern
term for the summer solstice, and it may be derived from an Anglo-Saxon word for "moon" that referred to the sixth
and seventh months of the year. The Druidic name for the festival, Alban Heruin or "Light of the Shore," is very
appropriate for this turning point of the year, lying at the midpoint between "Light
of the Earth" and "Light of the Water" (the Druidic terms for
the equinoctial celebrations).
In the past, midsummer fires were lit for purification, protection and in the hope that the sun could be kept powerful for
long enough to ensure a good harvest. People would leap over these fires in the belief that the crops would grow as high
as they could jump. Drumming, dancing and singing were common, making this festival a noisy and social time. The full moon
in June is known as the Mead or Honey Moon, and mead is a traditional drink for Litha, just as June is a popular time for
weddings and hence honeymoons.
Litha honors the apex of Light, symbolized in the Tree King myth cycle by the crowning of
the Oak King, God of the waxing year. At his crowning, the Oak King falls to his darker aspect, the Holly King, God of the
waning year (days grow shorter after Litha). In terms of the God and Goddess cycle, the God is made King through his marriage
to the Queen at Litha.
Just as the winter solstice festival was appropriated by the Christian church to celebrate Christ's birth, so the popular
summer solstice festival was taken to mark the birth of one of the church's most important saints: the cousin and baptizer
of Jesus, John the Baptist. Other saints' days correspond to the supposed dates of their deaths, but John's is unusual in
marking his birth. Saint John's Wort is a flower of traditional importance to midsummer celebrations.
Litha is a time to consolidate your strengths and clear away negative thoughts and energies. It is a time to be joyful and
full of life, while at the same time mindful of the waning of the light from now until