Litha, or Midsummer, is the mid-point of the year – the Summer Solstice – a time of balance and transition from the light half of the year to the dark. One of my favorite myths is that of the Oak King and the Holly King, and Midsummer is the counterpart to Yule (or Midwinter). At Litha, the Oak King is slain and the Holly King rises up to lay claim to the latter half of the year. That’s not really relevant to this post, because although I love the retelling of that story at the vital points during the year, this Litha is all about housekeeping.
I have been remiss in my home-blessing duties; however much I try to re-frame ‘chores’ into ‘home blessings’ or ‘creating sacred space’, the fact is that I am just not a great housekeeper. There are always more interesting things to do than scrub the cabinet fronts or clean the ceiling fans… and so every once in a while it gets so bad that to not take the time to do some deep cleaning is just… well it’s just time to clean. And so this is where I have found myself now,coming up on Litha.
I really felt the need to ‘brighten’ things up – it felt dark and gloomy, and I know it’s my lack of attention to the space that’s allowing those energies to pile up, so I started in our living room. I went through an intense decluttering phase a few months ago, and though I did very well with cleaning the stuff out of the places it was cluttering up, I never got so far as to actually take the things out of my house. So they’ve been sitting in a corner, sucking up space and energy. Much of that’s actually, truly gone now, either out into the proper closet/storage spaces or tossed out into the rubbish bins. A few things made their way into the car to be taken to new homes, but the end result is amazing – so much brighter and cleaner and ‘light’ feeling! Sadly, even knowing how amazing ‘clean’ feels doesn’t help motivate me to be a better housekeeper much of the time… but I digress.
I also spent some time in the kitchen, enlisting the kids’ help in deep cleaning everything from the ceiling (and fan) down; cabinets, appliances, counters, organizing drawers, floors… all of it. Our table sits in a corner, and the actual corner tends to be a catch-all spot (for my things, especially) but even that’s now clean and tidy. There’s a little left to do; we’re supposed to clear out the living room and get a new sofa and coffee table soon, and I have a feeling paint will soon follow, depending on the colors of the new furniture, but even just those few changes have really shifted the feel of the space.
Litha and the Full Strawberry Moon both fell on Monday, so I did a simple ritual with the kids. I bought new Goddess and God candles and a new working candle for my altar, and changed the decor to reflect the warmer colors of summer. We also did something new; we set up a family altar in the living room. We have had a shelf with a smaller, less conspicuous altar space in there, and directional candles have always been at the cardinal points of the room, but now there’s an actual, dedicated altar there too, and set for Litha with deity candles and a family offering bowl. After our morning routine, we tidied things up, then smudged the house inside and out and laid new salt barriers on the windows and doors, walked the boundaries and left offerings for the border spirits. Afterwards, we spent a little time on Intentions and spellwork for the waning half of the year, celebrated the Moon, and had strawberry shortcake with sweet red wine.
How are you celebrating Midsummer this year?
“When celebrating the Wheel of the Year, you can interpret it many ways. You can see it as symbolic, agricultural, astrological, etc. You could even do a combination. How do you find significance of each holiday in the modern world we live in? For example, during the fall season, the holidays relate strongly to the harvest. In this day and age, most of us don’t live on a farm harvesting grain and ensuring the following year’s crops. How do you stay in touch with the roots of the holy days we observe when some times we are so far placed from them?
How do you interpret the Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year and make it fit the modern world around us?”
Since the prompt begins with harvest season, I suppose I will start there. The easiest answer is that, it’s Harvest Season – we harvest the things we’ve been cultivating through the year. Not only does this mean that we start seeing produce from our garden, but also the things that we put into play (by will, by virtue of The Universe, what was given to or asked of the Gods, by virtue of spells cast – whatever you want to call it) are starting to see results by this time. It’s drawing closer to the Dark of the Year, and the time to examine the progress we’ve made thus far is nigh. There’s still some time to work, if it’s needed; or if the harvest is good, then it is time to look forward to relaxing in the Winter months.This is also the time of year where we make offerings of thanks, and ensure the continued protection and good will from our border and land spirits. Like Spring cleaning, we do Autumn cleaning, which is more taking stock of what we have and what we will need come Spring than actual ‘cleaning’. This applies to clothing, seeds, materials, and spiritual things as well. We save what we will re-use and donate what we can.
As far as connecting with the roots of the Sabbats, I have found it extremely helpful to do some research. Knowing the history and traditions of the Sabbats, and the meanings of them in the eyes of our ancestors, makes the Holy Days much more personal for me. Much of my family comes from Northern & Western Europe – Denmark, Ireland, Scotland, England, France & Germany. I am drawn to Celtic and Scandinavian traditions, in addition to others (and the more I learn, the more influence I see from those countries in my path). Since we homeschool, learning our family history and working through the projects we’ve done (and continue to do) on those countries and their peoples, the changing governments, and religions in those countries makes it more ‘real’ and easier to make a personal connection to the Holy Days that they celebrated, and thus, to my own.
As for my Holy Days, over the years of celebrating them, I’ve found that each of them has a ‘reason’ for me to connect with. I am part of a Flamekeeping Cill for Bridgid, Cill Willow. That is a primary focus for me at Imbolc; the focus on Bridgid (I am actually writing this on my Flamekeeping shift). There are traditions that appeal to me, such as snuffing and re-lighting hearth fires (even though I don’t have a fireplace in my house, we do it symbolically), sweeping out the old and welcoming in the new, baking bread, making corn dollies and the like. With the kids, taking time to celebrate the beginning of the calendar year, recalling seasonal and Sabbat Lore to strengthen their connections to their paths is always a focus. As the first Sabbat of the calendar year, it’s easy to make the connection with the beginning of the year, the first signs of the approaching Spring. Since this is a devotional Sabbat, it re-affirms my own path, and helps me maintain my focus for the coming year.
I feel a special affinity for cross-quarter days (Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh & Samhain). These ‘in-between’ times are times of change and examination. This is when I evaluate, and make adjustments when needed, to my path or journey towards a goal. I update my journals, Shadow Books, make changes and consolidate information, add a new binder if I need to. It’s a time of ‘housekeeping’ and organization.
I struggle a bit with Ostara, I admit. My own past and hang-ups associate Ostara very much with the Christian Easter, which was always a problem for me. The Easter traditions are so blatantly Pagan in nature (rabbits and eggs as symbols of fertility, re-birth as a theme); I could never comfortably celebrate Easter in good faith. I have found that now, as a Pagan, I have a harder time letting go of the Christian associations to comfortably and fully fall into it as a Pagan celebration. Weird, I know, but that’s how it is. I am still trying to work past it. I don’t dye eggs or decorate them with my kids, which is a huge association that I am grateful to be rid of (though oddly enough, I don’t have a problem using eggs in my Ostara decoration or altar themes, and I’ve been wanting to try Pysanky for the longest time). This past year has been the first time that I’ve successfully maintained a garden throughout the entire Summer and into the Fall; in part, I believe, due to the seed blessings from the previous Ostara. I am looking forward to 2014’s Ritual, where some of the seeds I’ve harvested this year will be blessed and hopefully grow well next year. The themes of ‘Spring Cleaning’ and fertility, waking up the earth, taking stock and preparing for the planting season are also connections that I honor at Ostara. It’s great fun to walk with the kids around our house, stomping and banging on the ground with staves to ‘wake up the earth’, and making Spring-ish decorations (like birdfeeders
and window clings
Beltane is one of my favorite Sabbats. The theme of Holy Union and fertility permeate the atmosphere, and Summer is right around the corner. The energy of Beltane is so very powerful; everything is ripe with promise. Beltane is when sex magic is at its peak, and the blend of male and female energies makes for that much more power. This is when I do most of my long-range goal spell-casting for the year. Seeds are planted, both actual seeds and ‘seeds’ of goals and creativity; the first steps towards future plans are made. At Beltane, too, I honor the ‘fruit of my loins’ – my children. The energy and vibrancy of youth is much reflected in the spirit of Beltane, and so I like to take some time to be thankful for them. This is, again, a time of re-dedication, and so I make offerings to some specific deities, and re-affirm my dedication to them.
Litha (or Midsummer, Summer Solstice) is another one that’s easy for me to connect to. As the beginning of Summer, it’s a great time to begin new things. Summertime is the season for outdoors, and we take full advantage of t – hiking, beaching, swimming, canoeing – all things outdoors fill our activity calendar. With the kids, writing the summer’s ‘bucket list’ comes into play, as well a s celebrating Faerie Lore. One of my favorite traditions is in the legend of the Holly King & The Oak King. At Litha, the Oak King, who reigns from Yule until Litha – the Light half of the year) dies, and the Holly King is born. The God, in this aspect, will reign from Litha to Yule (the dark half of the year). ‘Mourning’ the death of the Oak King, and ‘rejoicing’ at the birth of the Holly King is something we look forward to the closer to the Solstices we get.
Litha is also when my local Circle celebrates our anniversary. We formed in 2011, and Litha was our first Ritual as a group, so each turn of the Wheel to Litha is another year that I celebrate in fellowship with the members of my Circle. We celebrate 3 full years in 2014.
This post is getting kinda lengthy, so I am going to make it two parts. I’ll continue with the second half of the year in my next post.