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?
There’s something I really enjoy about making old celebrations new again, and so this year I am taking a stab at honoring some of the long forgotten (or transformed) holidays a little more modern. Obviously, the historically ‘accurate’ traditions probably won’t translate well into today’s accepted celebratory rituals… sacrificial goats are a little hard to come by around here and we’re rather fond of our pup, so that’s clearly out. Plus, what would the neighbors say? The boys are also not keen on public displays of either dancing or nudity, so we’ll have to skip those parts as well. It occurs to me that, while the turning of animal skins into leather might be a useful skill, creating lashes with which to chase and hit young women is also going to have to be forfeit as we don’t generally condone violence, and definitely prohibit violence towards women … so again, a more modern interpretation in necessary, I think.
Apparently, not even the Romans knew the origins of the festival, or even which deity it was associated with; they just that it was a thing and they celebrated it with enthusiasm. That makes it a little hard to find modern-day associations, but there are some that seem obvious to me, even if they’re not historically accurate. Since the word ‘lupercalia’ is derived from both Greek and Latin, and where we find modern words for wolf, it seems natural to me that the deities associated with wolves and other canines would be the focus at this time of year. Whatever your chosen pantheon, there’s likely a deity that is associated with wolves: Fenrir for the Norse; Anubis for the Kemetic/Tameran; The Morrigan for the Celtics; Cerberus for the Romans; Pan for the Greeks; Inari (Kitsune, Dakini) for the Shinto, Hindu and Buddhist … there are others as well, but those are some of the ones I am more familiar with.
Fairly consistent with historical practice, these deities also are associated with themes of fertility, protection, ensuring good favor and good fortune. According to the oldest records, Lupercalia was a festival designed with rites ‘to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility’. That’s pretty common at this time of year, with Spring on the horizon – Imbolc is just passed, with ‘waking the Earth/Goddess’ and preparing the ground for seed to be sown, love is in the air as animals come out of hibernation and look for mates, Valentine’s Day is celebrates (with it’s historical ties to Lupercalia and other Pagan festivals)… even though this is an ‘ancient’ holiday, we’re not as far removed from it as it might seem on the surface!
So how does one translate traditional celebrations into modern day observances? Starting with the obvious, exploring Lupercalia and its connection to wolves is a logical beginning. Wolves symbolize strong family connections, loyalty, communication and stand as guardians. Spring is a time of planning and sowing, and so introspective questions arise:
- Are my goals clear?
- Am I communicating my intentions?
- Am I guarding my space to ensure that I am able to work effectively on achieving my goals?
Taking the themes popular in the Spring, my deities of choice are The Morrigan and Fenrir. The Morrigan is probably more well-known for her associations with ravens, but she’s also known to take the form of a wolf in folklore. Her role as a Mother Goddess, protector and fierce warrior is well-known, and in the context of my path at this point in my life, appropriate. Fenrir is also a strong figure, tasked with overcoming Odin at Ragnarok. As Odin could be seen as the personification of Wisdom, defeating ‘wisdom’ to make the world anew is an interesting concept.
This Lupercalia, then, is celebrated with meditation and introspection, with a focus on honestly considering my needs and goals, moving forward with making plans for the coming year and making sure I am clearly communicating what I need in my life to accomplish them. It’s not flashy, but it does feel ‘right’, and that’s all one can ask!
Have you tried taking/making meaning from old traditions?
“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?”
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.