The ancient seasonal calendar – known as The Wheel Of The Year – has reached Litha (meaning “wheel”) also known as The Longest Day, Midsummer and The Summer Solstice.
Litha marks the height of the sun’s powers at the middle of the year before the inevitable shortening of daylight hours.
Midsummer has been observed since Neolithic times. It held special significance to the Scandinavian, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon people and is still celebrated throughout The Northern Hemisphere today.
Litha was a time to urge the growth of crops in the hope of a plentiful harvest. A wheel would be set on fire and rolled downhill to “warm” the fields, a practice first recorded two thousand years ago.
Golden-flowered Midsummer plants, such as Calendula and St. John’s Wort were collected for their healing powers.
According to ancient polytheist traditions The Antlered God – and his localised variant, The Green Man – reaches the height of his powers at the midpoint of the year whilst his Goddess consort carries the promise of renewal conceived during May’s Beltane celebrations. This seasonal courtship was adapted by William Shakespeare in his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
At Midsummer those living in the far Northern Hemisphere experience White Nights or The Midnight Sun as there is little if any darkness. Families celebrate by heading out into the countryside; staying awake, lighting bonfires, feasting, drinking and enjoying saunas.
Many stone circles throughout The United Kingdom are aligned to dawn at Midsummer and considered sacred to solar deities such as the Celtic Bel. Celebrants gather at Stonehenge each year to drum the sun down at dusk and then up at dawn on The Longest Day.