|Midsummer’s Eve, Litha, All Couples
and St. Johns Day
Summer Solstice 2007,
June 21st at 12:08 PM
By: Ingrid Jeffries
"A dreamer can only find her way by moonlight." Oscar Wilde"
As the Sun moves into Cancer, the solar energy peaks in the northern hemisphere, and
signals the time when the Sun stands still, or Solstice. For the ancients this was a day to
celebrate life and make wishes for the future. On this day the Sun God is seen at his highest
point in the sky, vibrant and strong. Together with the pregnant Mother Goddess he rules
the summer season. However, this is also a time of transition, for now the Sun will begin its
yearly descent and the days grow shorter until the Winter solstice. The Druids viewed this
day as the wedding of Heaven and Earth, Alban Heruin. The Moon of this month was known
as “The Honey Moon” in testimonial to the honey mead that was drank at the wedding
celebrations so common to this time of year. It is interesting to note that the old folk
calendars had summer beginning on May 1st and ending on Lammas, August 1st,
consequently the summer solstice was called “mid” summer. Just as Christmas was adopted
from the midwinter festival of Yule, so was the feast of St. John the Baptist was adopted from
the midsummer festival of Litha. It is intriguing that St. John was seen as a somewhat pagan
figure. Many statues showed him as having horns, he was known as the “Oak King” and his
shrines were always very rustic and found in out of the way places.
Historically, this was the time for early harvests; the herbs and flowers harvested on this day
were considered to have magical properties. It is said that, nine different herbs were thrown
into the Midsummer’s Eve bonfire to enhance good fortune and divination. Garlands of St
John’s Wort, lavender, heartsease, chamomile, geranium, thyme, vervain, and pennyroyal
were hung around the house for their aroma and the belief that they banished sickness and
The customs for this time of year are varied, but all involve light and fire as representative to
the Sun / Son. Bonfires burned through the night where poets and bards told stories,
musicians played and dancers dances. All night vigils were common in many cultures. As at
the Winter Solstice, mistletoe is sacred at Summer Solstice, when it is in bloom. The Druids
gathered it on Midsummer Eve, cutting it with a golden scythe, and catching it in a cloth,
never allowing it to touch the ground. They believed that mistletoe could open all locks, cure
all ills, and was a lightning conductor. In Sweden, mistletoe is believed to be possessed of
mystical qualities and, in Wales, a sprig of mistletoe gathered on Midsummer Eve and placed
under the pillow is said to bring prophetic dreams. This is seen as the second of the three
‘Spirit Nights’ and is a good time for all forms of divination. Mugwort is also sacred at this
time and vervain (and as a later addition, St. John’s Wort).
A lovely and unusual custom, practiced in South America and in Austria on the Danube River,
is the ‘burning boat’ or ‘candle boat’. These paper boats are filled with flowers, set afire and
sailed off on the ocean or river, to carry prayers to the Goddess. It is interesting that this
custom should appear in two places so far apart, with no explanation or connection. If you are
near a body of water, this would be a wonderful addition to your own Midsummer festivities
How can we celebrate Litha today?
Decorate with and wear bright colors.
Have lots of fresh flowers, candles or a fire
Hot and Spicy foods honor the heat of the day while fresh fruits and vegetables
celebrate the abundance that is available at this time.
Herbs and Flowers:
Mugwort, Vervain, Chamomile, Rose, Honeysuckle, Lily, Oak, Lavender, Ivy, Yarrow,
Elder, Wild Thyme, Daisy, Carnation
Traditional Incense: Lemon, Myrrh, Pine, Rose, Wisteria.
Woods Burned: Oak
Sacred Gemstone :Emerald
Special Activities: An Ideal time to reaffirm your vows
Archangel associated with this day: Gabriel
Gods are associated with the Sun and the Goddess are of the Earth
Summer Solstice is still observed publicly by modern English Druids, both at Boadicca’s
Tomb, Parliament Hills, London, and at Stonehenge. All night vigils take place on both sites,
and at Stonehenge, there is a second celebration at Noon.
Midsummer is not forgotten in today’s world, although it may be called by a different name.
The bonfires are lit, vigils kept, cartwheels sent blazing down hills. Candleboats are sailed in
Brazil and in Florida, as well as on the Danube. When you light your fire and stay up
throughout the night, you are celebrating in the way our ancestors did. Have a wonderful
Midsummer and remember…”imagination is the eye of the soul.”
For a Midsummer ritual go to the "Rituals" page