Wednesday, June 19, 2024

For Litha (Midsummer or the Summer Solstice)

This is the eve of Litha (Midsummer) or the Summer Solstice, and as with all the old festivals, the observance begins tonight at sunset. Tomorrow is the longest day of the calendar year, the Sun poised at its zenith or highest point and seeming to stand still for a fleeting interval before starting down the long slippery slope toward autumn, and beyond that to winter. Actually, it is we who are in motion and not the magnificent star at the center of our universe. Our sun stays right where it is.

This morning's image was taken by the front gate of our Two Hundred Acre Wood in the Lanark highlands some time ago, and it is one of my favorites. It captures the essence of midsummer beautifully with tall trees and hazy sky in the background, golden daisies, purple bugloss and silvery meadow grasses dancing front and center.

It seems as though summer has just arrived, but things are all downhill from here. After tomorrow,  days will shorten until Yule (December 21) when they begin to stretch out again. The ebbing is bittersweet, but longer nights go along on the cosmic ride during the last half of the calendar year, and that is something to celebrate for those of us who are moonhearts and ardent backyard astronomers. There are some fine stargazing nights ahead. The Old Wild Mother strews celestial wonders by generous handfuls as the year wanes, spinning luminous tapestries in the velvety darkness that grows deeper and longer with every twenty-four hour interval.

The eight festive spokes on the Wheel of the Year are associated with fire, but the summer solstice more than any other observance. Centuries ago, all Europe was alight on Midsummer eve, and ritual bonfires climbed high into the night from every village green. Long ago festivities included morris dancing, games of chance and storytelling, feasting and pageantry and candlelight processions after dark. Prosperity and abundance could be ensured by jumping over Midsummer fires, and its embers were charms against injury and bad weather at harvest time. Embers were placed at the edges of orchards and fields to ensure good harvests, and they were carried home to family hearths for protection. Doorways were decorated with swags and wreaths of birch, fennel, white lilies and St. John's Wort which is in bloom now.

Alas, my days of jumping midsummer bonfires are over. I try to be outside with a mug of Jerusalem Artichoke (or Earth Apple) tea and watch the sun rise. There's a candle on the old oak table and a lighted wand of Shiseido incense in a pottery bowl nearby. The afternoon holds a few hours of pottering in the village, a quiet festive meal with a dear friend, a little stargazing and moon watching later. We (Beau and I) cherish the simplicity of our small festive doings and the quiet pleasure of being surrounded by kindred spirits at such times. As always, we will think of my departed soulmate. This is our fifth Litha without Irv, and his passing still cuts like a knife. Some things cannot be tucked away or forgotten. They can only be carried.

Happy Litha (or Midsummer), however you choose to celebrate, or not to celebrate it tomorrow. May the sun light up your day from sunrise to sunset, and your night be filled with stars from here to there. May all good things come to you.


Blondi Blathers said...

And this:
...his passing still cuts like a knife. Some things cannot be tucked away or forgotten. They can only be carried.

So true. So dadblasted true. said...

Beautiful, Cate. Litha/Midsummer has such bittersweetness as we we begin the to slide toward Winter. Yet, as you have so poetically said, our Old Wild Mother strews the velvet skies with starry nights in ever increasing tapestries of wonder. And for me, this is equal to the merry dance of the all too brief days of Summer.