Customs, Traditions and Folklore of Litha

Interested in learning about some of the history behind Litha, the summer solstice? Here's some background on Midsummer celebrations - learn about sun worship, who the gods and goddesses of summer are, how they've been honored throughout the centuries, the magic of stone circles, and more!

Litha History

There are plenty of male Pagans - take some time to honor the sacred masculine. Image by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Summer solstice celebrations have been held throughout history. While some cultures dedicated this time of year to the Divine, others saw it as a chance to welcome the balance between the light of the sun and the darkness which would eventually arrive. Celebrate Litha, or Midsummer, with fire and water and find the balance in your own life. Litha History

Litha Legends and Lore

Did you know English villagers used a big bonfire to keep spirits away?. Image by Andy Ryan/Stone/Getty Images

Did you know that English villagers used to set a big bonfire on Midsummer's eve, to keep evil spirits away? Or that carrying a bit of rue in your pocket can keep the Fae away during the summer solstice? Or that Shakespeare associated the summer solstice with witchcraft in at least three of his plays? Let's look at some of the folklore and legends behind the Litha sabbat. Litha Legends and Lore

Deities of the Summer Solstice

People have honored the gods of the sun for thousands of years. Image by Bjorn Holland/Image Bank/Getty Images

The summer solstice has long been a time when cultures celebrated the lengthening year. It is on this day, sometimes called Litha, that there is more daylight than any other time; a direct counterpoint to the darkness of Yule. No matter where you live, or what you call it, chances are you can connect to a culture that honored a sun deity around this time of year. Here are just a few of the gods and goddesses from around the world that are connected with the summer solstice.

Sun Worship

Celebrate the sun with a ritual of thanks. Image by ONOKY - Eric Audras/Brand X/Getty Images

Many ancient cultures marked this date as significant, and the concept of sun worship is one nearly as old as mankind itself. In societies that were primarily agricultural, and depended on the sun for life and sustenance, it is no surprise that the sun became deified. While many people today might take the day to grill out, go to the beach, or work on their tans, for our ancestors the summer solstice was a time of great spiritual import.

The Native American Sun Dance

Many Plains tribes still celebrate traditional rituals, including the sun dance. Image by Rene Frederick/Photodisc/Getty Images

In North America, the tribes of the Great Plains saw the sun as a manifestation of the Great Spirit. For centuries, the Sun Dance has been performed as a way to not only honor the sun, but also to bring the dancers visions. Traditionally, the Sun Dance was performed by young warriors.

The Roman Vestalia Festival

Image by Giorgio Cosulich/Getty News Images

Vesta was a Roman goddess sacred to women, and each year in June, she was honored with a celebration called the Vestalia. Learn why Vesta was important, and how her festival was celebrated.

The Magic of Stone Circles

Stonehenge is the original sundial. Image by Michael England/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

All around Europe, and in other parts of the world, stone circles can be found. While the most famous of all is certainly Stonehenge, thousands of stone circles exist around the globe. From a small cluster of four or five standing stones, to a full ring of megaliths, the image of the stone circle is one that is known to many as a sacred space.

Ra, Sun God of Ancient Egypt

Ra the Sun God
Ra played a crucial role in Egyptian mythology. Image from Print Collector/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

To the ancient Egyptians, Ra was the ruler of the heavens. He was the god of the sun, the bringer of light, and patron to the pharaohs. According to legend, the sun travels the skies as Ra drives his chariot through the heavens.

The Holly King vs The Oak King

Image by Matt Cardy/Getty Images News 2013

In many Celtic-based traditions of neopaganism, there is the enduring legend of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. These two mighty rulers fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season.

Solar Magic, Myth and Folklore

Capture the power of the sun in your magical workings!. Image by Patti Wigington 2014

In many Pagan traditions today, there’s a lot of emphasis on the magic and power of the moon. However, it’s important to remember that the moon isn’t the only heavenly body out there. The sun itself – something we often take for granted, since it’s out there all the time – has been a source of myth, magic and legend for thousands of years.

The Magic & Folklore of Fireflies

The chemical that lights up the back end of a firefly is called Luciferin. Image by Joerg Hauke/Picture Press/Getty Images

Fireflies, or lightning bugs, aren’t actually flies at all – for that matter, they’re not even really bugs, either. In fact, from a biological standpoint, they’re part of the beetle family. There’s an ethereal quality to them, silently moving around, blinking like beacons in the dark. Let’s look at some of the folklore, myths, and magic associated with fireflies.

What is Wildcrafting?

Forests are a great place to look for wild herbs to harvest - as long as you have permission!. Image by Patti Wigington 2014

In addition to growing your own magical herbs in your garden, in many areas you can harvest herbs from their natural environment -- in the wild. This is known as wildcrafting, and is becoming a popular pastime. Let's look at how to become an ethical and responsible wildcrafter.

Summer Reading: Witchy Fiction

Beach Reading
Spend some time relaxing and reading this summer. Image by Sofie Delauw/Cultura/Getty Images

It's summertime, which means there's ample opportunity to do some reading. For fun, I put together a list of my favorite Pagan-themed fiction books and series. Although not all of these are written by Pagan or Wiccan authors, all include elements of magic, witchcraft, Paganism, or a combination of the three. Titles are presented in no particular order.

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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "Customs, Traditions and Folklore of Litha." Learn Religions, Sep. 9, 2021, Wigington, Patti. (2021, September 9). Customs, Traditions and Folklore of Litha. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "Customs, Traditions and Folklore of Litha." Learn Religions. (accessed March 27, 2023).