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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Litha

 Fossil Fly (Diptera) With Eggs In Baltic Amber (#207478) For Sale -  FossilEra.com

Litha or Lithe?

 

Back in the 80s, many Wiccans started calling the Summer Sunstead Litha. In a sense, they've got history on their side.

(That's LEE-thuh, with the “soft” th of leather, not the “hard” th of think, though I've also heard LITH-uh, with a "short" i and "hard" th.)*

In the old Anglo-Saxon calendar, June was known as ærra Líða, “before Litha” and July aeftera Líða, “after Litha”. (J. R. R. Tolkien, a proud Hwiccan** lad himself, modernizes these as Forelithe and Aerlithe, but I'll get back to that.) What comes between June and July? Well, given a little wiggle room, and the fact that the Anglo-Saxons reckoned by moons, not by calendar months, it seems fair to assign the word Litha to the summer solstice.

(In the same calendar, December and January were aerra Geol—Foreyule—and aeftera Geol—Aeryule—respectively.)

What the word originally meant, and why it should be assigned to this particular season of the year, is another matter altogether.

 

Unclear Origins

 

As an adjective, OE líðe meant “gentle, soft, calm, mild.” I suppose one could read this meteorologically, though personally, I find this (if you'll pardon my earthiness) a pretty limpdick explanation. As a verb—líðan—it means “to go, travel, sail.” Bede of Jarrow mocks up a reading here, claiming that the calm seas of solstice-tide usher in the sailing season. Sorry, sounds contrived to me.

I think that the most solid conclusion to draw here—considering the fact that, folk derivations aside, we don't know where the word “Yule” came from either—would be that Litha's etymology remains unclear.

Still, considering that Midwinter has a folksy by-name of its own—Yule—it's somehow satisfying that Midsummer should have one as well.

(For what it's worth, my own linguist's intuition here is that both Yule and Lithe derive from some solstice-celebrating pre-Germanic cultural substratum, and that neither word has a convincing Germanic derivation precisely because they're non-Germanic in origin. Perhaps time and future research will tell.)

 

The Lure of the Exotic

 

It certainly wouldn't be the first Old English word to be adopted lock, stock, and barrel into the Modern Witch vocabulary, Wicca and Eostre being two other prime examples. I strongly suspect that many Wiccans actually like the sense of mystery and exoticism that such archaic forms impart. Still, to my ear, there's something affected, something inauthentic, about using such words in everyday speech.

As a name for the Summer Yule, Líða didn't survive into modern times. If it had, though, and had undergone all the usual sound-changes through the course of the last 1000 years, we can say exactly what it would have sounded like today: Lithe (rhymes with blithe).

 

Shire-Reckoning

 

In fact, that's exactly what J. R. R. Tolkien does call it in Lord of the Rings.

The Shire-year of the hobbits features two extended periods of celebration: Yule and Lithe, with the (summer) sunstead itself being known specifically as Midyear's Day. Both holidays are characterized by extended festal periods, known respectively as the Yuledays and the Lithedays.

Though Tolkien himself doesn't use it, I think we can feel justified in coining, by analogy with Yuletide, the term Lithetide: the period of extended celebration between the astronomical solstice and Old Midsummer's Day, what we now celebrate as the Fourth of July. Lithe's thirteen days thus parallel those of Yule.

 

A Craft of Now

 

Well, lots of Wiccans apparently like feeling exotic. (Who doesn't like to feel special?) If you want to live in a museum—or, worse, on Renn Fest grounds—year-round, that's up to you.

Me, though, I'm with the hobbits here. I'm all for a Craft that we live and do everyday, not just when we're in circle.

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It's a Cosmic Thing: The Summer Solstice

I arrived a little late to the party—the party of the B-52's summer classic, "Cosmic Thing." In June of 1990, I had just graduated Madison Area Technical college with a commercial art degree. I was saving up dough to head out West and explore my possibilities in California. In the backroom of the small custom frame shop while measuring and precision-cutting mounting board, I rifled through the store owner's CD stash to inspire me while I worked. The bright, inviting colors of "Cosmic Thing" immediately caught my eye, and I already knew I dug the B-52's. From then on, I was hooked. It is the quintessential hot season record, where every single song on the album is a must-listen to.

My partner and I recently acquired a mint condition vinyl of it, and I have to say, these songs stand the test of time. From the title track encouraging you to "shake your honey buns," to the zen utopian ballad of "Topaz," you do indeed feel compelled to shake it and sing along. The dystopian panic of, "Channel Z," still feels incredibly pertinent today, compellingly shouted/sung by frontman Fred Schneider. The harmonies of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson have never sounded more lovely, and drummer Keith Strickland really stepped up to help write most of this amazing tuneage.

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Savoring the Summer Solstice

Summer is nearly officially here and all around us, the flowers, trees, birds, fireflies, and elements are bursting with life. If you stop and close your eyes, you can practically feel it pulsating. This is the time to savor all these sensual pleasures in abundance and revel in all that nature's bounty has to offer! Since the Solstice falls on Father's Day this year, you may choose to combine your festivities. However you celebrate the Solstice, being outside as much as possible seems to be the order of the day.

A Magickal Market

Speaking of being outside, were you aware that Houston boasts a magical, witchy outdoor marketplace? They do! The Thorn & Moon Magickal Market, headed by Jessica Anderson, runs the first Saturday of every month downtown at the White Oak Music Hall and Raven Tower from 6 - 11 p.m. Jessica is this month's "Women Who Howl at the Moon" podcast guest, so be sure to tune in and hear her describe all the sights and sounds in glorious detail. Everything from themed vendors to Goth Yoga is available for you to try. They often wrap up with some apropos entertainment, such as the Bewitched Burlesque troupe performing a show. Amanda Marie Parker from Bewitched Burlesque was our April podcast guest.

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How Does Your Litha Garden Grow?

The first day of summer is tomorrow, and I for one, am imagining lush green plants and foliage. What better way to honor Midsummer than with a Litha garden? Even if you live in an urban setting, you can get adventurous with the right size pots for roots, some potting soil, and cages for the vines to grow correctly.

When thinking of sun colors, I would definitely plant some tomatoes. If you’re in the Midwest, you should still be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor come August, and now there are so many varieties to choose from. Pretty multi-colored heirlooms, lush romas, or the ever versatile and easy-to-grow cherries are all good options. Likewise, some nice orange or red bell peppers would do well planted now. The tomatoes are the ones that need extra room for roots and wire cages to help the vines grow properly up top. For an inexpensive potting option, purchase some large plastic bins from a hardware store like Menards and drill holes in a circle along the bottom. Fill with nutrient rich plant soil and be sure to secure the roots of your tomato plants deep within it. Watering is of the utmost importance, and if you don’t live in a naturally rainy climate, you really need to keep up with this every day. A good amount is needed to truly keep the soil moist for a healthy, thriving plant.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    After Thanksgiving last year I took the pumpkins off the front porch and set them against the back fence. I have some pumpkin vin
Litha: Light and Laughter

 

     It is the time of light, laughter, and joyful abandon. It is Litha! Let us celebrate with ruby-ripe strawberries and twinkling fireflies and achingly-pure blue skies reflected in chilly streams and sun-warmed ponds. I tend to get giddy this time of year; maybe it’s the child in me that hasn’t grown up yet, or perhaps the Kitchen Witch who is so excited by all of the fresh fruits and vegetables that summer brings, or maybe it’s just because I’m finally warm enough. Whatever the reason, they year’s turning at Litha always fills me with barely-contained excitement, though I don’t always get to act on it. My mind springs into action, suddenly there are so many things I want to do, and I can’t convince myself that I still have to balance all the fun things with work, which means working my way through my summer reading list while lounging by the lake is not a daily option. (Life isn’t perfect, after all.)

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In Search of the Sun

How does one weather a soggy Summer Solstice, anyway? Looking forward to one of the big Sabbats of the year is what most Wiccans and Pagans eagerly anticipate reveling in. As I peered out my bedroom window this morning, however, my brow furrowed. Overcast, cold, and rainy. Again. Granted this is Wisconsin, as everyone here loves to repeatedly point out, as if that makes it alright. News flash: it doesn't. My allergies have not appreciated this unduly wet and cooler year thus far. If it wasn't so damp, it wouldn't be a big deal. Even though I'm prone to heatstroke, I don't begrudge the truly hot temps, even when you get the double-whammy of humidity (more extreme wet stuff). I just pace myself accordingly, and don't attend the Ren Faire in a heavy costume, lest I be carried out on a stretcher. I'm beginning to suspect I would do much better in an arid climate, but that's a story for another time.

Back to the Solstice. I often nostalgically recall my first and only attendance to the PSG in 2000. It started out bright and sunny that day, but by mid-afternoon, we all had to seek shelter in our tents due to the thunderstorms rolling in. It wasn't so terrible. Wine, cheese, and a cozy atmosphere all helped. Earth-minded folk tend to be resilient. Things finally cleared up around nine that evening. Eventually, curiosity seekers began to creep and crawl out of their tents to the damp grass, lured by the sound of drumbeats. The natives were restless from being cooped-up the better part of the day and needed to get their dance on. So drum and dance we did, as planned, around the bonfire, until the wee wee hours. It was ecstatic and frenzied and sweet. It was continuing our celebration as planned, and not allowing Mother Nature's mood swings to rain us out completely.

So my best advice today, if it looks dicey outdoors, is to go about your plans the best you can and not lose hope. I'm determined to set up my annual outdoor "Zen Den," whether my hammock gets soaked, or not. If my partner and I can't sit outside and enjoy the sunset later, I will still cook up the ritual din-din as planned, and we can crack the windows and listen to the raindrops. Candles and incense will be lit regardless. I will still bake homemade cornbread and perform my yoga sun salutations on this day, because, why not? I believe it remains important to honor the significance of the actual sacred day and the deities associated with it. The main thing to keep in mind when following an earth-based belief, is that being flexible with Book of Shadow plans and adjusting them when necessary is key. Happy Solstice, everyone, whatever plans that you honor today.

References:

Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

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Summer Is Here!

There’s not much mistaking it anymore is there? Summer is definitely here! Depending on how you count it, today is either the first day or the midpoint of summer, the longest day and the shortest night. In Britain, the summer solstice has been known traditionally as both Litha and Midsummer, with the former coming from the ancient Celts. Included below is all our content related to the festival as well as various cool tidbits we found around the web. We hope you have a great summer!

--Aryós Héngwis

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