Litha, Summer Solstice and the Night of Sânziene
The 2020 Summer Solstice takes place on June 20 at 21:44 UTC
(June 21st at 12:43 AM EET)
Litha is one of the eight Festivals included in the Wheel of the Year and one of the four Sun Festivals. The Sun festivals are called as such because they are related to the Sun’s position around the Earth. For this reason, their date varies slightly each year. Amongst the four Sun Sabbats, there are two Equinoxes (Mabon and Ostara) and two Solstices (Yule and Litha).
During the two Equinoxes, the day and the night are of equal length: nature is in a perfect equilibrium. Thus, during those Sabbats, all magick should be aimed in reaching balance in your life. In contrast, the two Solstices are moments of extreme imbalance between dark and light, where one triumphs over the other. Indeed, the Winter solstice (Yule) marks the longest night of the year, while the Summer Solstice (Litha) celebrates the longest day of the year. Those two Sabbats are times of transformation, appropriate for protection and purification spells.
The Wheel of the Year represents the metaphorical mythology surrounding the God and the Goddess. This sacred couple is responsible for all creation in Nature, and each has a decisive role to play in the cycles of life during the course of the year. The God is depicted as the forceful Sun, and the Goddess as the nurturing Earth – Mother Gaia.
During this period, the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky. The God is now in his full power and at the height of His virility, and the Goddess of the Earth is now fully pregnant with a Child and she is bringing forth the greatest abundance of the year. The crops are reaching their full maturity and the forests are bursting with lush growth. The Earth is awash with fertility and fulfillment and this is a time of joy and celebration of expansiveness and achievements. In just a few short weeks, the harvest season will begin, but for now we pause to celebrate the manifestation of what was planted in the early weeks of Spring.
Midsummer or the Summer Solstice is the most powerful day of the year for the Sun God. Because this Sabbat glorifies the Sun God and the Sun, fire plays a very prominent role in this festival. The element of Fire is the most easily seen and immediately felt element of transformation.
This is also the traditional time for gathering wild herbs for medicine and magic, as most are fully grown by Midsummer and the power of this particular day will add to their benefits. For this reason, Litha is known as Gathering Day in Wales.
To celebrate this Sabbat, you can decorate your altar with summer flowers, herbs and fruits, and summer colors like green, blue and yellow. This is a traditional time for rites of dedication to the God and Goddess, as well as divination related to love and romance. Since this Sabbat revolves around the Sun, keep at least one candle lit throughout the day to honor the Sun, and if possible hold your Litha rituals at noon, when the Sun is at its highest point in the sky. Have an outdoor picnic feast to bask in the warmth of the day, and eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Midsummer is a good time for magic related to masculine energies, issues dealing with solar influences and any situation that needs to be “fired up” in your life.
Traditionally people stayed up all night on Midsummer’s Eve to welcome and watch the sunrise. Bonfires were lit on tops of hills, by holy wells, at places held sacred, to honor the fullness of the Sun. At Litha the bonfire really represents a reflection of the Sun at the peak of its strength. The chosen wood would often be Oak and aromatic herbs were scattered into the fire. People danced around the fires and leap through them. Blazing herbs from the sacred bonfire were used to bless the animals. Blazing torches were carried sunwise around homes and fields. Coals from the Midsummer fire were scattered on fields to ensure a good harvest.
Love has always been a major focus of the Summer Solstice, with the month itself named after Juno, the Roman Goddess of love and marriage. All types of love are celebrated now, including weddings, love between parents and children, love in friendship and self love.
Faeries and the faerie domain are a common theme around Midsummer, as this is supposed to be the time when the veil between our worlds is very thin. Communicating with the faerie domain, and doing magick with faeries is especially potent now.
The more present and connected we become with the rhythm of nature and the spirit of the seasons, the easier it becomes to intuitively celebrate!
Litha: Midsummer, Summer Solstice, Gathering Day, the Day of Sânziene (also known as Drăgaica – celebrated in Romania)
Themes: abundance, growth, masculine energy, love, magic
Flowers: roses, sunflowers, chamomile, daisies, marigolds, mugwort, vervain, rosemary, lavender
Incense: Sage, mint, basil, lavender, Saint John’s Wort, sunflower, mistletoe (specifically the berries which represent semen), oak, rowan, and fir
Crystals: Tiger’s Eye, Sunstone, Citrine, Jade, Aquamarine
Decorations: Dried herbs, potpourri, seashells, summer flowers, and fruits
Colors: blue, green, and yellow
The Night of Sânziene (Drăgaica) – Midsummer celebration in Romania
People in Romania celebrate Sânzienele every year on June 24th, around the Summer Solstice.
Sânzienele are, in Romanian mythology, good fairies from the class of iele.
The ieles are supernatural female creatures from Romanian mythology, spread in superstitions, whose precise profile cannot be established, due to the inconsistency of folklore; however, the preferred mythological form is of virgin fairies, with great seductive force and magical powers, cumulating the attributes of Nymphs, Naiads, Dryads, and somewhat of Mermaids.
According to the most common global characteristics, they are immortal, beautiful, voluptuous and seductive, excellent dancers and chorus singers; they wear their long hair disheveled and dress in steamy silk or linen garments, usually translucent or even transparent.
The name “Sânziana” comes from the Roman Goddess Diana, the patroness and the great Goddess of the Moon, the hunt, birthing and the Protector of the forests and all wild, untamed life. Sânziana or Drăgaica is also called the Empress, the Mistress of the Sisters, the Queen of Holders, the Bride, depending on the geographical area of the country.
“Diana Sancta from Sarmizegetusa became Sânziana, a central figure of Romanian folklore. Religious and linguistic continuity was ensured mainly due to the fact that the transformation process took place in a popular environment, rustic and wild.” – Mircea Eliade
Among the people, it was believed that the night before Sânziene is a magical one in which all miracles are possible. Also on this night both the forces of good and those of evil reach their peak. According to popular belief, on the night of June 23rd to 24th, the skies open and Sânzienele begin to dance. This holiday celebrates the Sun, love but also the lust for life.
If we follow the legends, Sânzienele are extraordinarily beautiful beings, like fairies, who live in forests or plains. On the night of Sânziene, they catch in the choir, sing and dance. They give special uses to plants and weeds, so they can be used to treat certain diseases. Moreover, Sânzienele protect the hailstorms, bear fruit for sowing, bless brides and contribute to the multiplication of plants and animals.
The customs and traditions of Sânziene are diverse and numerous, depending on the geographical area of the country and the specific influences of the region.
As expected, the day of Sânziene has its own specific rituals, mainly focused on love spells. In some regions, especially in the countryside, it is common that the young girls to play the role of Sânziene. One of the girls is chosen to represent Drăgaica, the most powerful Sânziana. After she is dressed in white and embellished with golden wheat spikes – the symbol of Sun and Summer – she must gather all the other girls into a big circle and dance. Then, they all go collecting Lady’s bedstraw flowers and create beautiful wreaths. In some regions, the girls throw their wreath in water while chanting their wishes of love. In other parts of the country, the wreaths are thrown over the house; if the wreath stays on the roof, the girl will marry soon, if not, the girl still has to wait.
Another custom specific to the day of Sânziene is the bathing of women in running water or in the morning dew. At sunrise, the women wash in a river and then roll in the dewy grass. In this way they will stay clean and healthy, they will wash away diseases and problems. Any failure will be resolved, and those who want children have a good chance of getting pregnant.
In order to ward off evil spirits, people lit fires over which very strong-smelling herbs and plants were thrown. They would shout out loud around the fires to keep the evil spirits at bay.
May the plan of Love and Light forever prosper!