With excerpts from Creating New Pagan Family Traditions
by Jodi Lee
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.
Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare
Also known as Midsummer, Summer Solstice or Alban Hefin, Litha generally falls in the third week of June, usually between the 17 and 23 of the month. It is the time of the longest day of the year; after this, each day becomes progressively shorter until Yule, the longest night of the year.
While May 1 is generally regarded as the time when our world is closest to that of the Fae, on this the shortest night of the year, the fae come out to play their tricks, revel in the very energies of life itself, and occasionally lure the odd human into their world.
In Celtic mythology, where the Fae have become the deities and heroes we pay homage to, we see this represented as a battle between the dark and the light – Goronwy going to great lengths to murder Lugh and steal away the love of the flower-bride, Blodeuwedd; the Oak King passing in favor of the Holly King; Mordred murdering his father/uncle, King Arthur, and Camelot fading into shadowy legend.
Traditionally, this is a great time to harvest wild or cultivated young herbs to stock your herbal (magickal) pantry. Young plants have a great energy, and are far more likely to recover quickly from a small harvesting. Pagan folk follow the rules of nature, where one must request the permission of the spirit of the plant itself. Taking gentle hold of the plant or branch, politely ask if the spirit will share its bounty. You’ll know if you receive permission, a tingle of energy will enter your hand, just a small one. Take no more than a third of the plant as any more may kill the herb and insult the Goddess. You should also always leave a gift, such as a coin or a pebble to catch the eye of guardian Fae, who may want to follow you home.
If you wish to see the Fae, gather a sprig of wild fern and rub it gently over your eyelids. Don’t forget to put some garden rue in your pockets though, or you’ll be missing the next morning! Of course, if you wish to see the Fae and be taken to their world, you’ll better your chances if you step inside a Faery Ring. Stories differ as to what makes a ring, but according to the lore passed down in my family, a ring of mushrooms was the entrance to the earth sprites and brownies realm, a ring of flowers was that which led to the pixies and leprechauns, and a ring of beautiful, thick green grass led you to the elves and elder Fae. It is within these rings that the Fae and other assorted nature-spirits hold their Litha celebrations.
Sometimes, if we’re lucky, the Fae will join our own Midsummer parties. If the weather holds fair, solstice night is the perfect evening to have a meal with friends, build a fire and roast marshmallows, have a quiet drink or a sing-a-long. Should you hear the cracking of a branch or the sound of a bird’s twitter in the dark – it could be an otherworldly visitor come to share the fire. Always leave a bit of the meal, wine or spirits, and definitely a marshmallow or two just outside the light given off by the fire, away from prying eyes. This will please the Fae and lessen the chances of their playing their merry will against you.
Our grove has a traditional meal that we share either at Beltaine or Litha, depending on the weather and availability of the particular meat – lamb. In years past, when it has been unavailable, we’ve made do with an out and out barbeque. For the vegetarian and vegan folks, we’ve had tofu burgers and dogs, and the rest of us have a cache of pot-luck meats, often including steak, chicken, burgers, sausage and hot dogs. There have been those occasions where we’ve had ALL of the above, spread out over a full afternoon and evening. It is my belief that those of the Faery realms do enjoy a wide variety of foods and drink, including meat and alcohol. We always leave out a generous portion of both to please the local courts.
Does it really matter if it is wild animals, or the local house cat that nibbles at the offerings? Not really. This is the time to be fanciful, to break with the drudgery of daily life and simply believe.
My suggestion to all who wish to see, speak to or dance with the Fae this coming Midsummer – plan a small get together, have a barbeque with plenty of greens, fresh vegetables and fruits. Strawberries are usually starting to become available, and those served with cream or whipped cream would truly delight the Fae who may stop by to celebrate with you.
There are still a few hours to enter to win Jodi’s first “Creating New Pagan Family Traditions” chapbook: Litha. See last night’s post for the idea!