Thursday, April 12, 2007

Litha: A Midsummer's Dream

As part of my April A-Z blog challenge on all things mystical, here's the letter L...

Midsummer is perhaps most widely thought of in terms of Shakespeare's work, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Did you know that this play's timing and use of faeries ties in with one of the eight holidays in pagan tradition?

Litha, or Midsummer, is held around June 21 at the time of the Summer Solstice. This is the longest day of the year, and a celebration of the height of the sun's power even as it begins to fade for the rest of the year. It is a celebration of the earth's fertility, and felt to be a time of special magic, where plants have healing powers and faeries, elves, and sprites are more readily seen. Those who use crystals in their workings will often "recharge" their energy out under this special sun. Young people would pick bouquets of the extra-magical midsummer flowers to place under their pillow, believing it would give them psychic dreams about their future spouse.

Bonfires were common to represent the power of the sun, and people would leap over them. Traditional colors for this festival are "sun colors"--gold, red, and orange. Even foods served for feasting are often kept along this color scheme (carrots, oranges, meats with red BBQ sauce, red wines or beer). The practice of celebrating Midsummer (and the remaining times of solstice and equinox) has been carried forward since ancient times, and like many pagan traditions was Christianized and converted into St. John's Day, where it is still celebrated in many countries worldwide. Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, and Lithuania are just a few who recognize this holiday. Midsummer's Eve in Ireland is called Bonfire Night.

Dancing (including a maypole dance, still common in Sweden), drinking, and merrymaking is common at Litha, while those who have combined it with Christian practices sprinkle holy water, and their bonfires are called "St. John's fire," after John the Baptist for whom the revised holiday is named.

So as Litha approaches this year, put a flower under your pillow and see if you have a Midsummer Night's Dream of your own!