Litha for the Family
Updated: Jun 7
Litha | Midsummer | Midsommar
Litha is a middle-of-summer celebration found on the Wheel of the Year. It is a Celtic pagan and Wiccan harvest celebration, although Norse pagans have their historical counterpart. In modern times, Litha occurs on the summer solstice when the sun reaches its height and stays out the longest. In arctic areas of the world, the sun doesn't set for days or weeks! Regarding Norse paganism, Litha is part of a New Age reconstruction, but its historical Heathen counterpart 'Midsommar' dates back to the 1000s. Some of the Midsommar activities date back to the 900s; whereas, sun worship can be traced back to carvings from 58-79 BC (the Iron Age). Back in the transitional time of Nordic countries, Christian kings were in a place of power. Many kings and their people were forced to convert to Christianity. Norway was one of the last; because of this, Heathenry became embedded into the culture and preserved many traditions (although not observed as 'Heathenry' anymore). Middle-of-summer party-like fun was a big part of this. Before the King of Norway, Olav Tryggvason gave mid-summer festivities a date in the late 10th century, a few historians reported and complained about the barbaric actions of the Heathens - they DANCED, they DRANK, they SANG, they GOSSIPED, and they COMPLAINED ABOUT THEIR LEADERS! How dare they act so wild and undignified! (I say as I chuckle).
When mid-summer customs were moved to St. John's Eve, the King declared it 'Midsommarfest.' He said merry drinking and dancing were allowed, but there would be no sacrifices. It appears this compromise was generally accepted. Different areas of the world have other names and slightly different practices. Pagan/Heathen names include Midsummer, Midsommar, Midsomarsfest, The Summer Solstice, Alban Hefin, Litha, etc.
Pre-Christian Tribal Traditions
Before the church/king influenced the festivities, the Norse mid-summer gatherings typically consisted of tribes coming together to share news and pass laws, hold a market and trade goods. One tribe in Uppsala, Sweden, held a blót/sacrifice every 8 or 9 years around the middle of summer, but it doesn't seem to be standard practice.
Another tribe in the Mountainous areas of Germany, held great bonfires to signal the ever-burning sun, but again it doesn't seem to be standard practice.
I am going to cut this short so that we can move to 'Litha Activities for the Family, but if you're interested in learning more about the history of Midsommar, sun-worship, and exciting Norse traditions, check out my recent research article by clicking the button below:
Litha for the Family
Nowadays, Litha is fun and fabulous! It is a time to celebrate the high sun and take advantage of the year's longest day. New Age or Old Ways, here are some activities you can enjoy with your family:
1. Create Flower Crowns
Traditionally people of Northern Europe will collect seven different types of summer flowers and weave them into a crown. It is said, if you place all seven kinds of flowers under your pillow on Midsommar night, you will dream of your future spouse.
2. Dance the Maypole (AKA. Midsommarstång)
A pole decorated in leafy greens is usually installed before the festivities. This is for people to dance around. Unlike May Day, Sígrblót, Victoryblót or Beltane, the Midsommar maypole doesn't typically have ribbons or a ribbon dance - but variations can be found. If you don't have a leafy pole, you can always dance around a tree.
3. Sing and Dance
If you have children, teach them a traditional Swedish song for the festivities. It is called 'Små Grodarna' (Little Frogs), and it is ridiculously fun! You can even turn it into a competition. The last person dancing can be crowned 'Midsommar Queen or King!' I have created a slight English variation for my upcoming children's book 'Midsommar Sól.' It is similar to the Swedish translation - but not exact. Download it as a free printable [HERE]. You can also watch the upbeat performance of this Swedish group on YouTube by clicking [HERE].
4. Sun-Wheel Chalk Drawings ⊕
The sun-wheel (or sun-cross) is a symbol that has been traced back to the Iron Age. These symbols are found engraved in caves and stone. They indicate sun-worship among ancient tribes. Show your kids some ancient pictures and see what chalk designs they create outside.
5. Sun-Wheel Cartwheel Competitions
How far can you tumble before falling or losing balance? 6. Enjoy a Picnic in Nature
It is a time to enjoy the longest day of the year! Spend all the time you can outside by taking your lunch out and into nature. Even better to follow up with a trip to your local hiking trail, beach, or sprinkler park.
7. Enjoy a Summer Harvest Supper
Learn what's in season in your area. Either pick it fresh from your backyard, the farm or your grocery store and make tasty meals and treats to enjoy with your family and/or community.
Traditional among many Norse Pagans, it's customary to skål (cheers) your gods, ancestors and heroes you want to honour before a big feast.
9. Make a Floating Wishing Wheel
This is a popular tradition in areas of Northern and Eastern Europe. It aligns well with the Midsommar theme of nine wildflowers and love.
A Floating Wishing Wheel is like a floral wreath candle holder made of straw, twigs and a candle in the centre. You can also decorate it with flowers and herbs. Essentially you craft a boat in the shape of a sun wheel, place a candle in the middle, make a wish and let it float away. In Eastern Europe, legend has it that whoever catches your boat on the other side of the river is destined to marry you.
No celebration is complete without a fire. *Putting your safety first* make this your biggest bonfire of the year! This bonfire symbolizes your gratitude for the summer's ever-burning sun 🌞🌞 You can even craft little sun-wheels out of twigs, hay or herbs and toss them into your fire to help feed the blaze.
I hope you enjoyed 'Litha for the Family,' bringing together the Old Ways and New Age once again. What are you observing and doing for Midsommar and Litha this year? Let me know in the comment section below 😊 Sincerely, Jennifer Hartman Pagan Kids pagankids.org If you are interested in my sources, check out the bottom of my research post: 'Midsummer - Old or Ancient?'.
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