Litha for the Family
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. Norse pagans have their own historical counterpart which I'll go into detail about soon. 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! In regards to Norse paganism, Litha is part of a New Age reconstruction, but its historical Heathen counterpart 'Midsommar' dates back to the 1000s. Some of the activities of Midsommar date back to the 900s. Sun-worship can be traced back to carvings from 58-79 BC (the Iron Age). Back in the transitional time of Norse countries, Christian kings were in a place of power. Many kings and their people were forced to convert to Christianity but Norway was one of the last; because of this, Heathenry became embedded into the culture and many of the traditions were preserved (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 is allowed but there would be no sacrifices. It appears this compromise was generally accepted. Different areas of the world have different names and slightly different practices. Pagan/Heathen names include: Midsummer, Midsommar, Midsomarsfest, the Summer Equinox, The Summer Solstice, Alban Hefin, Litha, and others.
Pre-Christian Tribal Traditions
Before the church/king put their influence on 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 common practice.
Another tribe in the Mountains of Dauphine, Germany held great bonfires to signal the ever-burning sun, but again it doesn't seem to be common practice.
I am going to cut this short so we can move onto '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
Now-a-days Litha is fun and fabulous! It is a time to celebrate the high sun and take advantage of the longest day of the year. 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 types 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 for people to dance around. Unlike May Day (aka. Sígrblót / Victoryblót / Beltane / Sumarsdag) this one doesn't typically have a ribbon-dance (but variations can be found). If you don't have a leafy pole, you can always use 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 crowed 'Midsommar Queen or King!' I have created a little 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 by this Swedish group on YouTube by clicking [HERE].
4. Sun-Wheel Chalk Drawings ⊕
The sun-wheel or sun-cross is a symbol that can be traced back to the Iron Age. It is found engraved in caves and stone, and is believed to indicate sun-worship among ancient tribes. Show your kids some of these ancient pictures and see what chalk designs they create on outside on stone or ground.
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, 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 honor 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 wild flowers 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 at 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 is meant to symbolize 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 both the Old Ways and New Age together 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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