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- the Summer Solstice

21/22 June = Northern hemisphere
21/22 December = Southern hemisphere

Although the best of summer is usually yet to come, the summer solstice marks the height of the Sun's powers on the longest day of the year. This is the time to gather strength from the Sun before the hours of daylight begin to diminish over the next six months. Like Yule, the festival of Litha carries within it a paradox; the moment we celebrate the Sun's powers at their greatest is the very moment those powers begin to wane.
This reminds us of an essential physical and spiritual truth- that our festivals are fleeting instants of stillness on the wheel of change and are themselves symbols of the constant flux that is the nature of all existence.
The word Litha is supposed to mean 'wheel', though its origins are obscure. There may be a link, however, with a custom first recorded two thousand years ago, of setting a wheel alight and rolling it downhill, representing, presumably, the fall of the Sun at the height of its powers. There might also have been an element of sympathetic magic here; symbolically sending the Sun down to warm the fields and thus urge the growth of the crops in the coming season.
Certainly there is a strong association with fire at midsummer- which, like Yule, is more accurately termed 'mid-year' with the best of the weather yet to come. Bonfires have been lit and torches carried around hillsides at this time for at least the last seven centuries, and one suspects for much earlier, before written records of these practices were made.
Litha is usually celebrated outdoors, weather permitting, and usually witches gather at the old sacred sites- the standing stones, circles and hillsides-in order to observe the solstice sunrise with others. Many of us set off on the evening of 20 June (20 December in the southern hemisphere) to keep vigil together until sunrise on the next day. This means staying awake during the shortest night and keeping each other entertained with stories and songs after drumming the sun down below the horizon at sunset.
At dawn, we begin drumming again, this time to encourage old Sol's exertions to rise early, ride high and shine long and bright upon the longest day. The rest of the day is usually spent outside, sharing rituals and food, catching up on lost sleeping- and getting home.

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