It’s Litha…summer solstice, time for solar symbols, fire and water. We honour Apollo; one of the sun gods, he is at his height at this time of year, as is the sun itself. At this time of year the grass seems greener and the flowers more vivid, sounds carry further and everything is so alive it vibrates.This point marks the middle of summer for us as the sun reaches it’s southern-most position in the sky and begins the journey back to the north.
It also brings with it the usual pressure to conform to the Christmas madness.
I don’t do Christmas now my children are adults; when they were young we bought them presents and dragged them around to see relatives only glimpsed at this time of year, but now my partner and I are happy to sit back and relax a bit. I am the sort of person who likes to understand the symbolism of rituals and Christmas always confused the Hel out of me.
On one hand we are told that the date marks the birth of the SON (you know, the messiah, saviour of the universe) and asked to be kind to our fellow human in his name (and make your way to church too). On the other hand we spend our hard won cash on plastic presents for people we only see once a year (if at all) and hang bright bits of plastic on a tree (also plastic) in preparation for the arrival of an inappropriately dressed fat man. The symbolism escaped me as a kid and for many years of my adulthood, until I attended my first Yule celebration (in August). Here were all the traditional symbols; decorated tree (real), solar symbols (shiny golden balls and candles), presents, spiced mead, stories, feasts of heavy foods and a shaman dressed in red and white, in a setting I could understand; winter solstice. The meaning of the symbols were explained to us as we decorated the tree and held the ritual, it all made sense to me. So I choose to celebrate the height of the sun’s strength and it’s inevitable wan at this time of year rather than the birth of the sun and it’s inevitable waxing (as does the Christmas crowd).
On my Litha altar I have oak leaves, candles and solar symbols, to me they represent the height and strength of the sun and the recognition that the sun’s strength will begin to wan from this point onwards (until Yule). This year we were to meet up with friends for a Litha picnic, but an inconveniently falling branch kept us home to clean up. We held a small family ritual instead.
|Inconveniently fallen branch|
|Our downsized Litha altar|
What do the symbols of Christmas mean to you?