Wiccans call the Summer Solstice Litha. The Druids call it Alban Heruin. This is a “Lesser Sabbat” in the Wiccan calendar, marking the midpoint in the Spear Season. It was originally a Saxon solar celebration incorporated into the Wiccan calendar as a celebration of the first fruits of the season. In some traditions, this day is celebrated as the Sacred Marriage of the Goddess and God. In others it is celebrated as the victory of the Lord of the waning year over the Lord of the Waxing year, to mark the point from which the days will shorten.

Litha is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. For Wiccans it signifies a time of working hard in the fields and blessing the crops so that they may be ready to harvest by Lughnasad, the next Greater Sabbat. For this reason it is the time of year that knights remind themselves that industriousness is one of the qualities in our Code of Chivalry. Minimal appearance, maximum content is the precept of the month. From this point on the light begins to wane and the darkness starts to return as we head toward the dark half of the year. Modern knights are reminded to perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye: The brightness may conceal problems that might lead to a bitter harvest later.

The squires of the Order of Paladins are now learning and practicing the ritual involved in Circle casting, learning about the correspondences and significance of the various aspects of our “standard” Circle casting ritual. They are being introduced to the history and traditions associated with our eight Sabbats that form the Wheel of the Year and how they form the four Seasons that make up the Order of Paladins’ ritual year. They are being encouraged to start thinking about which Sabbat is most important to them and to give thought to starting to craft a ritual for that Sabbat.

In many parts of Europe, Midsummer is celebrated with Maypole dancing and bonfires. In Celtic countries bonfires were lit both as a tribute to the Sun and as a means of fertilizing the fields: Bonfires were lit on the windward side of fields to carry fertilizing ash onto the fields. Torches of gorse or furze were carried around the cattle and later the cattle were driven over the dying embers to protect them from disease and misfortune. People danced around the fires and leapt over them seeking purification and strength. Flaming wheels, representing the Sun, were traditionally sent rolling downhill at Summer Solstice: If they made it all the way to the bottom without going out this was taken as a sign of an abundant harvest to come. In other places tar barrels were set burning on poles or canvas torches were swung at the end of chains or poles. An ancient Cornish Midsummer custom involves the chanting of a riddle as the celebrants circled the fire seven times holding hands, finishing with a Sunwise (deosil) spiral dance:

“Green is gold,

Fire is wet,

Futures told,

Dragons met.”

Green is gold is a reference to the mistletoe, which is in bloom at Midsummer. It is also a reference of the green of nature turning gold with flowers and grain as we head towards the first harvest at Lughnasad. Fire is wet is a reference to the custom of floating candles or lanterns on the water in honor of Midsummer. These candle boats are found in Midsummer festivals all over the world. Fortunes told is a reference to the divination which was traditionally done at this festival. All-night vigils to contact ancestral spirits were a common element in many Midsummer celebrations. There is a British folk belief that spirits of those who would die within the year could be seen walking abroad at Litha, so some people would stay awake all night to prevent their souls from wandering. It was also believed that an unmarried woman might meet the spirit of her future husband if she kept a Midsummer vigil. Fire breathing dragons were a symbol of the sun. For this reason, many celebrations also included processions with effigies of dragons and/or giants. For example: In Norwich, England, the Tuesday before Midsummer is called Snap-Dragon Day, and features a procession led by a giant dragon.

Mistletoe blooms at this time of year. Druids collect mistletoe, the ‘Golden Bough’, at Summer Solstice. It is traditionally cut with a golden scythe and caught it in a cloth, never allowing it to touch the ground. Mugwort is also considered to be sacred at this time, as well as vervain and St. John’s Wort. It is traditional to burn nine different herbs in the midsummer fires, nine being a sacred number to the Celts: Mugwort, plantain, watercress, cock-spur grass, mayweed, stinging nettle, apple, thyme and fennel.

As Litha is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, our Order has also often included the poem “The Muffled Drum”, by John Mayne (July 1805) in honor of the fallen. This poem appeared in The European Magazine, XLVIII (July 1805), The Gentleman’s Magazine, LXXV (July 1805), The Monthly Mirror, XX (August 1805), and The Morning Chronicle (August 17, 1805). There are hundreds of Napoleonic poems, most of them patriotic and praising the glories of war. I rejected all of those. I wanted a poem that spoke of honor and remembrance. Another favourite is Robert Burn’s poem “Scots Wha’ Hae” in memory of the Battle of Bannockburn (23- 24 June 1314) in which Robert Bruce and William Wallace won freedom for Scotland. This is one of the key battle scenes in the movie Braveheart.

In our Litha celebration the Order of Paladins always includes a Paganized version of the resting prayer from the Carmina Gadelica. The song that we always include in Litha celebrations is “Sumer Is Icumen In”. This is a traditional English round, and is the oldest known piece of six-part polyphonic music. It may be the oldest known example of counterpoint in existence. The title might be translated as “Summer has come in” or “Summer has arrived”, though in Middle English the word summer extends over a longer period than the modern term. This round is sometimes called the Reading rota because the original manuscript comes from Reading Abbey, the original now being in the British Library. No one knows for certain who its composer was. It was written around 1260 C.E. Here it is as it appears in the Wessex dialect of Middle English:

Sumer is icumen in,

Lludé sing cuccu;

Groweth sed and bloweth med

And springth the wudé nu.

Sing cuccu!

Awé bletheth after lomb,

Lhouth after calvé cu;

Bulluc sterteth, bucké verteth;

Murie sing cuccu.

Cuccu, cuccu,

We singés thu, cuccu,

Ne swik cuccu now! Sing cuccu!

Sing cuccu! Sing cuccu nu!

This translates as:

Summer is a-coming in,

Loudly sing cuckoo;

Groweth seed and bloometh meadow

And springth the woods anew.

Sing cuckoo!

Ewe bleatheth after lamb,

Loweth after calf the cow;

Bullock leaps, buck farts;

Merrily sing cuckoo.

Cuckoo, cuckoo,

Well sing you, cuckoo,

Don’t cease singing cuckoo now! Sing cuckoo!

Sing cuckoo! Sing cuckoo now!

Incorporating these ancient songs into the celebration captures some of the feel of the ancient celebrations from which they were derived.

At Litha the members of our Order often recite the story of the Celtic healer Gods Diancécht and his son Miach. This is the story of how Nuada lost his hand in the first great battle of Moytura against the Fir Bolgs and how Diancécht and Miach worked magick to save him. It tells of how the Babd came to Nuada: Macha, the Goddess of war, Nemhain, the Goddess of battle frenzy and Mórrighan, the Goddess of sovereignty. Over Nuada they worked their magick. Nuada remained in a trance for three days and three nights. Wandering the dark realms Nuada’s spirit found his Sword of Light, the magickal Claimh Solais and regrew a new silver arm, becoming Nuada Airged Lámh: Nuada of the Silver Arm. The participants are told: “Miach, in dying, brought forth healing herbs, and his father Diancécht, with the help of Donn and the Badb, empowered Nuada to heal himself. In memory of this let us now share healing for ourselves.”

We then hand out healing packages containing things like herbal tea, herb seeds, and chocolate. We have a bowl with organic fertilizer spikes on the altar, and the celebrants are encouraged to help themselves to this when they leave and either take these home to their own gardens or place it somewhere in Motherhouse garden. They are told: “As you scatter the seed and plant the fertilizer spikes, make a wish for healing or whatever you need.” Healing magick is then done for anyone who needs it.

In one ritual we’ve used, called “revealed by the sun” Grand Master has the participants repeat after him:

“I am Spirit.

I am divine.

I am stillness.

I am strength

I am passion

I am desire

I am creativity

I am focus

I am will

I am intent













































































I am the light.”

And so each knight should be, lighting the way for others so that they can see the possibilities before them.

LITHA 2014