Blessed Līþa!

Blessed Līþa!

As we approach the Summer Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere I’ve seen social media posts beginning to appear opposing the name Litha for the Pagan festival. It happens at the Autumn Equinox too when people start to wish each other Happy Mabon. The Mabon name is a different discussion to the name Litha for the Solstice though – there is at least an old historical precedence.

I like Litha as a name for the Summer Solstice/Midsummer. It stems from Bede who wrote that the Old English called June Ærra Līþa, before Midsummer, and July Æftera Līþa, after Midsummer. The þ letter is pronounced ‘th’. So Litha is, according to Bede, an Old English name for Midsummer. The same applies to Yule – the Old English name for December was Ærra Gēola and January was Æfterra Gēola. The G is pronounced as a Y, hence Yule. As an Englishman, I’m really happy to see these traditions continued. It’s part of the history of the English language. It also shows how important the Solstices were to the Old English. You could argue (and people do…) that we have to take Bede’s opinion for this, but to me that’s a choice – you either think that’s interesting, let’s explore it, you’re skeptical of it, or you discard it. Either way, the writing exists and I’m very thankful to Bede, because, without those words, we would have nothing at all.

There are also some confused posts asking why it’s called Midsummer. There is another Old English tradition that may answer this. They only recognised two seasons, Summer and Winter. Summer was planting to harvest, Winter was the fallow months. Midsummer and Midwinter marked the important midpoints and were marked with long celebrations, Mid can also mean ‘with’ in Old English so could also suggest being deeply ‘within’ or ‘with’ those seasons, rather than an exact midpoint. Now we have four seasons, and also celestial seasonal markers with the Equinoxes, whilst some mark the seasons with signs from nature and agriculture, and we are trying to shoehorn that with an older system that only had two seasons.

The truth is I don’t mind what people call the festivals – that’s entirely up to the individual. The important thing to me is that they are celebrated.

So have a blessed Solstice my friends, however you name it!

13 responses to “Blessed Līþa!”

  1. Whatever the origin of the name Litha, the point is to mark the longest day and the gentle slide into the darker months and the harvest, I feel the validity of the festival doesn’t need a historical origin for its name. The wheel of the year isn’t ancient but a modern grasping of how we look at time and its natural path.

    I really appreciate the message Damh, a very mindful moment. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for sharing this information. I love learning about the history of words and language. I now know why it’s called litha!
    Blessings to you.

  3. Thank you for the explanation, it is good to know the background to the seasonal events and how their naming came about

  4. I am an eclectic Pagan. My ancestry is mixed Heathen and “Celtic”, and my practice is a balanced walk between the two. I originally came to Paganism as the result of personal gnosis, and began my path as a Heathen. Eventually, though, I “came home”, and found my place, in Druidry.
    As the result of a second personal gnosis event, my personal practice now is a combination of both Heathenism and Celtic Paganism. Although I am still first and foremost a Druid.
    Locally, there are no Druid groups, but I belong to a Pagan group, called Northern Tier Pagans, which is an eclectic mix of Witches, Druids (there are two other OBODies in the group), Heathens, among others. The group is a weird, eclectic, accepting, inclusive family.
    Long story short, too late… we call it Litha, but have no hangup on what each individual calls it personally.

  5. Thank you for this usefull information. i have always felt the need to follow the pagen ways but not always known there origins.

  6. The way I know it – the actual solstice is the highest/lowest point as we know. The sun’s position seems to stop for 3 days (or for 3 days of merriement), so midsummer/midwinter is the time the sun starts moving again and everyone returns to work.

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