Sabbats - Litha and Yule
16th June, 1998Litha or Midsummer
There are eight festivals that are celebrated about every six weeks which divide the Pagan year. The organisation of these holidays is also known as the Wheel of the Year, a phrase which emphasises the cyclical nature of the Pagan view of life. The next of these holidays is the Summer Solstice, otherwise known as Midsummer or Litha (an ancient Celtic holiday). The equinoxes and solstices form the four lesser holidays of the Pagan festival calendar. They are often referred to as the Lesser Sabbats.
Also in keeping with close ties to nature, the date of this holiday varies from year to year, being determined by astronomical events rather than by a calendar. Litha falls on the day when we experience the longest amount of daylight and the shortest night of the year. Just as Yule (see below) was adopted by the Christian Church (celebrated as Christmas), so too was the Midsummer holiday, celebrated as the feast of John the Baptist (June 24th).
Litha is the celebration of the God, especially in his aspect as the Sun God, who has reached the height of his power at this time. It is partly for this reason that Litha is considered a fire festival. It is a time of fertility and a time for the working of strong magick.
The Goddess too is also at the height of her powers during the longest day of the year. Bonfires representing the Sun were lit to rouse love, purification, health and fertility. The season between the planting and the harvest, June is also the "traditional" month for handfastings and weddings.
However, there is also a literal other side to this story!
Yule or Midwinter in Australia
While Pagans in the Northern Hemisphere are celebrating Midsummer, those of us way down south are celebrating Midwinter or Yule because the Wheel of the Year in Australia turns differently. This poses many problems for Australian Pagans.
While our Northern cousins can decorate their houses with holly and brightly lit trees to celebrate Yule, which falls at the same time as Christmas, those of us in Australia don't have that ability to blend in. Here Yule falls in mid-June and doesn't line up with any major mainstream holiday. People deal with this in different ways. In Yule in Australia, a Pagan Alliance member explains how Christmas and Midsummer are a time for family while the celebration of Yule is a much more personal time. A time to experience the God and Goddess.
The juxtaposition of seasons in relation to holidays has always been obvious in Australia. In a country where any snow is a rarity, traditional Northern Hemisphere images of snow, reindeer and fur-clad Santas in the middle of a scorching Australian summer just seem silly!
Spiritually, Pagans see Yule as both the time of greatest darkness and the longest night of the year and as the time of the birth of a "Divine King." Since the Sun is considered to represent the Male Divinity in many Pagan Traditions, this time is celebrated as the "return of the Sun God" where He is reborn of the Goddess.
The issue of when to celebrate the Sabbats is a complicated one. Many chose to follow the Northern dates, seeing it as an important way to keep in contact with ancestors and tradition. But others, including myself, feel that as a nature-based religion, it must follow a cycle of celebration that is dictated by the seasons of the land that we inhabit. It is for these reasons that I wish all a merry Yule and joyous Litha!
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