Midsummer: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Litha is the third book in Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials series. As with the other fun, basic guides, Midsummer consists of the bite-sized chapters; Old Ways, New Ways, Spells and Divination, Recipes and Crafts, Prayers and Invocations, Rituals of Celebration, and Correspondences for Midsummer. This little book is accessible and useful to both beginners and long-time practitioners.
Midsummer occurs, of course, on the summer solstice — the longest day and shortest night of the year, and celebrated around the world. With the sun at the height of its power, the celebrations concentrate on energy, fire, creativity and dreams in motion, putting them into action and providing a final push to shape those plans and dreams into reality before the first harvest. Fertility, success, and abundance are Midsummer’s focus, for in a very short time, with the next turn of the wheel, we’ll already be reaping the first fruits of our plantings.
For me, the term “Midsummer” summons the spirit of Shakespeare; love and dreams and faerie. It prompts a re-read of both Shakespeare’s original material, as well as the World Fantasy Award-winning comic A Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring the hypnotic prose of New York Times bestseller Neil Gaiman and the delicious, otherworldly art of Charles Vess.
Indeed, Midsummer was “also considered to be the most auspicious day to commune with the Fae or faerie people, as it was supposed that contact was easier during the ‘between” times.”1 The liminality of Litha is a perfect time to connect with faerie, with the abundance of the things they love the best: “sweet-smelling flowers, honey and nectar, and other elements readily available at this time of year.”2
Deborah Blake takes the reader through several ancient sites around the world “marking the arrival of the solstice:” Stonehenge on England’s Salisbury Plain, Mount Seskin in Ireland, the Exernsteine rock spires near Horn-Bad Meinberg, Germany, Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, Serpent Mound in Ohio, the Great Pyramids in Egypt, the Osierion Temple at Abydos in Egypt, the Essene Monastery in Egypt, and many others.3 Mythology and lore for ancient cultures are also presented4 from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome (including the sacredness of the holiday to both Athena and Juno), to ancient China, through to the Saxons, Norse, and Germanic people and of course, the Celts and Druids. It is oftentimes difficult to connect with old ways and energies, but in Midsummer, Blake provides examples of different paths’ celebrations around the world.5
What I love, as with many of the Sabbat Essentials books, is the attention paid to the goddesses and gods, symbols of the holiday, and alternative names for the holiday. Midsummer is no exception, as these three areas are covered in detail, with special notice paid to symbols. Bees, butterflies, bulls, cows, horses, summer birds like swallows, bonfires, circles, roses, sacred wells, faeries, spirals, spinning — each are given a chunky paragraph devoted to their importance at Midsummer.6 These animals, plants, and symbols can be weaved into customized, personal celebrations.
The major point of focus at Midsummer is the sun, which all other symbols revolve around. Because of midsummer’s brilliant and strong sun-focused energy, it’s also a great time for spellwork and divination focused on increasing strength, energy, and power. A fantastic set of elemental spells is presented within the book, each focused on an element: Healing Water Magick (Water Spell), Gree the Dawn (Air Spell), Fire Power Candle Magick (Fire Spell), and Green and Growing Herbal Prosperity (Earth Spell).7 These are simple and beautiful spells to follow, both for beginners and advanced celebrants.
Other spells include Thor’s Summer Storm Spell (because without the rain, nothing grows) and a crystal spell for courage, protection, and strength using citrine, carnelian, and tiger-eye. Once completed, you’ll have a small bag containing those spell-worked stones to wear. Of particular interest is a detailed section on herbal spells and charms, and ways in which to use these herbs. 8 For some people (myself included), tangible takeaways and representations of charms and spells provide a touchstone, or grounding, of what one hopes to accomplish with spells, charms, and divinations.
As with other books in the series, Midsummer contains a recipes and crafts section — one of my favourites. My favourite recipes feature in the section? Summer Abundance Salad9 and Ale for the Gods Bread10 — because anything that combines ale and bread… Need I say more? An interesting recipe which I haven’t tried yet (but will) is a Cherries Jubilation fruit soup.11 It reads more like a dessert, but anything made with cherries must be tried.
Instructions for a few cool crafts also grace the pages: sunshine wreaths,12 Viking boats (great craft for kids),13 cinnamon brooms,14 and a gift for the birds (also great to do with kids – and is my favorite)15 herb crafting (sachets), wooden wand crafting, and instructions for divining rods are also provided: all fun, all useful!
Midsummer also provides many beautiful meditations, affirmations, invocations, and prayers. ((p. 138-149)) Not only are they beautiful, but they are simple enough to do anywhere, for any stage of practice. The Invocation to Welcome the Dawn especially resonated with me. I love waking early and greeting the day, and this takes on a deeper and more profound meaning at Midsummer. Welcoming the new day at Litha is a greeting and acknowledgement of anything and everything new (and about to be new) in life. I prefer to do this in solitude, listening to nature voices as well as my own inner voice. The short prayers for creativity, healing, and love also provide that spark of divine energy.
In keeping with the Invocation to Welcome the Dawn, Blake details a solitary Midsummer ritual called Drawing Down the Sun. The purpose of the ritual is to “focus in on pulling in the power of the sun at its zenith and taking that energy inside yourself, where it will charge your own spiritual battery in preparation for the darker months to come.”16 What’s wonderful about this ritual is its simplicity, and its easy adaptation into a group ritual.
Midsummer: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Litha is a quick and easy-to-read reference. While geared towards the newer Pagan, it provides a few tasty nuggets for long-time practitioners such as the many tidbits of simple yet powerful spellwork, prayers, and rituals along with fun recipes and crafts. It’s a quick and easy-to-read reference, and, upon reading it over and over again, conjures the spirit of Litha: brilliant, sun-filled, and energetic.