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Summer Solstice and the Litha Challenge

 The Summer Solstice - The tilt of the earth's axis has the Northern Hemisphere tilted closest to the sun at the time of the year when the sun enters Cancer.  (In 6 months time, the tilt of the earth's axis will have the Northern Hemisphere tilted farthest away from to the sun - this is the Winter Solstice and the beginning of Capricorn season.) We even have named certain parts of the Earth's circumference lines after these points; the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer.  The Equator is between the two - and it is the point tilted closest to the sun during the Spring and Fall equinoxes.


As we annually orbit around the sun, the moments of these seasonal shifts of the solstices and equinoxes make up the key points in our Astrological Calendar using Tropical Astrology.  (also known as Western Astrology)  This is why the signs might have slightly different starting/ending dates each year - as the points of the solstices and equinoxes do not fall on the exact same calendar day every year.  


Understanding this concept will also help you understand why Tropical Astrology does not align with the placement of constellations.  The Astrological Year of Tropical Astrology is designed to line up with seasonal points of time in our orbit around the sun - not with the alignment of the sun with certain constellations.  Sidereal Astrology sets the timing of the astrological seasons with the constellations - but not Tropical Astrology.  I think both forms of astrology are valid and useful, but generally people will choose one or the other to study and practice. (In our Magical Tradition at The Ever Green Hearth, we work with Tropical Astrology)


Tropical Astrology (in the Northern Hemisphere)

0° Aries - The Spring Equinox - The sun's ecliptic path is aligned with the Equator

0° Cancer - Summer Solstice - the sun's ecliptic path is aligned with the Tropic of Cancer

0° Libra - Fall Equinox - the sun's ecliptic path is aligned with the Equator

0° Capricorn - Winter Solstice - the sun's ecliptic path is aligned with the Tropic of Capricorn


From these points, each quadrant is divided into 3 signs, making 12 signs for the year. Each sign is divided into 30 degrees, making a 360° wheel equally divided among 12 signs.



Through the lens of Tropical Astrology, we understand that the Astrological season of Spring includes Aries, Taurus and Gemini. The astrological season of Summer includes Cancer, Leo, and Virgo. The Summer Solstice is marked by the first day of Cancer Season - or when the sun is at 0° Cancer. This year (2024) the Sun enters 0° Cancer at 1:51 pm PDT on June 20, and remains at 0° Cancer until 3:00 pm PDT on June 21. So when people ask "Which day is the Summer Solstice, June 20 or June 21?" - the answer this year is "Both" (though it is the latter half of the 20th and the beginning half of the day on the 21st)





The Litha Challenge

In the WISE Tradition of Wicca, we recognize the Summer Solstice as the Sabbat commonly called Litha - and we learn about something called "The Litha Challenge". Usually in the final weeks of spring before the Summer Solstice, people who are on a path of spiritual growth and introspective self awareness will encounter some kind of energetic challenge. This will be different for everyone, and different every year - sometimes it is a physical challenge relating to health or money or work. Sometimes it is a challenge in relationships or friendships. Sometimes it is personal, energetic, emotional, or hard to quantify as any one of these things. People who are energetically attuned to the Wheel of the Year and other cosmic energies will often notice the Litha Challenge as a period of stress or anxiety in which they are faced with a choice or required to make some kind of change in their life.


Astrologically we can recognize this time period around the Summer Solstice as a difficult shift from Spring to Summer - the carefree days of spring (youth) transition into more serious days of summer (adulthood). The Inner Child must make way for the Inner Adult to emerge. In some traditions this is explained as the battle between the Holly King and the Oak King at the Summer Solstice; where an exchange of power takes place and the jovial, playful 'Lord of Misrule" steps back (or dies) to give power to a more orderly. responsible king. While we do still associate Summer with play and fun (the season for Summer Vacations) - there is a different level of Maturity that must coincide with this play. In the spring, milder weather allowed us to play outside without much forethought - but in the summer months we must plan ahead to hike during cooler times of day to avoid the hottest part of the day. We must think ahead about matters of shade, hydration, sunblock, and how to reserve our energy. Gardening tasks switch from being about watching your freshly budding spring plants, to concerns about making sure the plant is getting enough shade and enough water to reach maturity and produce fruit or vegetable and grain.


We can also recognize the energetic shift from Gemini season (The Mutable Air sign of the end of Spring) into Cancer season (The Cardinal Water sign and the beginning of Summer)

 

During Gemini season, the sun is at its peak, the days grow longer and the nights grow shorter. While the sun relates to illumination and creativity, and Gemini is an Air sign, we get a lot of mental stimulation from the longer hours of sunlight. Sunlight directly impacts the circadian rhythms of most humans, so we have this time period when our minds (Air) are being illuminated and vitalized (Sun) for longer periods of time. This results in most of us feeling more active, more social, and more curious during these late spring and early summer days. This is the glorious and light hearted side of Gemini - the part that has a child-like enthusiasm for spring, and excitement for the exploration that is now possible with longer daylight hours and a world full of blooming flowers.


 There is a feeling of wanting to do everything, be everywhere, meet everyone. Gemini, by nature, can tend to take things too far, wanting to follow every path way as far as it possibly can. That curiosity of Gemini means that the nature of Gemini is to travel every road, just to see where it ends, if it ends or if it branches off to new roads. But one thing we know about the sun is that too much of a good thing can be detrimental. In our gardens, plants begin to wither if they have too much sun and heat. Humans can get sunburn, dehydration, and heat stroke from being in the direct sunlight too long. This the combination of the archetypes of Gemini with the Sun can result in stretching our minds too far, following the curiosity too far, pushing our communications with other people too far. The idiom "Curiosity killed the cat" could relate to Sun in Gemini energy, as curiosity can sometimes lead one into dangerous circumstances. Asking "why" about everything, or searching for logical answers to everything can be a dangerous pursuit - because sometimes we don't like the answers we find, or sometimes we find that there is not a logical explanation to something at all. Other times, we find the answer, but now this knowledge gives us the responsibility to act and behave differently. "With great knowledge comes great power" - and the Gemini archetype is not really interested in being the mature, responsible adult. The archetype of Gemini is the perpetual teenager, thirsting for all the knowledge and experiences of adults, but then somewhat unequipped to deal with the consequences of all these experiences. Responsibility and Maturity means less freedom to follow any path at a whim, and that is the opposite of what Gemini wanted. However, once we have the knowledge that we thirsted for, we now also have the responsibility that comes with this knowledge. We must eventually let go of immature ways and the carefree attitudes of youth.



The tarot card that corresponds with the last 10 days of Gemini Season is the 10 of Swords, pictured above. The Swords represent the element of Air: our thoughts, ideas, and state of mind. The 10 is the end of the suit, signaling a completion or the end of a path. In this case, the end of spring - which can also represent the end of childhood or innocence. It is relevant to the Litha Challenge that we must pass through this 10 of Swords energy before we can celebrate the next phase of the Wheel of the Year.



We must pass through this challenge of Gemini Season, into the bosom of Cancer Season - where the focus shifts to Safety, Security, Nurturing, and Protecting. We must take all that we have learned in Gemini season and now nurture it and protect it to help it grow deeper roots and a secure foundation. Otherwise it will wilt in the hot sun and be blown away on the wind - just a passing thought rather than an idea that can manifest into something to be harvested later on.


The first ten days of Cancer Season correspond with the 2 of Cups in the tarot, so once we pass through the ending represented by the 10 of Swords, we are stepping into a more nurturing, cooperative, and harmonious energy.


Additionally, Cancer Season brings it's own challenges of emotional maturity; we must learn to manage the strong emotions that rise within us, to focus our nurturing energy in the proper direction for growth. The harmony that is depicted in the 2 of Cups is only going to be sustained if all parties have some emotional maturity or the ability to manage their emotions and channel their feelings in responsible ways. Interestingly, it is common for many people to have Weddings and Marriage Ceremonies around the Summer Solstice, and we can see this pathway of the 10 of Swords to the 2 of Cups to represent the way we must release or end our ideal of "self as an individual" to embrace the new ideal of "self as a part of a couple" through union and commitment.


Ultimately, The Litha Challenge is not a negative experience, though it can sometimes be difficult to navigate. The Wheel of The Year can be a powerful tool for helping us mark our progress through time, and to explore a deeper understanding of the way we are energetically connected to the earth, sun, and the seasons.


The Ever Green Hearth is hosting a Litha Ritual in Centralia, WA on June 22! Please see our events page for details!








Lilliana Blackstar is The Maiden of The Ever Green Hearth, a 2nd Degree Priestx of the WISE Tradition ATC, and a professional Astrologer and Tarot Reader. You can find more about their Astrology and Tarot services at www.hestiasmuse.net


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