Litha, the twin Sabbat to Yule, but while Yule marks the shortest day of the year, Litha marks the longest. In some cultures it is the middle of summer, the high point of the Oak King's power. But Litha is not so much about the Oak King, or his deep woods. Litha is a celebration of the Goddess, pregnant with the blessings that are to come. Everything is richly fertile and the hot labors of the sowing are past, the harvest is yet to come. While summer is busy, its labors are mostly caretaking and nurturing. This is a time of celebration of achievements, of joy and growth.
But, we can already feel the first whispers of the cold weather on the air. A slight chill after dark, even though the weather still grows hotter. So we reach out to the Goddess in her fire aspect, drawing her power around us in the shortest nights. Offering her gifts of bread, wine and milk.
During Litha, the bonfires are kindled as the first star shows in the sky. The feasting and celebration around that fire would continue throughout the night until the morning star glimmers to herald the coming dawn. Astarte is both the evening and the morning star. It is she who calls on us to begin to celebrate and she who sends us to our rest at the end of the night.
There are many goddesses who are worshiped at Litha. But Astarte is possibly the oldest and the least understood in modern times. Of Phoenician origin she traveled through Canaan to Egypt and beyond. Her name evolved slightly with her travels, as it does. But she was always a goddess of Fertility and Sexuality, eventually adding War to her portfolio. Which makes sense since they are all very fiery passions.
It is because of this fire and her link with growth and birth that she is most often honored at Litha, the great fire festival of the Summer Solstice.
You may not want to stay up all night, but lighting a bonfire with the evening star and offering to it freshly baked bread and wine with your thanks and gratitude for the abundance that keeps us safe and fed is the traditional way to honor Astarte. Nearly all herbs are at the peak of their growth at this time of year, giving gifts of bunches of fresh herbs to friends and family is another traditional way to honor the Sabbat and to symbolically share the abundance that the Goddess has blessed us with.
However you choose to mark the turning of the Wheel this year, may Astarte bless your family and your harvest.
Creatures, born the first, engendered by thyself and by thyself conceived,
Issue of thyself alone and seeking joy within thyself, Astarte! Oh!
Perpetually fertilized, virgin and nurse of all that is,
Chaste and lascivious, pure and revelling, ineffable, nocturnal, sweet,
Breather of fire, foam of the sea!
Thou who accordest grace in secret,
Thou who unitest,
Thou who lovest,
Thou who seizest with furious desire the multiplied races of savage beasts
And couplest the sexes in the wood.
Oh, irresistible Astarte!
Hear me, take me, possess me, oh, Moon!
And thirteen times each year draw from my womb the sweet libation of my blood!