Summer Solstice, or Litha as it is also called, occurs on or about the 21st of June, when the Sun enters zero degrees Cancer. It marks Midsummer for many cultures, even though in most of the US, summer has barely started and the kids are just now getting out of school! It is the longest day of the year, and the shortest night; when the sun reaches his apex in the sky, and the days will now grow shorter as the light begins to wane.
Many legends explain this phenomena as the darkness triumphing over the light. The darker brother kills the lighter brother in these legends, and the brother who dies resides in the underworld until it is time for him to return and slay his brother again, to rule for the next 6 months. The stories of Lugh and Goronwy, and the Oak King and the Holly King are but two of these legends.
It is interesting to note here that the Christian religion has also tried to usurp this holiday by decreeing it the birth of John the Baptist, and declaring it his feast day. Now, other Saints in the Church are only remembered for the day they died (usually in martyrdom) so it is very curious that St. John the Baptist should be the only one recognized on his natal day. Also, the original birth of Christ was moved from late Spring when he was actually born, to December 25 to coincide with the birth of all the other "Sun" Gods. So even the Christian religion has rotated to the Pagan cycle of the Earth, with their births lining right up with our Solstices. The natural cycle, what we call the Wheel of the Year, is evidently highly compelling!
This was the traditional time of year to harvest your magickal and medicinal herbs. Cut them with a scythe or boline, by the light of the Moon, while chanting the appropriate chant for the purpose for which the plant will be used. Leave an offering for the rest of the plant, and try not to harvest more than 1/3rd of the plant so that the rest will remain healthy and vigorous. If you have to harvest the roots, then you will need to find a bunch of them growing together, and then only harvest 1/3 of them, so that the rest will thrive in the space you have just provided. Harvesting a branch should be done at the lowest junction where the branch joins the main plant, and be careful not to damage the remaining plant. Nature will provide all our needs, but not if we destroy Her gifts!
If you live in the southern part of the US, you can harvest many plants now also, unless you are in the deep south. This far south, like southern Florida, and southern California, not much that has magickal or medicinal value will still be alive by this time. Most of the harvesting must be done at Imbolc, or Ostara, because the intense heat and sunlight will have burned off many herbs by this time. One way to try to save them is to put them under screening, or indoors with diffused light. That will enable some of the hardier varieties to survive through the early summer at least.
Since the Sun at Litha is entering Cancer, a water sign, this holiday is one of the best ones for gathering your magickal water which will be used on your altar and in your spells for the coming year. We usually go to the beach at Litha, and gather salt-water. We bring offerings of flowers and nuts, and 3 pennies or 3 dimes for prosperity and throw these into the waves before we take our water. We honor Aphrodite and Yameya as the Goddesses of the Sea by taking some jewelry as an offering. It can be simply a broken silver chain, a ring you used to wear, one half of an earring set, things like that. We find that doing this means that when we visit the beach anytime at all, we don't have to worry about losing any of our "good" jewelry to a jealous Goddess!
If you don't live near the sea, another excellent source of magickal water, is rain water from a thunderstorm, and there are plenty that occur at this time of year. The more electrical energy the storm puts out, the more energized the water is, so the fiercer the better! Collect in a glass jar, or porcelain, avoid metal containers. Store on a shelf, and don't leave the jar on the ground, or the energy will ground. We only use our water for 6 months, after that we return the water to the source, and collect fresh. The energized water really only lasts about 6 months. If you add shells, rocks from the sea, or other non-perishable sea items such as coral, the energy of the water will stay higher during the 6 months. This water is not for drinking, but only for magickal use.
In June, the Full Moon is called the Honey Moon, because this is the time to collect the honey from the beehives. Mead is an excellent brew made from honey, and there is Lord Riekin's Mead making recipe on this web-page, or you can e-mail Lady Bridget for his instructions also. Mead is the traditional drink for Summer Solstice for that reason. Small mead, or Soda-Pop mead, can be made about 10 days prior to drinking, and is low in alcohol and on the sweet side. For these reasons, it is the preferred Mead to make just prior to this Sabbat. Incidentally, it was believed that since the Grand Union between the Goddess and God happened in May, at Beltain, that it was unlucky to have mortal weddings in May. In addition, many couples found that after the May Day frolic, they were "expecting" and so June became the most popular month for weddings, and still is today. Since the June Full Moon is called the "Honey Moon", can you guess now why that term is used for the time right after the marriage ceremony?!!
It is appropriate also, to have honey on the altar during the Cakes and Wine to dip your cakes in for this celebration. In our tradition, we always have honey on the altar to symbolize the sweetness of life. It also is a symbol of what combined energies to a single goal can accomplish!
There are many songs associated with Litha, or the Summer Solstice, and chants dealing with the ocean and the ebb and flow of the year are especially appropriate. Do some research, find books of poetry and see how much material is available with the Sun theme, and the Ocean theme. Our ancestors have been worshiping the Sun for long ages, and the wealth of material out there will astound you. Anything that pleases you and your group can be used in your rituals without copyright infringement as long as it is not published, and if you distribute words be sure to credit the proper sources.