At Litha the warm weather and growth seen in nature all around us leads to a holiday where we can really celebrate the joy of life. We are in the prime growing season—after the land has been prepared and the crops have been planted, but before we have to worry about the harvest and the winter. All things have their polarity, however. Summer solstice is also a reminder that, from this point on, the days begin growing shorter and shorter on their interminable march toward the Winter Solstice. Even in the peak of life and joy, we are ever mindful of the approaching death and dormancy.
This is one of the holidays where the Oak King and Holly King are said to “skirmish” in their struggle to reign over the earth. This is partly a battle between the warm months and the cold months and also partly about the polarity of life and death. Both are always held in balance. While one is dominant, the other is always present. In fact they are two sides of the same coin and actually part of each other. This can be seen in the seasons around us so I think it makes sense that the story has been told in this way.
The Oak King is seen to win this particular battle, since the Sun and the light are most powerful at Litha. Yet the stage is set for the inevitable victory of the Holly King in a few months. After today, the sun begins giving way more and more each day to the night. You can visualize it that the Oak King is still strong, but he is feeling his age.
In the meantime, the Goddess is now carrying the child of the Oak King (which of course is yet another aspect of himself). She is transitioning from Maiden to Mother again.
At my temple every year we use the same pentacle made from woven branches in our Litha circle. A priest or priestess goes out in the full moon light on the eve of the solstice and harvests a bounty of greens, herbs, and flowers. These decorate our solstice altar. As part of our group ritual, we each pick some of the plants and put a wish into them that we wish to manifest over the next year. What we are doing is harnessing the pregnancy energy of this holiday to grow or birth something new over the next several months. We pass the pentacle around our circle and each of us weaves our chosen plants around it. The edge of the pentacle is solidly woven with flowers and leaves by the time we are done. A priestess takes this home with her each year and keeps it in her garden. When the next solstice comes around, we start again.
Similarly, I think as vegan pagans we can harness the energy of pregnancy and birth to do ritual work. Perhaps we can ask for the birth of a more compassionate society (or human race), that honors the lives of all animals. We could also use the imagery of the Goddess as “Mother Earth” to celebrate her bounty and to send healing energy to Her.