Litha Playlist: 2 Hours of Music for the Summer Solstice

Ah, summer.  For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere (and in a place where, for at least half of the year, it is quite cold), summer is an especially sweet time.  It brings to mind bonfires, sunlight streaming through green leaves, flowers waving deliciously in a warm wind.  Sure, there are June bugs and mosquitoes (a LOT of mosquitoes), but these are small prices to pay for finally being able to go outside without wearing ten layers.

Despite the fact that the season of summer doesn’t officially start until the solstice, midsummer has become, for me, a slightly bittersweet celebration.  In the past, I didn’t start feeling melancholy at the fleeting nature of the season until probably mid-August.  After tuning into the Wheel of the Year, however, I realized that, in many traditions, the “light” half of the year actually ends at June 21st or 22nd.  At the summer solstice, the light king (sun god, Oak King, however you want to refer to this deity) actually dies, or at least gets defeated, by the dark king (Holly King).  This is just one tradition, of course.  I have also heard that some people consider the light half of the year to be from Ostara to Mabon, and the dark half to be from Mabon to Ostara.  This makes sense to me, too.  Perhaps I’d feel less of a pang of sadness at the summer solstice if I kept this in mind.

In any case, we do recognize the power of the sun, or the sun god, at this time of year.  This is the longest day, and the shortest night.  Where I live, this difference is quite pronounced.  For example, today the sun rose at about 5:30 in the morning, and won’t set until after 9:00 pm.  It’s not quite as obvious as when I lived even farther north in a foreign country for a year, but where I am now is my home.  I’ve always known warm, well-lit summer evenings.

It is only fitting that the music we listen to on a day like this is relatively sunny.  So, with a little inspiration from my favorite playlist lady, Ozark Pagan Mamma, I’ve come up with my own Litha playlist.  These aren’t in any particular order, and all songs are accessible on Spotify.  Explanations on why each song was chosen are below the list.

  1. Litha (Lisa Thiel)
  2. Dans ar keriadenn (Skarazula)
  3. Noon of the Solstice (Damh The Bard)
  4. Sun Arise (Rolf Harris)
  5. Three Drunken Maidens (Chris Hennessy)
  6. Rise With the Fire (Reclaiming)
  7. Sacred Fire (Deean)
  8. Summer Solstice (Libana)
  9. Firebird’s Child (S. J. Tucker)
  10. Sister Sunshine (OMNIA)
  11. Dancing At Whitsun (Tim Hart & Maddy Prior)
  12. The Oak (Spiral Dance)
  13. A Rosebud in June (Elizabeth Nicholson)
  14. The Hills They Are Hollow (Damh The Bard)
  15. Solsitce Call (Gaia Consort)
  16. Don’t Carry It All (The Decemberists)
  17. Trotto (Skarazula)
  18. I’ll Follow The Sun – Remastered (The Beatles)
  19. The Old Favourite (The Gloaming)
  20. Tolven Stone (Spiral Dance)
  21. English Country Dances: Newcastle (Musica Pacifica)
  22. Caluski Pastora (Beltaine)
  23. The Mystic’s Dream (Loreena McKennitt)
  24. Only Desire What You Have (Kate Rusby)
  25. The Willow Maid (Erutan)
  26. Fairy Nightsongs (Gary Stadler, Stephannie)
  27. Healing Power of the Green (Lisa Thiel)
  28. Fairy Dance (Erutan)
  29. Litha (Threefold)
  30. Celestial Soda Pop (Ray Lynch)
  31. Solringen (Wardruna)
  32. Oak, Ash and Thorn – Recorded for the Peter Bellamy Oak, Ash Thorn Project (The Unthanks)

 

Explanations for each song:

  1. Litha – Lisa Thiel has an album called “Circle of the Seasons” where she makes a tribute to each Sabbat.  Obviously I wanted to include this one.
  2. Dans ar keriadenn – Just a fun fiddle piece with some interesting instrumentals that reminded me of a great summer party.  The instrumentals bring to mind Australia, which I have noticed seems to be a running theme through many summer-style songs.  For some reason the digeridoo seems to be associated with the sun in music.
  3. Noon Of The Solstice – Damh The Bard is a massive gift to Pagan music.  I also heard he’s going to be making an appearance at Minnesota’s Paganicon next year (2019).  This song brings to mind the battle between the Oak and Holly kings, which I mentioned above.  But, as he points out, the wheel keeps turning, which means that summer will come again.
  4. Sun Arise – Now this artist is actually from Australia.  The song is about the sun rising (perfect for Litha), but with lots of digeridoo.  Personally knowing somebody from Australia makes me love this song even more.
  5. Three Drunken Maidens – I thought this song just particularly brought to mind the playfulness of summer.  Three drunken maidens came from the Isle of Wight, started to drink on a Sunday, didn’t stop til Saturday night…  Just classic.  There are many versions of this song out there, but I love this one.
  6. Rise With the Fire – This is a chant-style song that slowly seems to raise energy throughout.  It’s all about how fire can be for healing and truth, not necessarily for destruction.
  7. Sacred Fire – Another repetitive song that you can easily memorize, basically a prayer in song form.  Denean sings about fire illuminating her dreams, burning through the night.
  8. Summer Solstice – This is a pretty choral piece that, for me at least, evokes images of an English meadow and a bunch of kids playing in it.
  9. Firebird’s Child – So opposite from the previous song!  S. J. Tucker is a vocal powerhouse as she sings about a maiden who can dance in fire.  In the end, though, we’re all the Firebird’s children.  I also love this piece because the Firebird is a creature of Slavic mythology.
  10. Sister Sunshine – A dreamy song about the innocence and beauty of the sun shining sweetly, and the knowledge that she’ll always come back.  This is a great song if you associate the sun with a feminine deity, rather than a masculine one.
  11. Dancing At Whitsun – I’m not going to lie, I had to look up what “Whitsun” is.  Whitsuntide is apparently the seventh Sunday after Easter, which puts it usually somewhere in late May or early June.  I love that the song focuses around an elderly woman who has been dancing at Whitsun for the past fifty years.
  12. The Oak – If you love the Celtic mythology of trees, this song is a great, meditative piece on the parts of the mighty oak tree and its power.  According to the Celtic tree calendar, Oak rules over the period of time between June 10 and July 7, after which Holly rules for a little under a month.  There are thirteen trees in the Celtic tree calendar.
  13. A Rosebud in June – Does anybody remember Pirates of the Caribbean 4?  Where the pirates try to capture a mermaid, and the mermaids in turn sing the song “Bonny Sailor Bold” to the pirates?  If you like the haunting appeal of that song, you’ll love this little solitary tune about summertime.
  14. The Hills They Are Hollow – Damh The Bard loves to sing about the British Isles.  In this piece, he describes how the hills are home to the fae, which dance on Midsummer’s eve.  “Some people don’t understand when I say, these are the things I believe.”  Just for all you guys out there who sometimes feel like people think you’re crazy because you’re Pagan.
  15. Solstice Call – A super fun, jolly piece about gathering everyone for Solstice celebrations.
  16. Don’t Carry It All – I saw this song on another playlist, and it’s probably the least Pagan-sounding song on this list.  But, the very first line talks about the turning of the season toward the sun.  The album name is also “The King Is Dead,” which probably has nothing to do with the Oak King, but we can pretend.
  17. Trotto – Skarazula has all these festival-sounding dance pieces.  I think I just picked this one because I thought it fit, to be honest!
  18. I’ll Follow The Sun – You probably never thought you’d see The Beatles on one of these lists.  This song probably has more to do with a relationship than with the actual sun, but I can appreciate the point of the lyrics.  “Tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.”
  19. The Old Favourite – Another instrumental piece that I just absolutely love and wanted to put in this list.  I think it just feels like rolling meadows and hills, maybe going down a dirt road on a bicycle.
  20. Tolven Stone – I assume that this is a reference to the Tolvan/Tolven Holed Stone, which is in Cornwall county, England.  The song talks about how on Midsummer Eve, the girls go to the Tolven Stone.  This is just a nice, upbeat song in general.
  21. English Country Dances: Newcastle – Exactly what its name implies, this is a nice little country dance with violin, drums, and harpsichord.  I definitely picture a fun solstice dance in the meadow.
  22. Caluski Pastora – A different kind of dance, this song by the awesome band Beltaine includes a lot of jazzy flute, violin, and finger snaps.  Just a great, cheerful number that brings to mind the sunny days of June.
  23. The Mystic’s Deam – This song is another fantastic piece performed by Loreena McKennitt.  It’s hazy, dark, and mysterious.  It turns those sunny days of June into the humid evenings with fireflies.
  24. Only Desire What You Have – One artist that I’ve found in the past year and really appreciate is Kate Rusby.  She records a lot of British folk songs and her voice is really unique.  This one is a great piece about appreciating what you have when you have it.
  25. The Willow Maid – This is actually a rather sad piece, and I guess I’m not sure why I ended up including it.  It’s about a forest sprite who cannot leave her willow tree, but a covetous man comes to chop down her tree and take her as a wife.  She becomes a flower because she can’t leave.
  26. Fairy Nightsongs – Beltane is supposedly the time when the veil between the Fae and the mundane world is thinnest, but Midsummer is also a classic time for honoring Faeries.  This dreamy piece is just a good addition to this list.
  27. Healing Power of the Green – Lisa Thiel knocks another piece out of the park with this devoted piece that lauds the healing that we experience when we return to the earth.  And, at no time is the earth quite as green and stunning as during Midsummer.
  28. Fairy Dance – I’m not going to lie, I love this song.  It’s just a beautiful, flute-y piece that sounds like an actual fairy party.  This is just one beautiful piece on the whole album “Court of Leaves” by Erutan.  She’s known for recording in her coat closet, which is neat.
  29. Litha – Threefold does a song for every Sabbat.  They’re actually quite nice for meditative purposes, because they’re very repetitive.  I love the battle motif in this one, since Litha is a time when the Oak King and the Holly King fight.
  30. Celestial Soda Pop – When I was a kid, my dad and I used to listen to many of his favorite artists in the car, and I realized that my musical taste was really influenced by his.  Ray Lynch was one of our favorite artists, and I used to make my dad play this song on repeat.  I guess I’m not sure what it has to do with Litha, but it seemed to fit this playlist more than any other.
  31. Solringen – Just like with Fairy Dance, I absolutely LOVE this song.  It’s in Norwegian, and it translates to “Sun Ring.”  You can look up the translated lyrics to this online, but I could just listen to the Norwegian all day.
  32. Oak, Ash and Thorn – This is based on Peter Bellamy’s song version of Rudyard Kipling’s “Oak, Ash and Thorn” poem.  The poem itself is beautiful, the song ads a fun medieval/renaissance style flair, and this version is a darker, lovelier version.  I definitely love it.  The last verse has to do with conjuring summer in, and every chorus talks about midsummer’s morning.  Just a classic.
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Imbolc Playlist: Music for the First Hints of Spring

 

 

Here we are at another Sabbat; and I must confess that this one is just as difficult for me to place as Mabon was. As someone who was not raised Pagan (in fact, I was raised Catholic), I have all the experience in the world with the common secular holidays and religious ones. I can tell you all about Ash Wednesday and what you should and shouldn’t do during Lent (the roughly 40 days leading up to Easter). Groundhog’s Day is an underwhelming, yet present, part of February for Americans. Then there’s the saccharine Valentine’s Day, which I actually have a great fondness for (I love pink and hearts). As for Imbolc, however – this holiday has no obvious equivalent in modern Christian or secular culture. At least with Yule, Ostara, and Samhain, I have some kind of basis for the traditions and how to celebrate. Imbolc is a bit of an enigma.

Therefore, I’ve tried to make it my duty to look up ways to celebrate this Sabbat, especially since it is, actually, one of the four greater Sabbats. That includes the playlist I’ve taken it upon myself to build for each Sabbat – with lots of input from other Pagans (I’ve been heavily inspired by Ozark Pagan Mamma). I started back at Beltane, and so far, I’ve created playlist for each holiday. Now we’re at Imbolc, and then there’s just Ostara left to do.

So, whether you enjoy this playlist or not, I think that it speaks to the feeling of the season. Some hopefulness, some dreariness, a lot of Brighid, and light-filled themes. As usual, I’ll put the full list, and then below, the list plus reasons why I chose each piece.

I hope you enjoy. Again, these are no particular order (other that what I find pleasing), and they are all currently available on Spotify.

  1. Dante’s Prayer (Loreena McKennitt)
  2. The Wild Song (Anuna)
  3. Shepherd Moons (Enya)
  4. Candlemas Song (Lisa Thiel)
  5. Return to The Mother (Reclaiming)
  6. Banish Misfortune (Erutan)
  7. The Quickening (Spiral Dance)
  8. Song to Brighid (Lisa Thiel)
  9. Born of Water (Lila)
  10. Eiri na Greine/Sunrise ( Eamonn Cagney)
  11. Imbolc (Lisa Thiel)
  12. The Dove’s Return (Aine Minogue)
  13. Deeper Well (The Wailin’ Jennys)
  14. Brighid’s Kiss (La Lugh)
  15. No One But You (Erutan)
  16. Brighid (Damh the Bard)
  17. Maiden, Mother, Crone (Kellianna)
  18. Siochain Shuthain (Lukasz Kapuscinski, Adrian Von Ziegler)
  19. Hearth Blessings (Lisa Thiel)
  20. Imbolc (Threefold)
  21. Have you seen but a white lily grow? (Evelyn Tubb, Michael Fields, David Hatcher)
  22. Brighid (Kellianna)
  23. Triple Goddess Blessings (Lisa Thiel)
  24. Tiny Geometries (Ray Lynch)

Here’s the breakdown why I included each song:

  1. Dante’s Prayer – This song is a really great opener for any playlist. I’ve talked about how much I love putting instrumental music at the beginning of a playlist, and while this isn’t instrumental all the way through, it starts with some really great choral singing, as if from a deep, quiet cathedral, or maybe slowly stealing through the still, wintry woods. Loreena is gorgeous here, as always. This song is about finding the light, sometimes in other people, when everything seems lost in the darkness.
  2. The Wild Song – An equally complex and simple song, this number brings to mind the first few sounds of springtime after the winter starts to thaw. The lyrics of this piece will bring you to beautiful places, and the vocalizations are quite something.
  3. Shepherd Moons – When I was a kid, my dad and I used to listen to Enya in the car. So, when I saw that this song was on Ozark Pagan Mamma’s list, I couldn’t NOT put it on mine. The quiet hesitations of the melodic piano line are so in-tune with the way that spring slowly winds into being, awakening from under the snow.
  4. Candlemas Song – Always the thoughtful lyricist, Lisa Thiel reaches out with a simple chant/song to Birgita, an aspect of Brighid. She asks Birgita to awaken the flame within each of us, to relight and rekindle that which has been lost in the darkness of the winter.
  5. Return to the Mother – The great thing about this song is that another song by this group, Sun King, was on my Lammas playlist. The solid beat underneath this song matches up perfectly with either song. It’s a great mirror between the death of the father sun and the reawakening and returning to the moon mother. Almost as though it’s all a circle, isn’t it?
  6. Banish Misfortune – Although I absolutely love Erutan, hers is not the old rendition of this popular, dance-y strings number. I just love the idea behind even the name “Banish Misfortune,” since it calls to mind dancing through the brutally cold winter and still dancing as the springtime peaks out and the first birds start singing.
  7. The Quickening – Spiral Dance has quite a few interesting pieces on their various albums. This one starts out as a fast-paced dance number, then the vibrant vocals come in, celebrating Brighid and the spring being born from the winter Crone.
  8. Song to Brighid – I realized that I put an awful lot of Lisa Thiel on this playlist, and that tells me that she might have a special thing for Brighid. In this piece, Lisa calls Brighid a “blessed woman” and asks her to guide her. It’s such an authentic invocation of the goddess, and you can almost hear the pleading in her voice. I’m pretty much a soft polytheist, but I’m not immune to the devotion some of these musicians have to their spirituality.
  9. Born of Water – There is no way that you won’t sing along to this song. It starts off with some simple birds chirping, a rain stick, a flute…and the chant comes in, simple and memorable, empowering women and anyone who associates with the element of water. “Born of water, cleansing, powerful, healing, changing, I am.”
  10. Eiri na Greine/Sunrise – Just some lovely instrumental music. I looked up the first part of the name before realizing that it was already translated: “Sunrise,” in Irish. This is the time of the year that we celebrate the sun coming up earlier and earlier, and bringing back its warmth with it.
  11. Imbolc – More Lisa Thiel! This song was part of her Circle of the Seasons album, in which she did a song for each Sabbat. However, this piece is again, a dedication to Brighid, as the keeper of the home.
  12. The Dove’s Return – I think this is meant to be a Christmas song, to be honest, considering the album that it falls under on Spotify is “Celtic Christmas II,” but the ethereal sounds of the harp and the vocals bring this bright melody right into the first touches of springtime.
  13. Deeper Well – I am a big fan of The Wailin’ Jennys. They’re actually Canadian, which you can tell on this song due to the lack of a British accent. This isn’t my favorite song of theirs, but I can appreciate the message of looking for something more – instead of “drinking” shallowly in life, you need to “drink” from a deeper well.
  14. Brighid’s Kiss – It’s not too often that I have something from a Celtic Woman album on here. But, there can’t be any doubt that their voices blend so well that they deserve a spot on any playlist. This song isn’t entirely in English, but the parts that are talk about nourishing the people with the sunrise and the epiphany.
  15. No One But You – Here’s another piece by Erutan. Fun fact about this musician – she has recorded in her closet before, using the coats as acoustic dampeners. Anyway, her clear voice is oddly haunting, and I feel like in this playlist it gives us a reminder of the sweetness of springtime, but the iciness that can still overtake the land at this part of the year. Where I’m from, spring is still dragging its feet as Ostara and sometimes even Beltane. So, Imbolc is only the tip of the iceberg.
  16. Brighid – This playlist reminds me of all the songs that were called “Mabon” around that Sabbat. Brighid is everywhere on this playlist! Damh, of course, treats us to some guitar and introduces us to Brighid as the Triple Goddess of fire, healing, and spring.
  17. Maiden, Mother, Crone – I hadn’t previously had Kellianna on one of my lists, but looking back, I have heard about her. In this gorgeous song, lined by some simple piano, she sings about the Triple Goddess in her three aspects. Her voice also gets fuller as the song progresses, going from the Maiden onward.
  18. Siochain Shuthain – I think this song is about a lot of ducks floating on the water (as far as I could tell by the translation…or it’s about peace? Help me out, Google translate). Anyway, it’s a gorgeous instrumental piece using Celtic guitar.
  19. Hearth Blessings – Even more Lisa! Brighid is the goddess of the hearth, and while Lisa doesn’t mention Brighid in this piece, she does talk about the blessings of the house and the home. Since Imbolc is a time of spring cleaning and purifying our space, this blessing for the home seems like a perfect addition to this list.
  20. Imbolc – Threefold is a really curiously awesome group that has very instrumental pieces that incorporate vocals as though they’re chanting instruments, kind of in the background. This song is quite lovely but has almost rock-genre beats to it. It will definitely get you in the mood for spring.
  21. Have you seen but a white lily grow? – The interesting background to my choice of this piece is that I sang it back when I was in voice lessons as a kid. Sometimes I still sing it in the car when I don’t put any music in. Somehow, this song seemed perfect for Imbolc, hinting at the purity of the flower, its comparison to snow before anyone has walked on it. There’s something about the white softness, the sweetness of the imagery, that made it a shoe-in for the Imbolc playlist.
  22. Brighid – Yet another piece of Brighid! This one is by Kellianna again. In this song, Kellianna almost likens the Triple Goddess to an actual flame herself, leading the people out of darkness and into Love and Light.
  23. Triple Goddess Blessings – Here’s the last Lisa Thiel piece for this playlist. In the past I’ve had some hit-or-miss moments with Lisa, so I was pleased that her soft vocals made it onto this list so much. Again, with this piece, you can tell Lisa’s dedication to the Triple Goddess and the ebb and flow of the circular progression, going from Maiden, to Mother, to Crone, and back again.
  24. Tiny Geometries – Just like my father and I listened to a lot of Enya in my youth, we also listened to Ray Lynch. This is the first time I’ve included Ray on a playlist, but I can’t believe it’s taken me so long. The beautiful thing about Tiny Geometries is that you can imagine anything with the pulsing, tender, electric-sounding energy that this music creates. It could be a sunrise. It could be ice crystals melting. Perhaps it’s the birth of a lamb. Anything is possible at this wondrous time.

Thank you, and Blessed Imbolc to you.