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.

Lammas/Lughnasadh Playlist: 1 Hour of Music for the August 1st Sabbat

As Witches, we all have different things that get us into the mood for a little Witchery.  Some people like to go outside and talk a long walk.  Others prefer to meditate in a dark room.  Let’s not forget that we all have our own ideas about what Witchery is, too.

The Sabbats are an interesting thing.  For many Witches, they are eight holidays that line the ring of the Wheel of the Year, mostly based on Celtic holidays.  If you’re unfamiliar, they tend to be called Samhain (Oct. 31st-Nov. 1st), Yule (winter solstice), Imbolc (Feb. 1st-2nd), Ostara (spring equinox), Beltane (May 1st), Litha (summer solstice), Lammas/Lughnasadh (Aug. 1st), and Mabon (fall equinox).  Perhaps the reason that these Sabbats are interesting is because, even if you’re a certain type of Witch –kitchen, ocean, natural…the list goes on — the Sabbats mostly have their own distinct flavor and feeling.  Everybody celebrates them differently, sure, but if you’re in the northern hemisphere, Mabon is a harvest holiday, Ostara is a fertility holiday…and there’s not always a lot of wiggle room in that regard.

So, how can we get ourselves into the mood for the Sabbats as they come around?  How can we integrate the distinct feeling of each of these holidays into our busy lives?  For me, one of the best ways is with music.  I can sit at my full-time job desk, do my work, and listen to Spotify.

Of course, not everyone likes the same styles of music, but there’s no denying there is something very, well, Lammas-y about the following songs.  (Some people say “Lughnasadh,” and that’s perfectly fine.  I personally haven’t had the opportunity to work with Lugh, and so I mostly use the term “Lammas” to refer to the grain harvest aspect of the Sabbat.)  The great thing about modern music streaming is that you can listen to a song you really like, and in one click you can find a whole slew of songs by the same artist.  Listening to Sabbat-specific music has introduced me to a number of pagan music groups that I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Without further ado, let’s get into this list.  Rather than just ten songs as a lot of playlists are, I’ve given you over an hour of music to really get you into the spirit of the harvest.  They’re not in a particular order, but they’re all available on Spotify, so you can make your list however you want.  An explanation of why these songs are on this list follows.

  1. Songs from “Friday Afternoons”, Op. 7: Cuckoo!  (Benjamin Britten, Choir Of Downside School)
  2. John Barleycorn (Must Die) – Remastered 2010  (Traffic)
  3. Lughnasadh  (Damh The Bard)
  4. Before The Twilight Falls  (Emerald Rose)
  5. Homegrown Tomatoes  (John Denver)
  6. The Scythe  (Gaia Consort)
  7. Lughnasadh Dance  (Damh The Bard)
  8. The Wind That Shakes The Barley  (Loreena McKennitt)
  9. Everything I Own  (Bread)
  10. Harvest Song  (Spiral Dance)
  11. English Country Dances: Scotch Cap  (Musica Pacifica)
  12. The Lammas Tide  (The Corries)
  13. Lammas  (Lisa Thiel)
  14. Scarborough Fair/Canticle  (Simon & Garfunkel)
  15. Benjamin Bowmaneer  (Kate Rusby)
  16. Harvest Season  (Heather Alexander)
  17. Sun King  (Reclaiming)
  18. Deora Ar Mo Chroi  (Enya)
  19. The Door  (Spiral Dance)
  20. Laddie Are Ya Working?  (Heather Alexander)
  21. In The Name Of the Dance  (S.J. Tucker)
  22. Fear No Darkness  (Adrian Von Ziegler)
  23. Burning of the Piper’s Hut/The Piper’s Lament  (Beltaine)

Why These Songs Are On The List

  1. Cuckoo! – Benjamin Britten was a great 20th century composer of children’s music, and this version is on the soundtrack for Moonrise Kingdom, a quirky Wes Anderson film that happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time.  This short gem explains the life of the cuckoo bird, with the following lyrics, “In April I open my bill.  In May I sing night and day.  In June I change my tune.  In July far far I fly.  In August away I must.”  The child-like innocence of the song combined with the melancholy melody of the cuckoo bird leaving in August seems to fit the bittersweet end of summer.
  2. John Barleycorn (Must Die) – This classic song follows the plight of John Barleycorn, the human personification of the grain, as he is taken from the field, stripped from his shell, crushed, and made into food and drink.  Nothing reminds us of the cycle of the Earth as well as knowing how intimately we must work with the land to reap its harvest.
  3. Lughnasadh – Damh the Bard is an awesome singer whose pagan-themed music is great for any Sabbat.  If you’re a trained musician, you may not love his voice, but the imperfection of it is kind of the appeal.  This song is another homage to the Earthiness of this Sabbat and the power of Lugh.
  4. Before The Twilight Falls – Emerald Rose had years of pagan music recordings, and while I don’t believe they’re producing music anymore, their work will be treasured for years to come.  “Before The Twilight Falls” reminds all of us that we have to seize the rest of the summer before winter sets in.
  5. Homegrown Tomatoes – If you’re a fan of the mysterious tone of a lot of pagan music, you may not like this country-style folk song.  But, we can learn a lot from the lyrics, especially in how great hard work tastes in the harvest of our produce.
  6. The Scythe – Gaia Consort uses all the jangly guitars in this song to evoke the image of a dusty country road and the end of the harvest time.  Just a beautiful classic for this time of year.
  7. Lughnasadh Dance – Another great song from Damh the Bard, very dance-y and exciting (as you could expect from the name).  Damh’s knowledge of folktales and legends really comes out in his songs, and this one is no exception.
  8. The Wind That Shakes The Barley – This song has all the nostalgia and sadness that may come with the dying days of summer.  If you’ve never heard music by Loreena before, you’re missing out.  Her voice will make you feel the melancholy of the end of the season.
  9. Everything I Own – This song is probably the least pagan of the music here, but the name of the group is Bread, so….  In all seriousness, this song is all about being grateful for protection and good times, and how to serve the — er, entity — that has served you in return.
  10. Harvest Song – The beginning of this song is a classic harvest rhyme that people may have been singing for hundreds of years (by the sound of it).  The rest of this piece is a little hectic and chaotic in its feeling, and perhaps gets at the root of the frantic approach some take to the end of the summer.
  11. English Country Dances: Scotch Cap – No beating around the bush here.  I just heard this song and thought it sounded like a good Lammas piece!  No words, just classical music with lots of flute and a dance-y melody.
  12. The Lammas Tide – The singers have such a lovely Irish lilt (I think, I’m an American, so what do I know?) that it just brings you to a pub that everybody goes to after they’ve been out in the fields.
  13. Lammas – Lisa Thiel’s take on Lammas (she does songs for each of the Sabbats) is all about gratitude for the harvest.  We could all stand to thank the Earth for everything she provides!
  14. Scarborough Fair/Canticle – Some people prefer this song at Beltane.  However, my Beltane playlist has the version by Damh the Bard, which is less soft and wispy.  Simon and Garfunkel’s version, which with most people are familiar, brings to mind fields of wheat waving in the wind.  The song does refer to the harvest, too.  And, I have to mention that this version does contain the background verses referring to war and soldiers far from home, which again brings in the melancholy of the season.
  15. Benjamin Bowmaneer – This song doesn’t really mention the harvest at all.  However, the somewhat mischievous guitar in the background just seemed to fit this Sabbat.  And, Kate Rusby’s voice is really beautiful, so if you don’t listen to her, you should check out some more of her music.
  16. Harvest Season – I discovered Heather Alexander very recently, but she almost sounds a little like Loreena McKennitt, which is exciting.  Her piece about the harvest is perfect, especially with its fast beat, like a race to finish picking produce before winter.
  17. Sun King – This chant is entirely an homage to Lugh the Sun King, who sacrifices his life for the harvest.  It’s extremely catchy, but I think captures the grief that can affect people at this time of year, as we watch the summer slip away.  (This melancholy starting in June, after the solstice, is something that I only started experiencing once I started studying Witchcraft and understanding the Wheel of the Year.  Still, I definitely feel it!)
  18. Deora Ar Mo Chroi – I picked this song for the playlist because someone had used this song in the background for a YouTube video talking about Lammas.  It seemed to fit well, so here it is on the list.
  19. The Door – Another piece by Spiral Dance, this song rock-esque song, I think, talks about the difference between the light and the dark, which is a huge theme for this time of year.
  20. Laddie Are Ya Working? – A great song by Heather Alexander which evokes the sense of working in the fields.  It definitely reminds us of all the work that needs to be done before the end of the harvest season.
  21. In The Name Of The Dance – S.J. Tucker is probably one of the classic pagan musicians.  She uses a bit of digeridoo in this piece, which is an instrument that is apparently associated with summer (I didn’t realize this until I started listening to pagan music).  This isn’t my favorite one of her pieces, but if this song introduces you to S.J. Tucker’s work, then I’ve done my job.
  22. Fear No Darkness – I actually have this song on my Beltane playlist for its sheer fun nature.  I absolutely love this song, and any of the Celtic Collection by Adrian Von Ziegler.  However, the title works so well with my Lammas playlist because a lot of the songs on this list are quite melancholy.  I think this song near the end is a great reminder that you don’t need to fear the winter (especially in this day and age, what with supermarkets and central heating), because the summer will always return.
  23. Burning of the Piper’s Hut/The Piper’s Lament – Similarly to the last song, I had another version of this piece (by the same group, “Beltaine”), on my Beltane playlist (fittingly enough).  However, that version was much faster and like a dance.  This one is certainly a lament, and I felt that having these two versions as bookends of the summer is about the best way to show how the Wheel continues turning.

I hope that this playlist helps you get into the mood for Lammas.  Sure, this is one of the less hopeful Sabbats in a way, but it’s no less important.  After all, the harvest is a feast time and in the past was a forecast of how well your winter was going to go.  So, don’t forget to get the joy out of this holiday, too, with a lot of feasting.

If you enjoyed this playlist, please follow my blog and feel free to look back at my older posts.  I’ve been a little MIA recently but I’m back and ready to overhaul this site to be more user-friendly to readers.  Thanks for reading!