Tonight is Liþa-eve

Say what? Liþa, pronounced Litha, (the þ being the now-abandoned letter thorn) is the old Anglo-Saxon word for midsummer. Bede reports out a double month here: ǣrra līþa and æfterra līþa, which I would translate as before and after liþa.

The word itself is, according to Wiktionary: Apparently related to liþe (“mild”)’ probably cognate with Serbo-Croatian ljeto, Czech léto, Polish lato, Russian лето (léto, “summer, year”), and is descended from (West) Proto-Germanic *linþiz. Cognate with Old Saxon līthi, Old High German lindi (German lind), meaning gentle, mild, pleasant.

Back in Old Jutland, whence came most of the language, June and July were the mild months, with highs in the 60’s and lows in the 50’s. Before that, May was the tail end of a blustery, bud-shaking Spring, and after that came the heat of August (“72 again today, no relief in sight“). Midsummer was celebrated by most of the paganfolk of Europe, usually with bonfires, just like Walpurgisnacht, and every other pre-Christian holiday.

The Angles and Saxons and Jutes (Oh, my) would have started their celebrations the night before, because twelve hours of pre-soak is an excellent way to prep for a day-long party that ends with you setting fire to things.

NOTE: Got the date wrong. LAST night was Liþa-eve, because we hit the solstice at 1AM this morning.


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