DIY Rituals for the Summer Solstice

Litha is the ancient pagan celebration of midsummer. Here are eight rituals you can use to embrace the spirit of the season.

On June 21st, the sun reached its furthest point from the celestial equator, meaning that today is the longest day of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. According to many faiths, particularly various iterations of pagan beliefs, the equinoxes and solstices at the juncture between the changing seasons are times of potent change where we can engage with the energies and magical bodies that underlie our ordinary lives.

Whether or not you believe in magic in any form, it's not hard to see that we live at the mercy of the planetary bodies around us. They determine when our skies are dark and light, and whether we're shivering in the snow or soaking up rays on a beach. Naturally, many religions and forms of spirituality have created rituals to engage with the revolving planets and the seasons, which in their cyclicality seem to represent a kind of intelligent design implemented by something much larger than us.

The summer solstice has long been known as Midsummer, and in pagan times this holiday was known as Litha. Traditionally, this is a time of new beginnings. It's associated with fire, passion, and renewed energy; but also with slowing down and releasing things that no longer serve you, letting the fires of the season cleanse away the past to make room for new growth. It's also about reconnecting with the earth, and embracing the creative and nurturing forces within and around you. Vibrationally, it's said to be a time that involves masculine energy and the root, sacral, and solar plexus chakras.

Image via Heron's Rock

Even if you've missed the summer solstice, the period of solstice celebration can take place between June 19th and June 24th, the latter date being St. John's Day in Christian tradition. To celebrate this period, there are a variety of rituals and spiritual practices of varying complexity that you can engage in.

One caveat: it's important to be careful about conducting prayers or rituals if you don't practice the faith the ritual comes from, research the true meaning behind them; and remember, you can always write your own prayers or design your own practices. With that said, here are ten ways to celebrate midsummer.

1. Light a Bonfire

During pagan times in rural England, villagers would traditionally build bonfires on Midsummer's Eve, believing that the flames could keep away evil spirits. If you jumped over the fire, you'd be promised good luck for the year.

The Irish, who often also celebrated Litha, believed that the bonfire could grant wishes. To request something from the flames, all you need to do is carry a stone in your pocket and walk around the fire three times as you whisper your requests. After you've done that, throw your stones into the fire.

Image via Pinterest

2. Commune with the Fae

Another ancient English ritual says that if you stay up all night sitting in the middle of a stone circle, you can communicate with the fae—which are, according to a pagan myth, out in larger numbers than usual at midsummer. This is because they are protecting the earth from the battle raging in the sky between the Oak King, who was in power through the winter, and the Holly King, who has arisen from slumber to take his place in the clouds.

Although they are mostly kindhearted protectors, tradition says that sometimes the fae can play tricks on humans. If you are conducting a ritual involving the fae, there are a few precautions you can take, including keeping rue in your pocket and turning your jacket inside out. If you do happen to meet a malicious spirit, tradition says that you can follow a ley line to safety.

3. Keep an All-Night Vigil

If you'd rather not take the chance of encountering a trickster from the other side, then there are many other all-night rituals you can use to embrace the season and reflect on your intentions for the coming months. For example, you can light a candle and spend the night in meditative contemplation, or turn to a prayer book to find a variety of ways to shape your thought process throughout the ritual.

Whatever you do, make sure you find some special way to honor the sunrise, for midsummer is all about honoring the balance between light and darkness while relishing in the extended presence of the light.

Image via Nightpik

3. Make Paper Boats

In South America, worshipers have traditionally celebrated Litha by filling paper boats with flowers, setting them aflame, and setting them off on doomed journeys on the river.

The practice of sending boats into the river is a common pagan ritual practiced worldwide, not only for the solstice but for honoring the goddess Hekate any time of year. Practitioners often write prayers on little pieces of paper and place them in the boats, then send their messages out to sea.

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4. Make a Midsummer Treat

In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the fairy queen Titania says:

Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes,

Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,

With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries;

The honey bags steal from the humble-bees,

And, for night-tapers, crop their waxen thighs,

And light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes.

In the spirit of this abundance, take advantage of the lush growth that occurs in the early days of summer and whip up a celebratory dish or two. For drinks, try traditional mead, borage wine punch, lemon lavender mojitos, a kombucha-fueled Swedish tart, or fairy nectar for a sweet non-alcoholic beverage. To take advantage of the abundance of wildflowers and fruit growing at this time, try crystallized borage flowers, grilled peaches with cardamom cream, or oranges with rosemary.

For a meal, try out a fresh fruit & fennel salad, grilled shrimp with summer squash, or any of these 15 Scandinavian recipes. At this time of natural abundance, anything with plenty of herbs, fruit, and vegetables goes.

Image via Food and Wine

5. Set up an Altar

Those who follow Wiccan or Pagan beliefs often leave out sprigs of lavender, fennel, chamomile, and rose petals for fairies, who they believe are most abundant at this turning point between the seasons. Many also create altars to celebrate the advent of the summer.

If you want to design a midsummer altar, try your best to make one outside, for this season is all about the elements and the natural world. Gather things that shine or evoke images of the sun—orange candles, lightbulbs, citronella lamps and other glowing things will all work. Some other additions might include oak trees and acorns, which traditionally symbolize energy, along with sunflowers. You might also layer the altar with incense, oils, and stones like clear quartz, yellow tourmaline, garnets, and seashells. Depending on your beliefs, you might also leave tributes to fertility goddesses like Litha, Demeter, Aphrodite, and Freya, or sun gods like Pan, Apollo, or Ra.

You can also create your own God's Eye, which are traditional crafts that you can tailor to any season by selecting specific shades of yarn, or build other crafts like solstice mandalas or sun wheels.

Image via Sage Goddess

Image via

6. Travel to Stonehenge

Nowhere are the celebrations of the solstice more extravagant and high-profile than at Stonehenge, the mysterious testament to pagan ingenuity. Each year, Stonehenge hosts a Wiccan festival on the solstice, which begins around 4:52 a.m. when the sun rises.

It is believed that Stonehenge was constructed between 2000 and 3000 B.C., and since on the solstice the sun aligns perfectly with its Heel Stone and Altar Stone, it is believed that the solstice has been celebrated there for thousands of years. Every year, pagans, druids, and many others flock to the site to conduct rituals and worship the sun.

This year, for the first time, there is a 360-degree live stream of Stonehenge, so you can watch the sun slip through the gaps in the stones any morning of the year.

Image via Daily Express

7. Cast a Spell

The solstice is traditionally a time to conduct rituals around holy wells, wheels, or sacred streams. Simple herb magic will also work just as well.

To ensure that you're starting the season off on the right foot, try out this spell from the witch Lisa Lister, meant to encourage revitalization, healing, and empowerment. Create or find a pouch made of yellow material, and fill it with mugwort and bay leaves. Tie it up with red thread, and put it under your pillow. The yellow symbolizes the power of the sun, and the red thread signifies fire and creative energy. The bay leaves also represent the sun, and mugwort is an herb that traditionally encourages visionary revelations.

Image via Tumblr

8. Get Involved in Climate Activism

Whether it's beginning a new relationship, a new practice, or simply slowing down and letting time flow by, midsummer is a great excuse to invite something new into your life.

This is the perfect time to begin engaging with climate activism, for example. Midsummer is also about celebrating nature, which has always rebounded from bitter wintertime desolation to its current state of abundance. Now that balance is threatened, and since the solstice is a time of honoring the sanctity of the seasons, there's no better time than now to fight for the equilibrium that makes it possible for us to live on the earth. Pagan ideas can teach us a lot about conservation, as many of them revolve around working closely with the land and wasting nothing. From working on your garden at home to engaging politically, this time of year is an ideal moment to remember the power and importance of the earth—and to implement the vital changes that need to occur so we can keep living on it.

Image via WildUtopia

However you celebrate, make sure you do so mindfully. Be careful of where you pick herbs and exercise caution with fire, and however you practice, make sure that your actions honor the sanctity of all living things.

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It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!


So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—

Workaway Workaway

Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).


You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway

Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker