Tuesday, June 24, 2014


So, a few days ago it was my grandmother's birthday, the first day of summer and longest day of the year. By chance I happened to see a piece about pagan celebrations of the solstice* which (a) made me envy the pagans for just one thing: they get to go up close to Stonehenge on these special occasions, which we Presbyterians do not, and (b) included the following passage which caught my eye:

Some refer to the summer solstice as "Litha," 
a term that may derive from 8th century monk Bede's 
The Reckoning of Time.  Bede names "Litha" 
as the Latin name for both June and July in ancient times.

I'd just been working my way through proofing of the 1960 HOBBIT's section on phases of the moon, in which Tolkien uses the Shire Calendar's reckoning of Midsummer, in which June 30th is followed by Lithe ('the June Lithe'), then Midsummer's Day, then Lithe ('the July Lithe'), so that June 30th and July 1st are four days apart, not one as in our modern calendar. But I'd always just assumed the word 'Lithe' was his own invention. So when I saw this I thought so that's where he got it from. A little checking revealed this was well-known to NeoPagans (most of whom cd probably have told the writer of the article cited above that Bede was giving the Old English names of the months, not the Latin ones.

So, another little example of Tolkien reviving a bit of old medieval lore and unobtrusively working it in to his own fictions.

just finished: VERY FAR AWAY FROM ANYWHERE ELSE, by Le Guin
just started: THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, by Salinger


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