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Lammas/Lughnasadh Sabbat

August 1

 

 

Great Mother and Great Father

Please bless us, and these symbols of

the bounty of your Earth.

May they remind us of

the ever-turning wheel

and the cycle of

death and renewal

that is the dance of life.

 

The work of the summer and spring is finally paying off in the first harvest.  Offerings of bread can be given to the faery folk and left for wild animals.  During this time, you may wish to honour the pregnant Goddess, and the waning energy of the Sun God, as the sun begins to fade.  You can honour them by leaving libations of bread and cider.

Lammas is the celebration of the first fruits of the harvest.  The Sun King, now Dark Lord, gives his energy to the crops to ensure life while the Mother prepares to give way to her aspect as the Crone.  Now is the time to teach what you have learned, to share the fruits of your achievements with the world.

Lammas, or Lughnassadh, honours the Celtic God Lugh and may also have some association with the Roman Moon Goddess, Luna.  Lugh was a God of the harvest, fire, light and sun.  He was the King of the Tuatha De Danaan and the consort of Dana, the first Great Mother Goddess of Ireland.  Lugh’s sacrificial death and rebirth as a sheaf of grain at Lughnasadh symbolizes that even a God must eventually bow down to his Goddess, through whose benevolence he is reborn.

Other rituals on this Sabbat contain enactments of growth, birth, honour, and thanks to the Goddess from whose womb they grew, and thanks to Lugh, in his aspect as Sun God, for blessing and impregnating the womb with heat and light.

This festival has two aspects.  First, it is one of the Celtic fire festivals, honouring the Celtic culture-bringer and Solar God Lugh.  In Ireland, races and games were held in His name and that of His mother, Tailtiu.  The feast, or festival, of Lugh celebrates the triumph of Lugh over his arch-rival Balor.  In one legend, Balor was a Sun god and, after his defeat, he descended into the underworld to heal.  That is the reason why the days have begun to visibly wand at this time.

Another part of that legend says that Balor was a great chieftain of a farming community and, when defeated, he was forced to give Lugh all his knowledge about agriculture, tiling and land management.

The second aspect is the Saxon Feast of Bread, at which the first of the grain harvest is consumed in ritual loaves.

One of the old traditions for Lughnassadh was that the King of Tara hosted a feast containing one product of the land from each province of his kingdom.  This not only showed that his reign was prosperous but also his thanksgiving for the upcoming harvest.  This is a festival giving thanks for the goodness that we are about to receive.

As part of this thanksgiving process, the first sheaves of ripe grain were hand-ground and baked into a loaf of bread and shared by all members of the community. The loaves were shaped into forms symbolizing things like the God of the Harvest, the Goddess, the wheel of the year, or simply left round with the shape of a stalk or sheaf of wheat etched into the top.

It is not just the wheat that is important.  Bread is elemental.  Earth, Air, Fire, and Water combine in a substance that has nourished people since the beginning of time.  Bread combines seeds from the Earth (flour), with Water, the substance that makes up most of our being.  Add in salt, the purifier, and yeast, the sacred changer of the gods - the secret, airborne traveller who changes rotten grapes into wine.  Mix all of these together, kneading the dough to shape and form.  Finally, add Fire to bake it.  Suddenly, from those four ancient, basic elements, you have bread.  No wonder it is called the staff of life.

On the festival of Lammas, the day that represents the first fruits of the harvest, we also celebrate and honour the fertility aspect of the union between the Goddess and the Horned God.  A centuries-old custom, which is carried on today, is the making of Corn Dollies – small figures fashioned from braided straw.  The Dollies are placed on the altar to represent the Mother Goddess, who presides over the harvest.

Lammastide was also the traditional time of the year for craft festivals.  The medieval guilds would create elaborate displays of their wares, decorating their shops and themselves in bright colours and ribbons, marching in parades, and performing strange ceremonial plays and dances for the entranced onlookers.

A ceremonial highlight of such festivals was the “Catherine Wheel”, a large wagon wheel which was taken to the top of a hill, covered with tar and set on fire, and then ceremoniously rolled down the hill – representing the end of summer and the decline of the Sun God.

For Wiccans, the mystery of Lammas is that by fulfilling the vision of light in bringing to fruition the seed sown in the spring, we must face the vision of death.

We know that the King bears the wound that he received at Midsummer and it is a wasting wound that will not heal.  He slowly weakens and His creative power is spent.  His powers are waning – a reflection of the failing light.  But Lammas is also a time of hope, for in the cutting of the corn the seed is gathered in – the hope for life to come.  We celebrate Lammas as a time of fulfilment;  it is a time of joy when we reap all that we have sown.

The celebration of Lammas is a pause to relax and open ourselves to the changes of the seasons so that we may be one with its energies and accomplish what is intended.

Colours appropriate for Lughnassadh are red, orange, gold, and yellow.  Also green, citrine and grey.  Candles may be golden yellow, orange, green, or light brown.  Stones to use during Lammas include yellow diamonds, aventurine, sardonyx, peridot and citrine.  Animals associated with this time are roosters and calves.  Mythical creatures include the phoenix, griffins, basilisks, centaurs and speaking skulls.  Plants associated with Lammas are corn, rice, wheat, rye and ginseng.  Traditional herbs of the Lammas Sabbat include acacia flowers, aloes, cornstalks, cyclamen, fenugreek, frankincense, heather, hollyhock, myrtle, oak leaves, sunflower, and wheat.  Incense for the Lughnassadh Sabbat Ritual might include aloes, rose, rose hips, rosemary, chamomile, passionflower, frankincense, and sandalwood.

Traditional Pagan foods for the Lughnassadh Festival include homemade bread, corn, potatoes, berry pies, barley cakes, nuts, wild berries, apples, rice, roasted lamb, acorns, crab apples, summer squash, turnips, oats, all grains and all First Harvest foods.  Traditional drinks are elderberry wine, ale and meadowsweet tea. 

It is also appropriate to plant the seeds from the fruit consumed in ritual.  If the seeds sprout, grow the plant with love and as a symbol of your connection with the Divine.

As Summer passes, Wiccans remember its warmth and bounty in the food we eat.  Every meal is an act of attunement with Nature, and we are reminded that nothing in the Universe is constant.

May the Lord and Lady bless you all with lots of love, and a plentiful First Harvest.

 

Lammas/Lughnasadh Correspondences

Colours: red, orange, gold, and yellow.  Also green, citrine and gray. 

Candles:  golden yellow, orange, green, or light brown. 

Stones:  yellow diamonds, aventurine, sardonyx, peridot and citrine. 

Animals:  roosters and calves. 

Mythical creatures:  the phoenix, griffins, basilisks, centaurs and speaking skulls. 

Plants:  corn, rice, wheat, rye and ginseng. 

Traditional herbs:  acacia flowers, aloes, cornstalks, cyclamen, fenugreek, frankincense, heather, hollyhock, myrtle, oak leaves, sunflower, and wheat. 

Incense:  aloes, rose, rose hips, rosemary, chamomile, passionflower, frankincense, and sandalwood.

Traditional Pagan foods:  homemade bread, corn, potatoes, berry pies, barley cakes, nuts, wild berries, apples, rice, roasted lamb, acorns, crab apples, summer squash, turnips, oats, all grains and all First Harvest foods.  Traditional drinks are elderberry wine, ale and meadowsweet tea.

 

A Lammas Meditation 

 

BY: Laura Wildman

Reprinted with permission from "Wiccan Meditations" published by Citadel Press, a division of Kensington Books.

 

 

This is the season of John Barleycorn, the European God of the grain. Grain is a staple of life in many cultures, and their religions reflect this reality. Rites that celebrate the transformations of the grain, from planting to harvest, are at the heart of many festival cycles. One recurring theme in such rites portrays the essence of the God being absorbed into the grain. He is then cut down, a harvest sacrifice for the good of the tribe. In His rebirth each spring, we see the continuity of the cycle and the renewal of life.

The heat hangs heavy in the air as you enter into the clearing. It is accented by the loud humming of June beetles and the buzz of bees. There is hardly any breeze. A brook is beside you. The flowing waters of the brook look appealing. You think about removing your clothes and jumping in, but then you hear the sound of pipes in the fields on the other side of the brook. You're curious about what's happening, and go to find out.

You cross the brook using stepping-stones and make your way up the gentle slope. There is a fence around the pasture. You find the gate, open it, and enter the field. The hay smells sweet and strong. The crickets are chirping. They hop out of your way as you walk through the tall grass. The grass tickles your hands and rubs against your legs as you make your way through it. A hare scampers and hides, camouflaged among the browns and greens.

You reach the garden that was planted last spring. You remember the planting rites and notice that the vegetables are full and lush. You reach out and part the large, rough leaves of a zucchini plant to see the shiny green fruit hidden beneath them. The cornstalks are tall-almost as tall as you. Nubs of young ears line their surface. The tomatoes are not quite ripe, but the peas and beans can be picked. You snap off one of the pea pods and break it in half. The fresh green scent is released. You place the peas in your mouth and savor their sweet taste.

You walk through the garden admiring the growth. The musical sound that beckoned to you is coming from the other side of the hill. With the excitement of discovery, you walk on.

As you reach the top of the hill and look down, you see stretched out before you an ocean of yellow grain. A gentle breeze comes through. The shafts sway lightly in the wind, creating a wave of wheat. Below you is a couple sitting by a hedgerow. They both appear to be of early middle age. She has the wide hips and breasts of motherhood; He, a thick yellow growth of beard on His chin. He is playing His pipes for Her, a wistful, plaintive lament. You watch as He finishes His song. They stand and embrace. It does not appear to be a sad scene, yet you feel a sense of sweet parting.

They release their lovers' embrace. She gently smiles, touching His fuzzy cheek. You hear Her call Him "John." He throws His head back and laughs at some private joke shared between them. The sound echoes through the field. He then kisses Her good-bye and walks into the field of grain. His fingers lightly play along the tops of the sheaves as He makes His way deeper and deeper into the tall growth. He wades until He stands in the center of the field. He is completely surrounded by grain. His outstretched palms lie lightly on the heads of the seeds. He looks over to where the Lady stands. As She waves to Him, he smiles and slowly starts to expand, become translucent, and fade from sight. His essence is pouring into the grain all around Him until all that is left is the grain. A breeze ripples the wheat, reflecting the sun in a wave of golden hues. When you look back to the Lady, She too has gone.

The silence is soon replaced with excited, happy voices. People-men, women, and children are coming over the hill, carrying baskets and harvesting equipment. They begin the harvest, singing joyful songs. You can smell the fresh hay as it lands on the ground to be raked into mounds. You are handed a tool, a rake, or a scythe. The wooden surface is smooth from years of use. You take it and help with the harvest.

(Pause long enough for the task.)

It takes time for all the sheaves to be cut and bound, but finally, you stand up and stretch. Your muscles may be sore, but you feel satisfied with the work you've accomplished. You look around the field. It appears that the grain has all been cut. Then you notice one spot. One small sheaf still stands, waving in the wind. A young girl emerges from the crowd, carrying a small sickle. Calls of encouragement follow her into the field. She approaches the sheaf and shyly cuts it. A cheer rings out. She gathers the fallen grain and returns to her mother. Together, they quickly fashion a small doll from it, holding it up to the crowd, which responds with more cheers and song.

While the merriment continues, the young girl uncovers a basket filled with freshly baked bread. Its rich scent makes your mouth water. A keg of cold ale is brought up from the stream and opened. Each person walks past the mother and daughter, taking a piece of cut bread from the basket and a glass of cold brewed and fermented grain. Both are symbols of the Earth's and John Barleycorn's sacrifice for the good of the people.

The young girl smiles up at you as she hands you your piece of bread. It feels warm in your hands. You realize the bread contains the essence of the Earth and sun and of the God. You give thanks as you bite into it, tasting the love that it holds. Enjoy your glass of ale and your bread, the fruits of your work and gifts from the Gods.

(pause)

The sun is beginning to set. The harvesters are getting ready to leave for the day. They wave good-bye to you as they, and you, begin to make your way home. You walk up the slope, through the green garden, and back into the pasture. Find the gate and close it tight behind you. Before you is the stream with its crossing stones. You lightly jump from one to the other, back into the clearing, and return to your inner home.

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