☼WHAT IS LAMMAS?☼
On the eve of August 1st, Wiccans gather together to celebrate the first of their harvest festivals, which is named Lammas, or Lughnasadh - pronounced “Loo-nah-sah”, named after the feast of Lughnasadh in honour of the Celtic Sun God “Lugh”.
Lammas is the first of the three Sabbats that honour the grain harvest, a time for gathering in and giving thanks for abundance. It is at this time of year we are called to observe and become aware that a change in season is coming, and celebrate the first signs of our intentions manifesting. It is here we give our thanks, and look forward to reaping rewards from the seeds we planted earlier in the year. We work with the cycle that Mabon or the Autumn Equinox is the Second Harvest of Fruit, and Samhain is the third and Final Harvest of Nuts and Berries.
The name Lammas is a derivation of “loaf mass” - an ancient celebration of the bread loaves that villagers would bake from the first grains of harvest.
Lughnasadh marks the beginning of the noticeable descent of the Sun into the darkness of winter. We have exhausted all our energies in an outward and expansive expression, working alongside nature and journeying through the cycles of the seasons, planting seeds for growth and abundance in our lives. All year we have worked hard on our intentions to see them manifest, and now it is time to enjoy the fruits of our labour. Lughnasadh gives us the opportunity to practise gratitude and count our blessings and allows us perspective on what it is we want to bring in over the coming months.
It is at this time we celebrate the union between the Earth (feminine) and the Sun (masculine), the marriage of Father Sky (Sun God) with Mother Earth (The Goddess) as they bear the fruits of the first harvest of the year. To our ancestors Lughnasadh was a time of great natural magick, the earth, their mother, was providing them with sustenance for life once more with fruits and grain. They watched the seed become sprout, bud, leaf, and then flower. To the ancient mind, as still to us today, this was a feat of stupendous miracle of nature.
The theme of Sacrifice was an important aspect of the ancient celebrations of Lughnasadh. This scared harvest represented the sacrifice of the horned god, as he manifests through the grain, to sustain human lives. This archetypal theme of altruistic sacrificial offering (in this case death) is the same found around the globe in various guises and still today in Christian religion.
Every year the horned god sacrifices himself to enable life on earth, the grain is cut, part of it goes into bread and nutrition for the body, some is stored away and used as seeds next spring, to create new life. A cycle of sacrifice, transformation, death and rebirth are prevalent at Lughnasadh.
In order to understand the nature of a sacrifice is to accept that it is an act of something (or someone) giving itself for the sake of others, this essentially is one form of energy giving itself up so that it can transform into something else. Soil, for example, offers itself up in sacrifice in order to nourish the seeds. The seeds sprout and offer themselves up to become plants. Food sacrifices its energy so that it can become sustenance for our bodies. It is this mystery of sacrifice, of selfless giving that lies at the very core of Lughnasadh.
Lughnasadh is not only celebrated for the peak of summer, it is also the turning of the great wheel, the turning point in the seasons and in our lives, we feel a sense that change is coming, and as the solar energy wanes, we too start to slowly transition towards a more introspective time, of going within. When we mirror nature and rest when it rests, we become more connected to our bodies, to what we need. By going within and listening, we essentially refuel and reserve our energy so that when the spring time approaches we can begin the process of outward expression again for momentum and growth.
It is during these darker months of retreating within which we deepen our knowledge of self, Lughnasadh awakens in us a sense of conscious living, that the fact of existence is that life feeds on life. The lessons gained from sitting with introspection can help us understand on a deeper level what we have gained and what is important to us, but also what we must let go of in order to create room for growth in our lives.
When we realise that we owe our lives to the plants and in some cases animals that we consume, we open up our consciousness to an enduring sense of gratitude.
This Lughnasadh, give thanks for the growth of yourself, for your intentions manifesting and for the foods that will sustain you through the winter.
TRADITIONS AND SYMBOLS OF LAMMAS
One magickal custom was bringing the prized and highly magickal first sheaf of corn across the front door threshold of one’s home. The villagers would offer his honour to the person who grew the first sheaf of corn, and it was thought to ensure luck and protection for the coming year.
The celebration of Lughnasadh includes the ritual cutting of the first grain and preparing the first meal, and an offering thereof, and the ritual of eating it.
With every Pagan Sabbat Fires are mentioned, but fire or light do not play such a prominent role as with the other fire festivals. As there is still more focus here on the gratitude of the first harvest rather than the descent into the darker half of the year.
At Lammas the Goddess becomes the Mother of the Harvest. She is the Grain Mother, Harvest Mother, Harvest Queen, Earth Mother, Ceres and Demeter. Demeter, as Corn Mother, represents the ripe corn of this year's harvest and Her daughter Kore/Persephone represents the grain - the seed which drops back deep into the dark earth, hidden throughout the winter, and re-appears in the spring as new growth. This is the deep core meaning of Lammas and comes in different guises.
The fullness and fulfilment of the present harvest already holds at its very heart the seed of all future harvest. (It is a fact that a pregnant woman carrying her as yet unborn daughter is also already carrying the ovary containing all the eggs her daughter will ever release - she is already both mother, grandmother and beyond, embodying the great Motherline - pure magic and mystery.)
So as the grain harvest is gathered in, there is food to feed the community through the winter and within that harvest is the seed of next year's rebirth, regeneration and harvest. The Grain Mother is ripe and full, heavily pregnant she carries the seed of the new year's Sun God within her. There is tension here. For the Sun God, the God of the Harvest, the Green Man, or John Barleycorn, surrenders his life with the cutting of the corn.
HOW TO BRING THE MAGIC OF LAMMAS INTO YOUR LIFE…
Bake bread from scratch
The art of bread baking connects you with an ancient tradition that dates back thousands of years. If you’re new to bread making, try a simple recipe, and if you’re an old hand, up your game by getting really creative. You can also make biscuits, cakes or any foods made from wheat. Don’t forget to make a small offering loaf for the altar!
Picking wildflowers with your children can be a great activity, especially sunflowers and they invoke a sense of joy. You can pop them in a vase to brighten up your home or press them!
Contemplate and celebrate the sunset
As the Wheel of the Year turns, and the sun begins to make its descent into the darker half of the year, the light begins to fade, and we contemplate the days getting shorter. Take some time to honour the sunset, and that for now our days are prosperous and bountiful. Grab a bottle of your favourite Lammas inspired harvest wine, a blanket and go find yourself a beautiful spot in nature to gaze at the sun as it disappears behind the horizon.
Gather with loved ones and bask in the enjoyment of days filled with sunshine and summer evenings under the stars.
Do a home blessing
The warmer months will soon be gone! Take this opportunity to cleanse your space with palo santo or sage, open your windows to air out your house while you still can. Smudge away the old energies and welcome in new growth and abundance into your home, light some candles and enjoy the warmth.
The harvest is here, and that means it's time to include symbols of the fields on your altar. Sickles and scythes are appropriate, as are baskets. Sheaves of grain, fresh picked fruits and vegetables, a jar of honey, or loaves of bread are perfect for the Lammastide altar. Other symbols of Lammas, or Lughnasadh, that you might wish to use include:
- Grapes & Wine: grapevines are abundant this time of year! Get some fresh grapes in a bowl, add a bottle of wine—local wineries are a great place to visit during this season—or decorate with the wide, green leaves and long pliable vines of the grape plant.
- Corn dolls: the corn doll is a harvest craft that has been found in societies the world over. Make one of your own using the husks of freshly picked corn. If you live in an agricultural area, many farmers are happy to give you the loose husks once they've harvested their crops.
- Ears of corn: Use corn in rituals involving growth and transformation. After all, a single kernel brings you a tall stalk full of (you guessed it!) more kernels! You can also associate it with self-sustainability and fertility, both of people and of the land.
- Iron, such as tools, weaponry, or armour: in many magickal traditions, this time of year is associated with protection magic. If you have access to weaponry, think about adding some to your altar. If you're not into weapons, that's no problem—many agricultural tools are made of iron. Find a scythe, sickle, or other iron implement to add to your altar.
- Autumn flowers, such as cornflowers or poppies, are abundant during the late summer and early fall. Put a vase of fresh ones, or even dried blossoms on your altar to celebrate the first harvest of the year.
- Straw braids are often found at agricultural craft markets, but you can make your own with the detritus from your garden. Braid some grain stalks or straw together to form a braid, representing the three aspects of the land, the sea, and the sky.
- Onions, carrots, and root vegetables are ready to be harvested soon—grow your own and dig them up for Lammas, or collect fresh ones from a local farmer's market stand, and add them to your altar, either loose or in a bowl.
Make A Grain Mother
Make your own Grain Mother or Corn Dolly. Go for a walk and see what you can find - stalks of wheat, oats, barley, rye often left growing on the edges of fields after harvesting, failing that any grasses and/or reeds you can find. Let your creativity out - if you feel confident, weave your Grain Mother into being, but equally you can just lace and tie her into being with Lammas coloured ribbons. As you do so, give thanks for the gifts of Harvest. Place your Grain Mother on your altar or at the centre of celebrations. At Samhain, return the grain stalks to the earth, they contain the seeds of future harvest
TREES, COLOURS AND HERBS ASSOCIATED WITH LAMMAS
Herbs and Plants of Lammas
All Grains - wheat, barley, oats, rye, all representing both fulfilment and potential.
Meadowsweet - Also known as Queen-Of-The-Meadow, Bridewort and Bride of the Meadow. One of the most sacred herbs of the Druids, this was often worn as a garland for Lammas celebrations and was a traditional herb for wedding circlets and bouquets at this time of year. Also used for love spells and can be strewn to promote peace, and its heady scent cheers the heart.
Mint - Mint is another of the three most revered herbs of the Druids (vervain being one of them). Its magical properties are both protection and healing, and at this stage in the year, its properties of drawing abundance and prosperity, are most appropriate.
Sunflower - We take sunflowers for granted, they are perfectly named and loved by children of all ages. By this stage in the year the flower heads are full and heavy with that wonderful spiral of seeds and they spend the whole day gently turning their heads to gaze at the sun. In the Aztec temples of the sun, priestesses carried sunflowers and wore them as crowns. They symbolise the fertility of the Solar Logos.
Calendula - Little suns, pure joy, in all their shades from deep orange to pale yellow.
Colours of Lammas
All shades of green, with every shade of sun and harvest, from gold and yellow to deepest orange.
Blessed Lughnasadh 💛💛💛