As a practising witch, I live very closely to Mother Nature and her cycles. Not only does this help me to connect with my environment and look after it better, but it also helps me be happier, calmer and less prone to overwhelm. You can read more about how here in my blog ‘What Is The Meaning of Cyclical Living?’ During the month of August, we celebrate the festival of Lammas – another turn on the cycle of the Wheel of The Year. But what is Lammas and how might you celebrate it where you are?
A Celtic Festival
On the 1st August, we celebrate the pagan festival known as Lammas, or Lughnasadh after the Celtic god of crafts Lugh. This is the first harvest – the grain harvest – and is one of the eight celebrations, known as Sabbats, on the Wheel of The Year. Yes, it still very much feels like summer (kind of!) and people are still enjoying holidays and sunny evenings. There is plenty to celebrate but there is also a shift. The high energy action of the summer begins to slow down as we shift from fire element to water element. The evenings are slowly drawing in and the days are becoming shorter. And if you look around, you can see that apples are appearing on trees, early blackberries are starting to ripen and wheat fields are golden and ready to be harvested.
This is a time that we begin to reap what we have sown. To look back over the first part of the year and consider what we put out there that might not have come to fruition, what did, and perhaps to look ahead to the winter and think about what seeds we would like to store and plant out for next year.
Grain has a very long history of importance and there are many examples of gods and goddesses of the grain. Hardly surprising as this was such a staple part of our ancestors’ diet. The grain itself became a symbol of life, death and rebirth – the very things that are celebrated by the Wheel of The Year. The corn – the mother aspect, often represented as the goddess Demeter – releases the grain, the seed – represented by Demeter’s daughter Persephone – back to the earth where it will be buried over winter. Come spring and summer it grows back to corn in order to release it’s seed once more to the earth.
Photo by Marta Dzedyshko on unsplash.com
What Is Lammas?
The word ‘Lammas’ comes from the old English word ‘hlaf-maesse’, meaning ‘loaf mass’. On the 1st August – not before, it was considered bad luck! – the farmers would have cut the first grains at dawn and their wives would have started to turn it into bread to share with the whole community as a way of giving thanks for that year’s success. Because of course, once upon a time, a failed year of grain would have meant a winter of very hungry families.
How You Can Celebrate Today
This time of year is a time of gratitude. During my yoga classes during the week of Lammas I teach poses designed to open the heart, to bow down to the earth and meditations designed to allow us time to give thanks to the body that brought them onto the mat that day. If you cannot attend a yoga class or yoga is not something for you, just try a simple ritual of creating a list before you go to bed of all the things you are grateful for that day. A simple practice of gratitude has been shown to improve levels of happiness and wellbeing!
Some other ways to celebrate Lammas include:
- Make corn dollies which you can display until Imbolc next year and then return to the earth somehow – perhaps burning in the last of the winter fire and then scattering the ashes
- Bake bread
- Have a harvest feast with your dearest ones
- Get out in nature and observe the changes in the season
- Decorate your altar with grain, corn, meadowsweet, mint, calendula and sunflowers
‘What Is Lammas’ is one of a number of blogs I have written about cyclical living and the Wheel of The Year festivals. Read on here: