Lughnasadh, also known as Lammas, falls on the 1st of August and is known as the celebration of the first harvest. The days are hot, the fields are filled with golden corn, and we are now at the mid way point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. The days are getting noticeably shorter as the sun begins to wane.
I was late writing this post. I got home last night tired and feeling the post holiday blues as it was the first day back at work after an amazing few days away camping, all I wanted to do was get to bed, or go back to Croyde! I was exhausted and deflated, so trying to think of the words to write about Lughnasadh was the last thing I wanted!
However, the next day I went on my usual walk to the woods, and by being able to do this very act makes me count my blessings every time I do it! As I walked through the trees I am able to see the abundance of growth and ripening apples, nuts and berries there! This made me realise that this is the very nature of the festival of Lughnasadh!….being able to count our blessings, to be grateful for all the richness in our lives and all the bounty that is yet to come at Mabon, full harvest time. Instead of being grumpy that I’ve had to come back home from holiday I realise that I am so lucky and grateful to have had that amazing time away with my loved ones and closest friends, to have this beautiful new wood on my doorstep that is filled with life and food that I am able to forage for throughout the year. And for my own garden, where I have now just harvested the first cucumbers, runner beans, courgettes and tomatoes! This simple act of turning around how I felt made me realise that THAT is the message behind most of our pagan festivals, particularly the harvest ones, but even if you are not Pagan, it’s a mindset that can help throughout life, just to be grateful for the things that surround us, the love of family and friends, the joy of simple things and just being able to spend time with them, and in nature. So for me this year, that is what I am focusing my Lughnasadh blessings on, the joy, fun and love of my family, friends, home and nature, the abundance that I have all around me!
Lughnasadh is the first of the harvests, the grain harvest, a time of gathering in the grain, a time to be thankful for the abundance. It is also referred to as Lammas, which translates as “loaf mass” referring to the bread baked with the first grains.
It is also the festival of Lugh, the Celtic Sun God, the God of Light. He would be celebrated by feasting, market fairs, games and bonfire celebrations. Circle dancing, reflecting the movement of the sun in sympathetic magic, was popular, as were all community gatherings. August was considered an auspicious month for handfastings and weddings.
But underlying this is the knowledge that the bounty and energy of Lugh, of the Sun, is now beginning to wane. It is a time of change and shift. Active growth is slowing down and the darker days of winter and reflection are beckoning.
All things to do with honouring the grain, corn and harvest would be celebrated. The Goddess is known by many names throughout the year, at Lughnasadh 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 fulfillment 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.
The Sun God, Lugh, as John Barleycorn, is the living Spirit of the corn, or grain. As the corn is cut so John Barleycorn is cut down also. He surrenders his life so that others may be sustained by the grain, so that the life of the community can continue. He is both eaten as the bread and is then reborn as the seed returns to the earth. The first sheaf of corn is supremely important, produces the first (and best) seed and assurance of future harvest. Death and rebirth. Everything dies in its season. Everything is reborn. This is our whisper of immortality. And the wonderful bittersweet of Lughnasadh / Lammas.
Customs of Cutting the Grain
There are many customs throughout Europe around the cutting of the grain or corn and they applied to all cereal crops including wheat, barley, rye and oats. Both the cutting of the first gain and the last grain are significant.
The first sheaf would often be ceremonially cut at dawn, winnowed, ground and baked into the Harvest Bread which was then shared by the community in thanks. The first barley stalks would be made into the first beer of the season. The first sheaf guarantees the seed and thus continuity.
The last sheaf was also ceremonially cut, often made into a ‘corn dolly’, carried to the village with festivity and was central to the Harvest Supper. The corn dolly was made into a Corn Maiden (after a good harvest) or a cailleach, hag or cone (after a bad harvest). She could be dressed with ribbons, even clothed.
This last sheaf would live in the home, often above the fireplace or hearth of the home, until the next harvest. Or it might be placed in the branches of a tree or mixed with the seed for the next year’s sowing. In some way it eventually needed to return to the earth from whence it came so that the fertilizing spirit of John Barleycorn, of the Harvest God, could pass from harvest to harvest. It could be ploughed back, returned to decay and rot, or burnt and the ashes scattered.
In some parts of Europe the tradition was to weave the last sheaf into a large Corn Mother with a smaller ‘baby’ inside it, representing the harvest to come the following year. Once the harvest was completed, safely gathered in, the festivities would begin. Bread was made from the new grain and thanks given to the Sun’s life-giving energy reborn as life-giving bread.
This Lughnasadh, 1st August 2019 is special because it falls at the time of the new Moon. New moons are a time for manifesting what you want in your life, for new beginnings, a time to set intentions. If there are changes you want to bring into your life or a situation you want to change, the new moon is the time to do it! And this particular one is even more special because it is known as the Black Moon!! Its where we have two new moons in one month, so this second one is even more powerful because it carries the energies of the first, which was super powerful as it was a solar eclipse too! This means there is lots of lunar energy around to give a boost to your manifestations and harvest celebrations! For more pagan led articles and posts check out my Green Witch Hedgerow Herbalist page https://www.facebook.com/aurorastargreenwitch/?ref=bookmarks
For an extra boost to the mind, body and spirit to carry you through the final Summer months and get ready for the Autumn Equinox, holistic therapies are ideal! They are also a fantastic way to clear the mind, allowing you to focus on setting new intentions and goals for the remainder of the year. Therapies such as reflexology can be transformed into a combined treatment with reiki, amazing for rebalancing and nurturing the body, creating the ultimate level of relaxation and healing!