By Jeanine DeOya
Meaning — On this first devotion of a Sabbat I do dare to put a downward note in this beginning, but I have to disclose that Lammas is my least favorite Sabbat. I am not alone. It is said that it is the least celebrated Sabbat on the Wheel. Perhaps, because it sits between the Summer Solstice (around June 21 ) and Mabon (around September 22) – two of the favored Sabbats. Or, maybe because it is in the midst of the dog days of summer and the peak season of the hottest weather. During this time many are not comfortable dancing and singing and frolicking, and doing rites in this extreme heat season. During this time people normally conserve their strength. Whatever the reason, it has been my experience that after the Summer Solstice, people take a pass at doing gatherings until Mabon.
This does not diminish the importance of this time of year. On August 1st, Lammas, the Catholic – Old English name meaning “Loaf Mass” or sometimes called ”First Fruits”, is the Festival of the Wheat Harvest, and is the “First Harvest” festival of the year. On this day it was customary to bring loaf bread made from the new crop which was harvested to the churches. The loaf was blessed and it might be employed afterwards to work magic. Some would break the bread into four pieces and placed them in the four corners of the barn, to protect the harvested grain. During these dog days of summer, the gardens are full of goodies, the fields are full of grain, and the harvests approached. People would take time to relax in the heat, and reflect on the upcoming abundance of the fall months.
Before the Catholics changed the name to Lammas it was called Lughnasadh. Lughnasadh was named for the Pagan deity god Lugh, who was known to the Celts as a god of Craftsmanship and Skill. He was celebrated during this time because hard work and skill went into sowing and farming. And this time was used to honor his aspect, and begin reaping what had been sown throughout the past few months. In an ATR (African Traditional Religion) his aspect may be thought of as “Ogun” (the Yoruba god of Craft). In the Kemetic Religion his aspect may be thought of as for “Ptah” the Egyptian god of Artisan Work and Craftmanship. In Native lore “Corn Maiden” the Savior goddess of the Harvest.
Ritual — Depending on your individual spiritual path, there are many different ways you can celebrate Lammas, or Lughnasadh:
- We can focus on the early harvest and celebrate the aspect of the Craftsman god/dess who has gotten us through the year thus far. Thus, we look at the aspects of our own skills and abilities.
- We can celebrate the seasonal event of the first grains being ready for harvested and threshed. And we can celebrate when the apples and grapes are ripe for the plucking. In this we are grateful for the food we have on our tables. – Thus this is the celebration of the first thanksgiving.
- Another way to celebrate is to go deeper into understanding the philosophy, meaning and lore of this spoke of the wheel. We are now into the darkening part of the year. Where the first part of the years was that of learning and doing and renewing; this part of the year now begins with introspection. This is contemplating what we have done, evaluating the first results, and planning again for our next venture for better outcome, growth and improvement. The lore tells of the Oak King death on Midsummer after his life of growing, drinking, feeding, dropping seeds and producing. The Holly King will now take over preparing to bloom with fruit and then retreating under a blanket of snow and cold weather – going within itself. This is the evaluation period and the seeking of the darker self. It is the cerebral search and query of consciousness. There are deities whose stories we may want to focus on during this time for introspection. These are of the divinities who died and met the darker-self only to learn, rise and be resurrected from the Underworld. Some examples are Persephone, Adonis, Osiris, Inanna, Kwan Yin, Shango, and Tammuz . Studying their stories give parable of insight of self exploration.
Altar — Once we know the true meaning of this time of year it gives way to the ideas and creativity of the harvest craftsman. We learn from the trials of the past. We learn the tools for growth. We know the seeds to plant, and the preparations needed. Our Lammas altar reflects the degree we obtained and the processes we implement for the future. It celebrates our achievements by laying grain, fruit, vegetable and candle light. And, most of all, it is an honoring of the first harvest and all others to come.
Make three Harvest Men or Women (your preference) You can make more for and with your kids. Children would love this project with you.
- Make one for the altar as a symbol of the season. Feed it to woodland animals after some time on the altar.
- Make one for your Lammas meal and say a sacred chant of thanks.
- Make one for spell casting insuring good harvest and or success for the next half of the year. Bury it into the earth after the spell to insure prosperity grows.
To make the Harvest Craftsman buy already prepare yeast dough and shape the dough in the shape of a person or symbol. Or, you can make your own yeast bread by getting a good yeast bread recipe and shaping the dough into the desired shape(s) you wish. Other possible shapes are or Egyptian Ankh or African Aku-Aba.
Peace and Joy this Lammas Season*