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 Celebrating Lughnassadh/Lammas   

The days fly past and already in the northern hemisphere we are galloping away from that moment when the sun was at her or his height at Midsummer, towards the festival of the first harvest. In the southern hemisphere on the other side of the wheel of the world you are getting ready to greet the early spring in your ritual calendar and moving away from Midwinter.

The first harvest time at the end of July and the beginning of August is for me not a time of the powerful sun gods riding across the sky in their golden chariots but the much more hands on sun mothers, making sure the workers in the fields get their dinner and that nobody is treading on the sleepy field mice.

Sun mothers appear in hot and cold lands alike. In one Australian Aboriginal legend from the Wotjobaluk tribe of Victoria, Australia, the Sun Mother carries a bark torch through the skies each day and returns to the west each evening to feed her waiting infant.

In the folk customs of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, the solar Goddess, Saule, Queen of the Heavens and Earth, dressed and crowned with gold, is still in folk tradition, said to drive her shining chariot across the skies and to walk among the people to bless the growing fields. In winter, Saule dances with her daughters, the planets, in defiance of the darker days. Throughout the year, Saule scolds her lazy husband Menulis the Moon who will not keep up with her and disappears for three days each month.

In the Basque region of Northern Spain, the sun is still revered in folk lore as Grandmother Sun. Her worship has been transferred to the Virgin Mary who is associated with mother Mari, the Storm Goddess in whose wise bosom Grandmother Sun sleeps at night

The Japanese Sun Goddess Amaterasu Omigami was the chief deity or kami, deity of nature. She is compassionate and wise. However because Amaterasu is all-seeing and all-knowing, occasionally the behaviour  of humanity makes her temporarily despair and she returns to her  sun cave, causing an eclipse.

Aine was one of the Sun Mother of the Celts, linked with fertility, healing, goddess of cattle and corn and the cycles of the solar and lunar year, for she was also a moon goddess. The top of her sacred hill in Munster, in Ireland, like that of the hill of her sun sister Grainne in Leinster, was the scene for torchlight processions and bonfires at the Summer Solstice and again at the first grain harvest at the beginning of August.

Enjoying the sun in our lives, even on cloudy days

I am reminded on sunny summer days of a line from the I Ching Oracle. Be not sad; be as the sun at midday. Being as the sun at midday means enjoying very moment, not fretting about what went wrong or we did not achieve or worrying about the future as yet unmade. It is hard to always be like the sun at midday especially if it is a cloudy midday actually or emotionally. Then you have to push your way through doom and gloom and you may feel more like retiring to bed and drawing the curtains on the world rather than being little Miss or Master Sunshine.

For me as we approach the first harvest Lughnassadh there is lots in my personal harvest that is not yet ripe and other crops I planted that are past their sell by date or never took root at all!

But it is important to focus on what is of worth and what has been achieved, usually more than you thought possible. You may be moving into the early spring in the southern world with a chance to plant again maybe more wisely. Alternatively like me you may be getting out the secateurs to cut back the garden gone wild with alternate sun and rain. Wherever you are and whatever your seasonal call, stop to enjoy any moments of sunshine and joy.

It is hard for me with my puritanical work ethic and all too real Work Mountain to enjoy relaxing and not to count only what I have actually produced in terms of readings, articles and book chapters, my external harvest, as being of worth. The precious weekend moments with my family now grown up and scattered, watching the badgers that come to the back door every night as darkness falls, or sitting and listening to the bird song and seeing the moon rising over the trees are all of worth and are a different kind of harvest but equally valuable. I know this in my heart if not in my whirling always desperately trying to catch up mind and practical life.

The days really do go faster as you get older as my late mother used to say. I never believed her when I was a bored teenager, wishing away the present for some idealized golden tomorrow that when it came, seemingly flashed by in an eye blink as if viewed from a high speed express train.

So take time at this first harvest to reflect not on what did not grow or what will not now bear fruit but what you have achieved since the last harvest and what you still can create in golden moments however small. For gathered together like sunbeams those special moments can generate a lot of light to keep you optimistic and on track when the clouds of daily pressures do descend.

If you live in the southern hemisphere especially if it is warm and dry, you can incorporate parts of Lughnassadh into you mirror festival of Imbolc, the fire in the belly of the mother, the fire that will melt the last signs of winter. So too in the northern hemisphere we can think about what we planted at our own early spring festival could still grow even if a little later than anticipated, given  extra attention and faith in ourselves.

Lughnassadh/Lammas, 31 July –August 2

Focus of the period: Justice and natural justice or karma, human and personal rights issues, freedom from abuse of any kind; for partnerships, both personal and legal or business, for signing contracts or property matters; promotion and career advancement and the regularizing of personal finances; for holidays and journeys to see friends and family or on business and the renewal of promises, loyalty and fidelity; also willing sacrifice for a long term gain or made in love, trusting the cosmos to provide by giving without seeking immediate return; also for all matters concerning people in their forties and fifties.

Keywords:  Justice, fulfillment, sacrifice

Emphasis of festival: Transformation / bread

Energies of the season: Waning

Symbols: Any straw object such as a corn dolly, a corn knot or a straw hat or a straw animal tied with red ribbon, harvest flowers such as poppies or cornflowers (they can be silk or dried), a container of mixed cereals, dried grasses or long ears of grain, stones with natural holes; bread and dough.

Tree: Alder or redwood

Incense, flower and herbs: Cedarwood, cinnamon, fenugreek, ginger, heather, myrtle, poppies and sunflowers, any dark yellow, deep blue  or brown-gold flowers.

Candle colours: Golden brown or dark yellow.

Crystals: Fossilized wood, dark yellow and any brown jasper, banded agates, greenstone, mookaite, Botswana agate, titanium aura, fossils

Festival foods: Home made bread, milk, cereal products, elderberry and fruit wines, strawberries, berry pies and fruit juices, potato soup, popcorn, chicken

Angel: Sachiel. Archangel of the grain harvest and of abundance. He wears robes of deep blue and purple, carrying sheaves of corn and baskets of food with a rich purple and golden halo and blue and purple wings

God and Goddess of the festival. Eriu\Macha as Irish goddess of the Land. She accepted the remaining power of Lugh or Llew as Sun and Grain god so that the remaining crops would ripen. He then offers to die and return his body to the land to ensure the continuing success of future harvests

The Place on the Wheel:

This is the festival of the first grain harvest.

The God promises to defend and die for the land. The Sun/Grain god is willingly cut down in the form of the last sheaf of grain to be harvested and his spirit descends into the earth, back into the mother’s womb, to be reborn on the Midwinter celebration as the infant Sun King.

In both the pre Christian and Christian tradition called Lammas or Loaf mass a loaf baked from the first harvested sheaf was offered on the altar.

On August 15, at the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, in Celtic influenced lands a bannock was made from bread and milk to be broken by the father of the household and given to the family to ensure sufficient bread throughout the year on the family table (and his willingness to work to provide it. Obviously these days the woman equally assumes the role of provider for herself and a family if she has one.

Ways of Marking the Festival in the Modern world

  •  Bake your own bread on Lughnassadh Eve, either with yeast or from a mix in the shape of a figure who can either represent the Grain\Corn Spirit or the Grain Mother. Add milk to the mix and as you stir the mix in turn with friends and family or alone, make wishes for abundance and the harvest you wish to reap during the coming months. Ask also if appropriate for suitable employment.

  • When your bread is cooked, eat or share it and name the transformations you seek in your life/the world. At dawn put out any remaining crumbs for the wild birds.

  • Bake extra bread or fruit pies to give to neighbours and colleagues who maybe live alone and may not cook for themselves often.

  • Cut down an area of weeds or overgrown grass in your garden or tidy up indoor plants. Alternatively spend a day on an organised project clearing local wilderness, to symbolically generate the energies to clear your way ahead in your life and relationships.

  • Light an orange candle every evening if possible for a week around the festival. Sprinkle a pinch of salt in the flame to let go of any injustice that cannot be put right but which needs to be released from your mind to set you free.

  • Then add a small pinch of dried sage to the flame and name a blessing however small or an unexpected kindness you have received in the previous few months. At the end of the week, make a practical gesture or spoken small blessing to someone who does not merit it

  • Alternatively if you feel you have been unjustly treated and cannot put matters right, knot dried grasses or pluck the petals of a dying flower, one for each injustice and cast them into running water or bury them, planting late flowering seeds or autumn flowers.

  • Use corn or dried grasses to create corn knots and corn mother figures (with featureless head, arms, body and legs) tied with red and blue threads. Hang them in the home through the winter to bring protection and burn them on the first Monday after Twelfth Night (January 6) or on next year’s Spring Equinox fires.

  • If you want to make a Corn spirit, make an abstract shape using ears of corn tied together. Burn him in your Lughnassadh festival bonfire and scatter some of the ashes in your garden or on indoor plants to bring abundance to the home during the winter ahead.

  • Arrange journeys to see friends and relations or write or telephone, making definite plans to meet, as this is a time when tribes would get together before the long winter. Try to take an impromptu weekend away to fill you with energy for the coming months,

  • Make a final effort to resolve an unfair official or neighbourhood dispute or a disagreement over an inheritance or property matter, if necessary by changing tactic or the person representing you.

  • If you are in love, make a commitment as this was the time when couples would pledge themselves for a year and a day. Alternatively if things are not working decide if you can make one last all out effort to salvage the relationship or if you want to use this cleansing time to move on at least in your own mind. Cast dying flowers into your festival bonfire and ask for renewal and afterwards pick any flowers growing or buy yourself a flowering plant to symbolise new love, maybe loving yourself for the first time.

Above all do not think of the first harvest as a step towards the waning of the light but look across the wheel to the southern hemisphere to the growth of the springtime and realise both are happening at the same time. Soon we will be rising up the wheel again and planting the next lots of seeds.


THOUGHT OF THE WEEK.....from July 31st 2011

Happy Lughnassadh to our friends in the northern hemisphere and Happy Imbolc in the southern world.

Lughnassadh, the willing sacrifice of the grain god and Imbolc, fire in the belly of the maiden, are mirror festivals starting at the end of July.

On the Wheel of the World the twin themes of the harvest sacrifice and abundance and of the revival of the land after winter to bear fruit six months later or half a world away revolve continuously.

Planting our personal seeds, tending them in good times and harsh, in bounty and aridity ensures we may have enough for our needs and a little more at harvest time. We need not sacrifice our dreams as the grain god lays down his life for next year’s growth, but rather give up what is not good for us or constantly worrying over for what never can be or can be no more.

What do we have and what do we need? At the first harvest, focus on what you really desire and the sacrifices you are able or willing to make for your dreams. If life seems unfair reach across the wheel to Brigit melting sorrows with her willow wand and let fears, obstacles and doubt melt away.

Can you trust again, can you ask of others what you need? Are you prepared to sacrifice certainty for trust?

Light twin white and golden yellow candles for Imbolc and Lughnassadh and say, I reach out in the trust my needs will be met and I free myself from what holds me back from fulfilment.

Scatter a few grains of sage or rosemary in each flame and leave the candles to burn, make plans for your future and say goodbye for what can or should be no more.

Scatter the rest of the seeds outdoors for the birds to eat or to take root as is destined.

May you always have abundance, Cass and Debbie, July 31, 2011



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