Passing Time: LammasGuest Post, · Categories: Passing Time Rituals Series
Welcome to the fifth article in our rituals series. I went with the modern pagan wheel of the year calendar because several of us are familiar with it and it evenly breaks up the twelve months into manageable chunks of time. There will a mix of spiritual and secular practices and observations for each holiday–I can’t promise ahead of time if any will be weighted more one way or the other, but I’ll do my best to include something for everyone. I’ll post these the Wednesday before the holiday date. Thank you to the contributors! You are invaluable.
Lammas, 3rd out of the 4 cross-quarter days, is a harvest festival–the word ‘Lammas’ literally means “loaf mass.” (That’s Mass in the Catholic sense, not mass as in the amount of matter in an object.) Like the other holidays on the Wheel of the Year, it corresponds to an agrarian timeline. At Imbolc, fields were traditionally blessed for planting; at Beltane, crops and cattle were blessed again for growth; and now at Lammas, it’s time to reap the grain that has been growing throughout the summer months. That is, it would be time to reap grain if we were farmers in England or Ireland, but most of us Mankanauts A) are not farmers and B) have radically different local crops which grow and mature in different cycles, anyhow. So what does this harvest holiday mean for us without barley, wheat, or corn to haul in? How best to celebrate this bread festival, or breadstival?
Well, you’ve all made it three quarters of the way through 2017 at this point–congratulations! This has been one motherfucker of a year, and I am very proud of all of you for making it this far. Now is the time to take stock of your metaphorical harvest. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself, perhaps as a journaling exercise or as part of spiritual practice of some kind.
- How have you grown during the year? What have you gathered to yourself? What new experiences sit in the storehouse of your memory? How have you tended yourself and your soul?
- Grain, once harvested, is threshed to remove the chaff; the inedible, useless husks are separated. What are you carrying around that you can discard? What does letting go of the chaff look like for you?
- Even if you feel as though the year has been a pretty barren one, identify at least a couple things that have been nourishing, valuable, or otherwise good.
Once you’ve taken your Lammas inventory, I recommend decompressing with good company and some seasonal treats: berries, baked goods, beer or wine. If you’ve ventured into heavy territory and/or need a good laugh, check out this bread simulator. (Yes, really.) SCIENCE BONUS: Did you know that bread is a foam?
Happy Lammas, Mankanauts!
When you’re done, go take a nap. Death from exhaustion might make a good myth, but it’s no way to live.
I wasn’t up to typing out a ritual with my stupid splinted finger, but here is a recipe for a grain-free nut and seed loaf for those of us who can’t indulge in a seasonally-appropriate loaf of actual bread. Because allergies, I skip the sesame seeds and use 1.5 cups each of pumpkin and sunflower seeds instead. Sometimes I add a cup of chopped dates and/or figs and I always split it into two smaller loaves (the second loaf freezes well). Parchment paper is definitely your friend with this recipe.
From Robin (who graciously stepped in to write a beautiful piece while my left hand is out of commission):
Last week was the first time I noticed, as I went to my summer job at 7am in the American Midwest, that it was much darker. Even in the city, I am always aware of the sky and how it tells time. It was so clear we were weeks past summer solstice. The light was changing and there was less of it.
The mantra I hear in my head now is ”Not enough time. Not enough time.” Because I am a teacher, this holiday marks the end of freedom and the beginning of another round of responsibility. I don’t dread it. I actually love my job. But every year there is resistance to being placed back into the gilded cage. What did I do with my summer? What did I accomplish? Did I get enough rejuvenation to get me through another year? What will I do with all the things left on my list? Wait another year? Can I manage to celebrate and be grateful for that which I did achieve and receive? What if I did not store enough reserves?
These are some of the same questions my ancestors asked, but theirs were not metaphorical or philosophical. These questions were life and death for them.
August 1st marks Lammas Day (Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas, “loaf-mass”). It is a festival to mark the annual wheat harvest, and is the first harvest festival of the year. It is called Lughnasadh or Lughnasa as it is observed in Ireland, Scotland and other Gaelic countries.
In Irish mythology, the Lughnasadh festival is said to have been begun by the god Lugh as a funeral feast and athletic competition in commemoration of his mother Tailtiu. She was said to have died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. (Why do I feel like I can relate to that?)
According to medieval writings, kings attended this festival and a truce was declared for its duration. It was similar to the Ancient Olympic Games and included ritual athletic and sporting contests, horse racing, music and storytelling, trading, proclaiming laws and settling legal disputes, drawing-up contracts, and matchmaking. Trial marriages were conducted lasted a year and a day, at which time the marriage could be made permanent or broken without consequences
Many of Ireland’s prominent mountains and hills were climbed at Lughnasadh. At some gatherings, everyone wore flowers while climbing the hill and then buried them at the summit as a sign that summer was ending. In other places, the first sheaf of the harvest was buried. Special meals were made with the first produce of the harvest. In the Scottish Highlands, people made a special cake called the lunastain, which may have originated as an offering to the gods.
Another custom that Lughnasadh shared with Imbolc and Beltane was visiting holy wells. Visitors to holy wells would pray for health while walking sunwise around the well. They would then leave offerings; typically coins.
In many parts of England, tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it is referred to regularly, it is called “the feast of first fruits”. The blessing of first fruits was performed annually in both the Eastern and Western Churches on the first or the sixth of August.
A suggested Lammas Charm For Gathering In Abundance.
Lammas is a festival of regrets and farewells, of harvest and preserves. Reflect on these topics alone in the privacy of your journal or share them with others around a fire. Lughnasad is one of the great Celtic fire-festivals, so if at all possible, have your feast around a bonfire. While you’re sitting around the fire, you might want to tell stories. Look up the myths of any of the grain Gods and Goddesses and try re-telling them in your own words.
Regrets: Think of the things you meant to do this summer or this year that are not coming to fruition. You can project your regrets onto natural objects like pine cones and throw them into the fire, releasing them. Or you can write them on dried corn husks (as suggested by Nancy Brady Cunningham in Feeding the Spirit) or on a piece of paper and burn them.
Farewells: What is passing from your life? What is over? Say good-bye to it. As with regrets, you can find visual symbols and throw them into the fire, the lake or the ocean. You can also bury them in the ground, perhaps in the form of bulbs which will manifest in a new form in spring.
Harvest: What have you harvested this year? What seeds have your planted that are sprouting? Find a visual way to represent these, perhaps creating a decoration in your house or altar which represents the harvest to you. Or you could make a corn dolly or learn to weave wheat. Look for classes in your area which can teach you how to weave wheat into wall pieces, which were made by early grain farmers as a resting place for the harvest spirits.
Preserves: This is also a good time for making preserves, either literally or symbolically. As you turn the summer’s fruit into jams, jellies and chutneys for winter, think about the fruits that you have gathered this year and how you can hold onto them. How can you keep them sweet in the store of your memory?
Can I keep them sweet in my memory? This sentence stopped me in my tracks. Stop. Just stop.
Stop thinking and doing. Stop and celebrate.
Stop and remember. Stop and receive. Stop and rejoice.
Rest. Rejuvenate. Refresh. Release. Restore.
RE: a prefix, meaning “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition.
Lammas is a reminder. Cycles.
Again and again. I’ve done it before. I will do it again.
I have received and given and taken and gifted.
Nothing is permanent. Everything grows, is harvested and dies.
And is Reborn.
With that, I remember and am free.