As opposed to the time of 'greening,' Lammas is the time of the 'golden.'
Lammas is a quarter day falling on the 1st of August. In Anglo-Saxon times it was the feast of first fruits, and in Christianity was a harvest festival focusing on the first of the grain harvests. Indeed, the original name Lammas means loaf, and in church tradition on Lammastide - the date between, the summer solstice and autumn equinox – a loaf with supposed mystical properties was made from the new crop.
In times past we would celebrate the sowing of new grain that would then lie dormant over the winter to be born again, but that has altered as climate change, modern crop rotation, hybridized cereals and year long sowing, has thrown us out of kilter. Yet, still we celebrate John Barleycorn, his stout straw frame being cut, as he sacrifices his life for those of his community - his bounty his body - the bread, and the new seed that which he provides us with, as his promise of new and returning life.
Grain is a staple to our lives here on earth, and it has a rich and detailed heritage dating back to the dawn of time. It is not by chance that it is called ‘the staff of life,’ for that is what it is, it’s significant power over life and death meaning an entire community could perish if the wheat harvest failed. This spills over into the energies of this first harvest when we encompass other forms of the first gathering, in early preparation for the storage of winter, such as new early hedge fruits, apples and other lesser known grains.
There are many goddesses of the land and crops that we celebrate during this season, and as I decorate my altar with a corn dolly and wheat sheaves, grain and grasses, and light yellow and gold candles in praise of our beautiful Goddesses of bounty - of Ceres, Demeter, and the Goddess of my Andraste path, blessed Habondia - I feel I become grain Goddess.
While it is a joyous event, I always feel a piquant sense of emotion when I witness the harvesters out in the field and the air fills with the fine harvest dust. Somehow or another, it seems we have traversed through the balmy days of summer almost without a wink, and Goddess sprinkles us now, with harvest stardust to remind us that within bounty lies shadow.
I become deeply introspective as I sink into the vibration of the land and sense it’s beat. The golden corn of my youth is different and these newer species alien to my eyes. Even within bounty we see evolution and what mankind is becoming. It is sobering to think about and makes the shadows compass somehow broader and darker as I wonder where it will end and what the first harvest will mean to man in years to come. Yet, within this brooding sorrow, on a warm August day there is something strikingly beautiful about the glowing fields of ripe corn, the cloak of the celebrant Lammas Lady, and the nodding heads of wheat and barley, so like the flowing golden hair of the Goddess I worship.
Dust devils dance above the corn and within it the tiny flies we call thunder or harvest flies, dance too, settling everywhere.
Tomorrow the land lies fallow, all that is left the stubble and here and there a bouquet of ripe forgotten corn, a last testament to old John Barleycorn.
I enjoy Lammas so much simply because it is the tipping point. We feel there is some reassurance summer has not yet ended, but the interesting threat of the shadow becomes more pronounced as she stretches across the land. Everything has a golden hue, and the moon soon hangs golden pink in the sky, an ancient lofty lantern that once guided those harvesting late into the night.
Feel the swing of energies in this harvest, because there are none quite like it. From pregnant bounty to sterility. It is easy to see why Lammas has a reference to death, rebirth and the ancestors.
I take a walk along the riverside and pause for a moment to feel the vibration of all the feet through history that have trodden upon this farmland - those ancestors who were born, toiled and then died, often at great self-sacrifice in order to feed themselves and others. And I think about a world governed by food production. In many ways we have so much bounty, yet for a great proportion of us, it is still not enough, and many starve.
What a time of suspense and sudden turns. In an instant storm clouds can surge and threaten the last pregnant fields awaiting the harvest. The black clouds are such a fine spectacle, in contrast to the bleached white heads of scorched corn.
We celebrate with apple and cider and congregations of friends. We bake bread and cookies, but most of all as Goddess we turn within and embrace our sacred land through senses deeper than the purely physical. We embrace this harvest with our deeper spiritual psychology, seeing it as a time of darkening perception, as we open the gate for the heightened ancestral energies at Samhain. As we hold hands with our friends and families we allow the energy of the ancestors to flow. This energy speaks to us more than at other times of the year, of how heavily we rely on our elemental bothers and sisters too, and how essential it is we put out faith in Earth Mother and Goddess even in disturbed times, to always hold the Lammas lantern of bounty high for us, less we perish from lack.
In many ways this festival seems joyous, yet woven within it is a profound sense of how intrinsically we are enveloped in nature.
This is a beautiful and profound festival and one that endures in my psyche. As we bless the land for her fruitful produce, it also provides us with a wonderful opportunity to dive deep into our subconscious and think of true want and need and how much we really desire, in a world of waste.
Coming Soon Mabon