Wheel of the Year: Lammas

Photo by Erik-Jan Leusink on Unsplash

Introduction

Contemporary Paganism is deeply rooted in a European past. For all of us who have some European heritage, those ancestors were pagan before the introduction of Christianity. Although modern Pagans draw on many non-European sources including the ancient beliefs and practices from Egyptian, Roman and Greek, Asian, Native American and African cultures, the native religions of pre-Christian Europe are our own heritage.

In this series, I will use the Wheel of the Year used by many modern Pagans to explore seasonal practices that you can incorporate into your life. I am using the generic descriptions of the seasons as if they apply to everyone. I know that they don’t. If you don’t live in North America or Europe, or if you live in certain areas of the United States, some of these descriptions of the seasons won’t make sense to you. Feel free to adjust my suggestions based on your own environment.

Lughnasadh/Lammas

Around the first of August in the northern hemisphere (February 1 in the southern hemisphere), we celebrate the early harvest of wheat, corn, fruits, grapes and the like. This is one of the so-called Cross-Quarter days, sitting halfway between the Summer Equinox (around June 21) and the Fall Equinox (around September 21). This holiday celebrates the first crops to be harvested in the agricultural societies of Europe. At this time, the people celebrated the ripening of the seasons and coming prosperity.

This is the first of the fall festivals of death. The Green Man who met and mated with the Great Mother in the spring has fulfilled his destiny. Just as the harvest of wheat and corn is celebrated, death of the Celtic deity of the sun Lugu or the Corn King is mourned. This is a time for manly strength as the fields are stripped of their bounty.

The colors of this season are the yellow of ripe wheat and the late summer sun. Its symbols include wheat, corn, bread and beer. Agricultural goddesses are also celebrated at this time including the Greek Goddesses Demeter and her daughter Persephone, and the Corn Mothers of some Native Americans.

Build a Lammas Altar

This is a time of abundance and prosperity. Think of what symbols you might use. A small ear of corn or wheat shaft. Consider weaving or buying a corn dolly. Or put a small loaf of bread on your altar. You might include a token of the ideas and desires you planted in the spring that might be coming to fruition or those who are still hiding await the appropriate time to bloom. You might weave or buy a corn dolly. What else represents this season for you? Use this space for your meditations, prayers, and as a focus for your ritual.

Ritual Ideas

As a time of increasing propensity, Lammas is often celebrated by singing, dancing, eating, contests, and, perhaps, matchmaking. The county fairs often held at this time of year may be a subtle enactment of this holiday.

One way to celebrate is to use the fruits of the first harvest. Making bread or beer is traditional, but if you have a garden, you can make a special meal with whatever is ripe now. Tomatoes? Cucumbers? Apples? Broccoli/cabbage/cauliflower? Peppers? Corn? Radishes? Summer Squashes like Zucchini? Turn your kitchen into ritual space and make your cooking a sacred act.

Or perhaps you’re inspired to dance. In this time of quarantine, you might not be able to get together with others, but you can still get into the spirit of the season. Find some appropriate music either from your own collection or on the net. (Check out Pagan Song’s seasonal albums, for example: https://pagansong.com/seasons/). Put on some flowy clothes that will follow your movements and any other special ritual attire. If you’re shy, close the door and put on earphones, if not open up and let your body move. As they say, “Dance like no one is watching.”

Sacred Cooking

Because this season is so tied to food and cooking, consider making your kitchen a ritual space. Designate wherever your stove sits as the direction of fire. Your sink becomes the direction of Water. Put all your wet ingredients close. Designate your refrigerator as Earth and lay out your dry ingredients there. Finally, make your main work area Air, the home to all your tools, the knives, spoons, spatulas and bowls.

Use your own words to call the directions. End your invocation with something like “This circle is sealed and all herein are completely and totally apart from the outside world.”

Before beginning the actual preparation, take a second to form a clear idea of why you are doing this ritual — to honor the energies of the early harvest and to provide nutritious food for your family and friends. While you cook try to keep yourself in that sacred frame of mind. If your creation requires cooking time, use it to deepen your meditative state.

Finish the ritual by thanking the elements for their participation and open your circle with something like “This circle is open but unbroken. Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again.”

Your Turn

How will you celebrate this time of year? Let us know in the comments. If you’ve put together a special seasonal altar, consider uploading a photo to share.

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