So on July 31st/August 1st, at the time of Lughnasadh (or Lammas: "loaf mass"), we celebrate the first harvest - the grain harvest - and pause to acknowledge just how important that grain is to our sustenance and nourishment over the coming months. The first grain - the first loaf of bread - these are wonderful and important milestones in the wheel of the year.
We are asked to give thanks and express gratitude for the abundance we are fortunate enough to experience.
This Sabbat seems to me to shine a light on the way the individual and community pagan spiritual experience acts as a microcosm to the greater experience of the Earth as a whole entity.
We get a gentle reminder of the cycle of birth and death and rebirth, particularly characterised by the involvement of Lugh, god of light and fire.
As the embodiment of the Sun, here the god is beginning to show signs of his waning power. We have passed midsummer where he was at his height and now he is giving way to the darker half of the year - active growth is beginning to slow down.
In times past, it has not been unknown for men in a community (sometimes the winner of the May Day Games) to lay down their lives as sacrifice to the harvest, particularly in years when it was not successful. By this sacrifice, by the death (the 'cutting down') of the Corn King, life is returned to the goddess Mother Earth so that the rest of the community may live. During these sacrifices, the male was allowed to conjoin with any willing females so his seed could live on - and then he could willingly give his life to sustain his people.
However, it is known that actual human sacrifice was not commonplace and most of the time, these "sacrifices" were performed symbolically rather than literally.
The male, in giving his seed, his strength and his life energy to his woman (thus going through his "little death"), entrusts that she will then take these, nurture them and transform them into a new life, just as when the bountiful harvest is taken in and the seeds used to create next year's crops. Sexual connection and the process of creation is as a sacred rite between two people and a powerful magic to be respected and deeply understood.
The Divine Feminine at Lughnasadh
At this time, we also honour Demeter - the corn mother, embodiment of the ripened corn and mother of the harvest - and her daughter, Persephone. We know Persephone is charged with being forced to stay in the underworld with her husband Hades for the darker half of the year, then functioning as the embodiment of spring and the personification of new growth, especially of grain crops which disappear into the Earth when sown, sprout from the Earth in spring and are harvested at Lammas. Persephone's story is another representation of human experience as well as that of the Earth as a whole.
We acknowledge this amazing female capability to hold the seeds of future generations within her womb even before she is born, just like a seed containing all the DNA of its ancestors and descendants, even as it grows inside the earth.
Birth - Death - Rebirth
So this is a time of mourning for the loss of the Sun King, and the sadness of the Corn Mother for the return of her daughter to the darkness - but also a celebration as we are already planning for the next generation and next year's crops.
Everything has its reason and its season. All things must pass and all things hold the possibility to be reborn.
A whisper of immortality. This is the inner meaning of Lughnasadh.
On a less visceral level, we can also look at our own personal harvests. If you set yourself any goals or intentions at Imbolc, it's a great time to check in with how you're doing.
If you have been learning a new skill, how have you progressed? Have you made any headway in your chosen profession, if that's appropriate for you?
What does your personal growth look like so far this year? What have you experienced and what have you learned from this? Are you giving yourself enough time for your personal evolution? Are you able to experience the peace and space you need to grow? In the cycle of this year's life, are there fruits?
During your meditation/journalling, these are some of the questions to be addressed.
How To Get Involved in Lughnasadh
Here are some simple ways you can acknowledge this Sabbat without even needing to be "Pagan"
Bake some bread - to honour the grain harvest and reconnect with a really mindful and satisfying practice of creating something that can later nourish you and your loved ones.
Invite abundance into your home - by sweeping with intention towards your front door with a besom (or any sweeping implement) and if you like, you can say this little rhyme:
"By one, by two, by three and four, Sweep Lammas gifts unto my door. May abundance be a constant friend by my hearth 'til Winter's end"
Make a corn dolly - to represent the grain goddess. Use any kind of materials that you can manage to gather on your nature walks, especially if you are lucky enough to be near a cornfield where you might be able to grab some loose stalks!
Collect seeds for future harvest - maybe even think about packaging them up beautifully and giving them as gifts to friends and family to share your energy of abundance.
Gather the harvest - start harvesting your garden crops, if you have them.
Spend time in nature - to express gratitude to the earth and find peace and pause for meditation. (This, of course, is applicable in all the Sabbats!)
Wear something Gold, Yellow or Orange - (or other firey colours) to represent the Sun God
Display Sunflowers or Marigolds in your home - these are some of the flowers of Lughnasadh
Meditate with the energy of Lugh - as he is Samhioldánach, Master of all arts and crafts, if it's applicable to you, you can hold or sit near an item that is part of your craft or skill and ask for his help. Here's a little thing from my own Book of Shadows that I like to say:
"Lugh Samhioldánach, you are master of all arts, I am mastering these few. I ask that you grant your blessing, that I may learn all the skills necessary to complete my work in this life"
so you can use this or write your own!
These are just some of the many things you can do at Lughnasadh time but above all, remember the Wiccan Rede: "An it harm none, do as thou wilt."
And as you wish it, so mote it be!
Blessed Lughnasadh - enjoy yourself and as always, get in touch if you want to share your experiences!
Love and light to you all.
Lughnasadh - by @anetteprs [instagram]
- Hedge Witch :: Rae Beth - Robert Hale, London 1990 ISBN: 0-7090-4851-3
- Wicca Unveiled :: J. Philip Rhodes - Speaking Tree Books 2000 ISBN 0-9536745-0-9
- A Witches' Bible :: Janet and Stuart Farrar - Robert Hale, London 2017 ISBN 978-0-7090-7227-0
- My Book of Shadows - Cheryl Marren