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Lammas

 

Lammas or Lughnasad is the beginning of the harvest. The first corn is reaped, the first sacred loaf is baked, and the King begins his journey towards the Underworld. It is a time of mixed celebration and sorrow - rejoicing at a good harvest, sadness for the good things of Summer that will soon be gone. Spells and charms to do with coming to fruition, harvesting the benefits of work previously undertaken work well now.

Lammas comes from the Saxon word for the Feast of Bread, Hlaf-mass.  It was a major harvest festival all over Europe; Ceres, Demeter and Juno Augusta were all names of the Goddess who presided over the ripening harvest.  To us, Lammas is still the Lady’s rite when the first loaf of bread is made from the first sheaf of the year’s harvest.

Lammas Eve (1 February in the Southern hemispere; 1 August in the Northern hemisphere) is the festival of the God Lugh, the Celtic God who gave his name to London - originally Lugdunum.  This festival celebrated the death and resurrection of Lugh as grain God.  Similarly, we commemorate John Barleycorn’s death and the sacrifice of the harvest for the good of his children.

A Lammas chant

We mourn to see the fields so bare

That rippled ripe with grain

Yet barren fields say well we'll fare

Till harvest comes again

The Rite of Lammas

Lammas is the Lady's rite. We perform it in circle as a thanksgiving for harvest, and a blessing upon the Earth for her bounty. We feast on a loaf made from the first grains from the fields and on brewed beer. At this time of year we also try to consolidate our practical work.  During the cold, winter months we shall reflect upon everything we have done during the warm weather; there is always more to learn. We also need to prepare ourselves with plenty to keep us busy so that we don’t waste that precious commodity, time.

The Lammas Tree

Traditionally, we are in the time of the hazel, ruled by Mercury, and ninth in the tree alphabet of Ancient Britain.  Each tree had a special name and meaning, and the Old Ones sent messages to each other composed of the leaves arranged like letters of the alphabet. The hazel was called Coll by the Celts; nine hazels grew over the legendary Connla’s well, producing flowers and fruit simultaneously.  When their nuts fell into the well they were eaten by the salmon which lived there.  The number of nuts the fish ate were recorded in the spots on their skin.  This fish was held to be very wise by the Celts. Hazels are still linked with water; forked twigs from this tree are used by water diviners.  Magician’s wands, too, always used to be made from one-year-old hazel wood although nowadays we seem to have a wand for every possible occasion.

the Lammas plant

Barley is the appropriate plant.  It belongs to the element of Earth and is ruled by Venus, another name for the Mother Goddess.  A corn dolly, with is traditionally made from barley straw, should be hung up in the home to attract health and wealth.

Our barley cakes and new bread are marked with an ancient Sun sign, the eight-armed cross. 


 

This is the time of the first grain harvest and the making of the first loaf from its flour. Bread, cakes, pastries are the centre of the feast and Harvest Heaven sweet potatoes are appropriate for this feast. A brewed drink such as beer is a good accompaniment.


 
Harvest Heaven Sweet Potatoes

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind

6 cups diced sweet potato

3 apples, peeled and sliced

salt and pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Preheat oven to 175 Celsius or 350 Fahenheit. Put apples and sweet potatoes in a well-oiled baking dish. Mix the honey, oil, orange and lemon zests and microwave to liquify honey, pour over, stir through well. Season with salt and pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg if required. Cover and bake until the sweet potatoes are tender (about 35 minutes). Remove cover, bake for another 5-10 minutes until golden brown.

 

If you would like to learn more about Lammas, information on this site came from Paddy Slade's Natural Magic and Cassandra Carter's Every Day Magic