Cross-quarter sabbats like Lammas are the main reason I really dig the Wheel of the Year structure of the calendar so much. When you depend on the traditional Western calendar rather than syncing with the real transitions of the seasons, the changes come on you like a rushing freight train – summersummersummersummerWHAM-IT’S-FALL-STOP-SUMMERING-AND-DO-ALL-THE-FALL-THINGS-NOW!!! When the Wheel turns more slowly, you get that wonderful feeling that a cosmic pre-K teacher has gently reminded the class that they have 5 more minutes of play before it’s time to change activities. It’s the sweet spot of summer when you hear the birds singing their mating songs, but also hear the cicadas buzzing in the trees – when the days are still hot and sunny, but the evenings and mornings are cool and misty – when the craft stores have beach toys and Christmas trees one aisle apart. 😉 Seriously, though, my change-resistant soul really likes having that transition time to move from one mode to the next.
Lammas is the first of three harvest celebrations on the Pagan calendar, and it is a festival of the first gathering of the grain – represented not by the great, groaning cornucopias of Thanksgiving, but wheat and corn being reaped from the fields and summer gardens bursting with produce to be picked and preserved for the winter to come. It’s a gentle change – a movement from nurturing growth to processing and preparation of what has been grown.
Lisa Chamberlain tells us in her book, Wicca Wheel of the Year, that “this is a bittersweet time, as we are surrounded by the abundance of the summer’s bounty, yet becoming more aware by the day that we are heading back into the dark time of the year.” I can get behind that sentiment – as much as I love the sunshine and abundance of blooms and greenery in summer, the long days and short nights have me teetering on the edge of anxiety and exhaustion at times as I try to take in as much as I can. I flourish in the shorter days of autumn, and to a degree even in the long darks of winter, when I can turn inward and marshal my energy. (She says before she complains about never seeing the sun and aching in the cold this winter…it’s always something!)
The sun’s energy continues to wane after it reached its peak at Litha/Midsummer – the God symbolically growing older as he approaches his annual death at Samhain and rebirth at Yule. The Goddess’s energy is still waxing, though, as she gestates the new coming of the God. The process brings me to mind of winter sowing seeds at the end of the season: in spite of the death of the parent plant, life carries on in the seeds it produced, and even when they lie dormant through the winter, they regrow and regenerate in spring. To a gardener like me, that story resonates.
The feast of Lammas, tied to the harvest of the grain, is traditionally celebrated with lots and lots of bread – carb and gluten city, baby! (It can be celebrated with other produce, for those who can’t tolerate gluten, but for me, this is a hardcore baking holiday – awwwwww yeah.) In fact, the name Lammas is based on the Christian name “Loaf Mass” from the time when the church assimilated and appropriated Pagan holidays into its own canon. Back in the day, a healthy and robust grain harvest would’ve been the difference between life and death in some areas, as it was one of the main sources of nutrition during the cold months, so it was definitely worth celebrating.
The Husband and I had a great time making our very first homemade bread in celebration of the season. As we baked, I really enjoyed pondering Chamberlain’s metaphor that bread embodies elemental magic: the Earth that nourished the seeds and grain as it grew, the water nourishing the plant and activating the yeast required to raise the dough, the air incorporated into the bread through kneading the dough, the hearth fire necessary to bake the bread, and the spirit contained within the wheat and within the baker that is celebrated in the making of the loaf. That’s the kind of connection that really makes me love this lifestyle.
Spiritually, Lammas is a season to celebrate and give thanks for the bounty you’ve received throughout the year, whether from your garden, your career, your family, or whatever else you’re into. It’s also a time to share said bounty and to work to manifest the same abundance for everyone in the world. (Think Thanksgiving, but less family-oriented and more EVERYBODY oriented.) It’s easy to get into this spirit of sharing the wealth when you find yourself inundated with giant zucchini on your vines or cherry tomatoes on plants so tall and wide that they’re trying to peek in your windows and the back door! Again, back in the day, nothing would go to waste – if you had abundance, and your neighbors had a bad year and lacked what was needed to last them through the winter, you’d naturally your wealth with them, knowing that when it was your turn (and that there surely would be a year when it was your turn), they’d do the same for you. See? This is just an all-around kick-ass holiday, folks – and we get to celebrate it for six whole weeks!
This Sabbat is also celebrated as Lughnasadh, which I intend to cover in my next article – we get a definite twofer this month! More soon, friends.