The air is changing. Although the hottest days of summer are here, sometime in late July the smell of the air begins to shift. There are whispers of Autumn in the predawn hours. The scent is the promise of the harvest. It is the reminder that even in the midst of all this abundant growth, a dying off is about to begin. All we have intended to this point is coming into being. We are about to reap what we have sown, celebrate this growth and begin our preparations for the fruition of this growth to carry us through the winter.
Lammas is the first harvest festival (and means specifically “loaf mass”) and one of the 4 Fire Festivals that make up the wheel of the year. This festival falls between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox. It is also referred to as Lughnasadh, named after the god, Lugh. (This means Lugh’s assembly). There are several stories that explain Lugh’s correlation to this holy day. Lugh is a Sun god and it has been said he originated this celebration. I have read accounts of Lughnasadh being the funeral feast Lugh held for his foster mother, Tailtiu who died from exhaustion after clearing a forest to create farmland in Ireland, thus tying Lugh to the harvest through the work of his mother and the honoring of what she made possible. There are also stories that suggest that on her deathbed, Lugh’s foster mother requested that competitive games be held each year at this time to ensure an abundant harvest.
This is also a time for gathering, coming together and deepening community. What better way to build connection than through feasting and outdoor games? Many fairs are still held during this time of year and we often find contests for produce, preserves, livestock and handicrafts at these.
This is a celebration of gratitude for the crops and the fertile abundant earth. It is a time for us to pause to examine what we have planted (both physically and through the use of our intentions) and begin to harvest that which has grown.
So how will you celebrate Lammas?
Perhaps you have a tradition already?
Here are some ideas for you! (and remember intention makes the mundane magical!)
If possible get at least some of your ingredients from a local source. Most of us are not growing wheat in our gardens, but we may have access to other grains grown locally, or honey. Or perhaps you make herb bread using herbs you have grown. Celebrate this first Harvest by baking up a fresh loaf or 2.
Make Corn Dollies
I have read that traditionally these dolls were created by using the last husks of the harvest, yet this tradition is also tied to Lammas, the first harvest. The idea is to take dried husks and form them into the doll shaped forms. You can decorate these with cloth, or herbs or beads, or whatever else calls to you. These dolls are used as protection in your home for the coming calendar year and should be kept or hung somewhere safe. When a year has passed burn the doll in the Lammas fire of the following year.
I do not grow corn, but I do grow a lot of herbs, so my “corn dolly” each year is made from the herbs in my garden, dried and shaped into the semblance of a doll.
This is a fun activity to do with friends and have everyone bring elements from their own yards and gardens then share these with each other to create dolls imbued with the energy of those you love.
Host a potluck outdoors
Late Summer is always full of the scent of BBQ. People are often coming together to feast and have fun. Why not host a gathering and ask people to bring a dish to share. Incorporate outdoor games that everyone can participate in. This harkens back to those gatherings of times of old and also facilitates a sense of community and connection.
Share your Harvest
Talk to your neighbors and friends. Find out who is growing what and who has an overabundance and host a produce sharing event. (we have neighbors always have an abundance of lemons earlier in the year and gravenstein apples and plums now, while we have an overabundance of zucchini and often tomatoes). Share your abundance!
Harvest berries and make jam or preserves. These are sweet treats that can be accessed throughout the fall and winter months and will bring a breath of summer into your home at that time.
Make a gratitude list
The harvest is something to be grateful for. Yet there are many things to be grateful for. Fire up this energy by bringing these things into awareness. Share as you feel comfortable to inspire others to practice gratitude as well.
Happy and Blessed Lughnasad Wise Women!
My Grandma and I flying a kite on her 94th birthday.
We round out our brief exploration of the triple Goddess with the Crone.
I have a special place in my heart for the Crone. My grandmother was very dear to me and was not only my grandma but a close friend. She was very matter of fact, always said things as she saw them (especially in later years and sometimes in a way that might be considered “rude”.)Yet she also always believed that learning was something that kept going for the entirety of ones life and that there were endless things to be curious about and wonder and awe were around many a bend in the road. She also never feared aging. She was not one to dye her hair (although she always got it “set”) and she took pride in her appearance. But she wasn’t worried about getting wrinkles or grays. She just felt frustrated by the limits her body gave her later in life (my grandmother lived to be 95).
I have also been blessed to have many amazing women in their Crone years in my life and have gotten to learn from (And continue to learn from) them.
The Crone years of our lives are those that begin during peri-menopause and menopause. These are our later years and correlate with the waning and dark moon, late fall and winter, dusk and night. She is the invitation to turn our attentions inward that come with all of these cycles. When I think of the Crone, I think of a woman who is not afraid of the darkness.
The Crone holds deep wisdom. Sometimes she is illustrated as an elder woman living in solitude, as the Medicine or Wise Woman, or the Midwife. She is the person we turn to in search of healing, and in search of answers. She is the storyteller and the story keeper. Someone must hold the stories of all that has come before and pass this down, so that the wisdom is not lost.
When cast in shadow she is seen as “the hag”, sometimes frightening, sometimes weak. Our elders are often set aside, due to our own ego fear of aging, yet they hold the most wisdom of any of the life stages. When we embrace the aging process as growth we are more able to access the medicine that resides in the aspect of the Crone.
When I think of the Crone in balance, I think of an energy that is nurturing, yet not enabling. One that can hold and support but not coddle. She is a powerful force and one to be honored and respected.
I picture a strong woman who speaks her truth and yet also knows the power and gift that silence can bring (this is often a skill learned in our Mother aspect but I believe it is more honed, in the Crone phase).
I also picture a woman who is completely embodied in herself. She has done her tasks of raising children (or birthing her career, or whatever this might have been for her), and now she is able to focus more on herself. In balance she has strong and clear boundaries and knows when her energy is best served turning inward.
As with any stage or aspect of the triple Goddess we hold the Crone energy within us regardless of our current life stage.
In what ways do you see this energy reflecting in you?
I wrote on this topic briefly before, inspired by the way being a Mother is one of the ways women connect. This role provides common ground among many women. I also touched on the idea that being a Mother does not necessarily mean mothering human, or even live beings, but can be about creation.
In this post I want to continue to theme of looking at the Mother through the lens of the triple deity, Maiden, Mother and Crone.
The Mother energy is one of nurturing, creating, growing. In balance this energy is grounded and earthy. Like roots growing into rich soil, providing nurturing to the plant or tree above. When we think of the Mother and the moon cycles, we find her correlating with the fullness of the moon and its bright glow. The Mother is connected to Summer and the ripe juicy abundance of the crops that come into being during this season.
Perhaps you are a Mother of a human child. You will know then that Motherhood asks for much giving and patience and that this job is possibly the hardest of all tasks we are asked to do on this plane. The archetypal energy of the Mother is one that can require sacrifice that at times can lead to depletion.
When we are “mothering” anything, whether it is a person, or a project, or a fur baby, or a friend we might find that we must set our own needs aside in order to tend to the needs of others. The flip side of this is that raising, creating, and birthing (beings or ideas) into being can be extremely rewarding and Heartful!
The Mother is powerful!
As such, we also expect a lot from the Mother. If you think of child, parent interactions, you may be able to call up the image of a toddler raging against a mom (maybe they didn’t get their way, or maybe they are overly tired, there are a lot of reasons why this happens.), and at the same time they are raging and pushing against the Mother they are also needing her to hold and contain. This is a demanding position and one that asks the Mother to step back enough to be able to hold boundaries and nurture simultaneously.
Our view of and our personal embodiment of the Mother are influenced by our own experiences with being “mothered”. Reflecting on your own experience of being Mothered you may find some shadow energy. Not everyone has a positive relationship with their Mother and this can lead to wounds or manifestations of Mother Shadow energy in our own psyche.
Some of the ways this shadow energy might manifest are in the form of martyrdom, over-mothering, or neglectfulness.
Regardless of whether or not you are a Mother, you carry Mother energy in your being throughout all stages of your life. How do you embody this in your life?
We often hear about the Maiden Mother Crone as the triple Goddess, or triple deity. Each of these aspects are umbrellas under which a variety of developmental stages reside. They are archetypal energies. As women we move through these stages (even when we are not mothers of actual children), and we also embody each of these energies and all they hold at any given time during our own development. I recognize that I could get very heady and analytical in the writing on this topic, but I am going to try to keep this more heart and magic focused instead of intellectual.
Over the next couple of weeks I will be writing about the Triple Goddess. Beginning today I want to focus on the Maiden and the energy this archetype holds.
The Maiden is associated with Spring time, new beginnings, hope, possibility and the first quarter moon. She is awe and wonder and naivety. Take a moment to allow your mind to wander to your own childhood and notice the words, feelings and associations you hold with this. This is all Maiden energy. Perhaps you are thinking that you do not have positive associations with your own childhood. That’s ok, whatever your experience, this too is part of that Maiden energy. There is light and shadow in every archetype, just as light and shadow thread their way through our lives.
When we lean into the light we might think about playful energy, laughter and fun! Jumping rope, climbing trees, playing with clay, coloring or hopping on a swing and pumping your legs are all excellent ways to get in touch with this part of Maiden energy. We might also allow ourselves to use our imaginations.
The Maiden Self has a vast imagination and this can be accessed at any time and for a myriad of reasons. One of the ways I use my imagination in association with magic is through visualization. Using visualization is a powerful tool in the magical realm and although we can access this throughout our lives, I believe the origins of this lie in the imaginative powers and magical thinking that we first cultivate in our Maiden phase of life.
There is a freedom and timelessness in the Maiden realm. Do you remember the way that days could stretch on and on while you played games or imagined new worlds? Can you recall that experience of wonder when you learned something or saw something new for the first time? Or the way you could take a simple object and transform yourself into a new way of being, a new character? In the work I do with children I am always brought much joy by the transformations that they create with imaginative play and just a few props. This is magic in and of itself. It is a changing of perspective and a changing of reality.
From my perspective the Maiden is not just the child Self, but also reaches into adolescence. Adolescence is when many women bleed for the first time and so, if we were to just look at the Maiden Mother and Crone as archetypes tied to our stages or reproduction one could argue that Adolescence is actually the beginning of the other phase. Developmentally though I see this as a transitional or liminal stage. No longer a child and not yet an adult, yet holding energy of both realms. Imagination is still very much at play during this time although it takes on new forms. Games of dress up become the trying on of new parts of Self and sharing these with the world. (This is another kind of magic, I refer to as Glamour magic)
We can also speak to the fact that although Maiden energy is capable of compassion and empathy, developmentally, during much of this stage of life the focus is more Self oriented. Our worlds are growing during this time, from self to family, to school, to world view, yet much of the focus remains egocentric as we move through our childhood and adolescence. In adolescence our “big picture” reasoning kicks in much stronger but it is at odds with our emotional development that keeps our focus close to home.
I also want to make space for the Shadow side of the Maiden energy. The Maiden can be seen as vulnerable, weak, unstable, overly emotional and her naive sense of wonder can be considered unintelligent or “stupid’. Oppositional, rebellious and wild are also words that come to mind in the shadow realm. The shadow is the “dark side”, the energy that is often considered “unacceptable” or “undesirable”. Yet there is wisdom in this too. By recognizing our Shadow selves we can recognize these things in others as well as discover the gifts that lie within. Vulnerability does not equal weakness and in fact being vulnerable is a beautiful and powerful energy that requires courage to share with the world. In the Maiden form less courage is needed than as an adult because often this is a way of being. Naivety and openness are much more present during this time allowing more truth to flow unguarded and uncensored. The rebel is a powerful energy, one that is often focused on finding and stating her “no” in a forceful way. She is testing boundaries in order to discover where her own lie.
As I mentioned we carry this Maiden energy in all her facets with us through every stage of life. We can call on her to help us access our wonder, our imagination, our honesty and our ability to play (among other things).
How do you embody the Maiden in your life?
Emily Morrison MA, MFT