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!
Emily Morrison MA, MFT