Tag Archives: sabbats

Lammas

Discussing Lammas was pretty useful for some of us at the moot this month – it’s a crucial point on the wheel – it is the time to take a plunge and turn the work of the summer into what will sustain you through winter and this requires sacrifice. It’s a harvest festival and a celebration of abundance and yet at the same time it is the first confrontation with death after the growth of light and life ever since the winter ended.

Lammas is the first of three harvest festivals. They’re three overhauls of cycles, all involving sacrifice to make way for new growth – the corn harvest, the fruit harvest and the meat harvest. Speaking in non-agricultural terms, they’re a good time to make over our lives. Lammas is a good time to sacrifice the things in our lives that are weighing us down, that will drain us if we try to keep them over the winter. A time to evaluate, then make brutal cuts – by working out what is important we can focus our efforts into preserving that over the winter.

A useful model which emerged was to assign areas of life to each harvest:

LAMMAS — AUTUMN EQUINOX — SAMHAIN

Body          —        Mind   —       Spirit

Going by the wheel of the year myths that have come to dominate in modern Pagan witchcraft in the UK, Lammas is when the God is cut down and sacrificed – the corn is cut down so that food can be made, and new crops can be sown in the next season. It is a practical, physical act. The fruit harvest is when we reap the fruits of our labours – in this day and age these are usually intellectual labours, done in libraries and behind desks – a time to re-evaulate careers and personal endeavours. At Samhain intense forces of life and death can be channelled and we can call on guidance in our spirituals paths…

What can we learn from Lammas? That losses from sacrifices are always replenished. When we cut something which has become negative out, it is to make room for something positive to take its place, be it a relationship stagnating, a task going nowhere or an interference in a situation which shows no signs of improvement. We invite in new opportunities when we make room for them.

Links to deities and traditions are strong in our imaginations for this sabbat. The corn harvest is linked with the most interesting sacrifice myths. The imagery is of a mature Goddess (such as Ceres) wielding a scythe, showing strength, while a God shows bravery and a sense of duty in accepting his fate – his strength over the summer is what is reaped in order to sustain the winter. Lammas is about maturity, the opposite of what is celebrated at Imbolc, youth. In Lammas we find the strength to make decisions.

The Goddess figures are changing a life stage at Lammas – slowly transitioning from mother to crone. The mother is at her bravest in the loss of her consort but her grieving is delayed as she must remain strong to see through what must be done. We went slightly into some more feminine issues… the Goddess is not yet a crone here, she still bleeds – power and life cornlinked to blood, blood represents life and death and she has the control over these events in these stories.

The harvest – a time of making offerings and tributes. Folk traditions about the corn harvest always feature something happening to the last sheaf of corn – it is not eaten but offered up to the Gods in some way – whether lucky or unlucky, it is not to be taken along with the rest. This could be an inspiration to celebrate practically? Throw out what is weighing you down, and make an offering to welcome in the new.

Midsummer Solstice

For June Midsummer Solstice proved a popular festival, crowding the moot with contributions and associations – here are some of them:

  • A masculine festival, associations with Sun Gods such as Apollo. The male principle here is at its most powerful, in a regal, wise and controlled kind of way as opposed to the wild Dionysian aspect.
  • The height of the sun and the height of personal strength and activity, permitted by so many productive hours of light! The solstice and its surrounding weeks are bright and tending towards a full and energetic life without the need for artificial light.
  • A feeling of safety – we celebrate the solar cycle as stable, it is a much longer cycle than the lunar cycle – the cycle of the sun is strongly associated with agriculture, the patterns we rely on to sustain the harvest and ongoing survival.
  • The turning point of the year – an excuse to party all day, since the night is so short (at Pagan Threads we always look for why to celebrate and how!)
  • We also talked a lot about stone circles like Stonehenge, and other sacred sites. These stand out at Midsummer as Pagan things that have pervaded popular culture, that a vast range of people of various beliefs or lack of, are prepared to celebrate as ancient and part of their heritage even if they don’t know the meanings of why they may have been there.
  • So maybe a good way to celebrate Midsummer is to visit somewhere special? Our moot-goers recommended some of their own favourite places of power:
Avebury Stone Circle
Avebury Stone Circle

 

  • Avebury Stone Circle
  • The New Forest
  • Glastonbury Chalice Well
  • Uffington White Horse
  • The Long Man of Wilmington
  • Burnham Beaches
  • Whitby Bay

Spring Equinox

Just as its precedent, Imbolc, seemed the hardest of the major sabbats to understand, Spring Equinox called up the fewest obvious associations of the solar festivals.

Spring is much more clearly here at this time. Bolder daffodils emerge from the thawing earth, and here is the tipping point of the days and nights – the light takes over and promises the return of summer. Another beginning to take up where the endings in winter left off.

What interested us in this discussion was what form its celebrating of fertility came. The imagery is largely animal-related – rabbits, eggs, lambs.

BunnyWe talked about some of the deities associated with the time of year – the traditions. A lot of Goddesses came up (mingled in with Christian saints and other adopted patron names and characters), and a lot of maiden figures. However, it is a solar equinox, something many of couldn’t help but see as masculine, and if trying to find symmetry in the wheel of the year, then maybe this is a companion festival to Imbolc and maturing of the feminine divine? If a Goddess comes to maturity followed by a God, surely the preparations are done for the approaching sexual festival of Beltane…

Imbolc

What we realised when we came to discuss Imbolc, in January, is that it seems to be the most elusive of the major Sabbats to understand. It is the first festival of Spring happening in an environment (2nd February) that is still very much immersed in Winter, and suggests new growth without the blatant connotations of celebrating fertility as the festivals immediately following it do, so how do we pin down the occasion we’re marking?

For those at the moot this month, Imbolc seems to represent a strange liminal period between winter and spring. A time to prepare to emerge from hibernation, but not quite come out yet. A time of planning and preparation – in agricultural terms, for planting and nurturing, not being hasty about results but instead being thorough in assuring they will happen. A focus on potential, and hope.

Practically it is when we have a tendency towards spring-cleaning, and decluttering – reassessing the basics and seeing and appreciating your environment anew, leaving the darkness of the winter behind. In that vein, we all seemed to call up personal reminders of a lot of fire imagery – not the blazing bonfires of Beltane, but candle light, sparks, the beginnings of warmth, and a sense of purification.

Also mentioned was the pre-Roman (possibly rooted in ancient Greek) festival of the Lupercalia, once celebrated in early February to purify the city to allow in new health and fertility. Pan or his equivalent was worshipped and the carnival-esque traditions included the priests of Pan wearing goatskins and enacting playful scourging/flagellations (a long-held symbol of purification) on those celebrating… it is suspected by some that such behaviour may have been the origin of the legends of the werewolf!

Modern Pagan understandings among us at the moot however were largely Goddess-centric. Most of us saw it as a quite gentle but feminine festival, with the female principle truly in a maiden aspect – deities we associated with it tended to be virgin goddesses, and ifSnowdrops understanding the sabbats as times for different rites of passage for the dual divinities, then perhaps an association to menarche? One stage of preparation towards impending fertility and impending Spring promise.

As far as observing the season, early February did seem to have an uncanny synchronicity with the appearance of snowdrops – nature’s calendar reminder?

 

First Moot – Autumn Equinox

9th September 2009

Our first ever moot! We had a good few people and new friends were made, gathered around tea…

Tea

We talked about Autumn Equinox – the fruit harvest (the second of three harvest sabbats) – the fruits of our labours and imaginations and what has come of the summer. A time for:

  • Preserving, hoarding, safety – celebrating abundance but not squandering (being the industrious mouse, not the lazy mouse from the fable!
  • Celebrating the arrival of winter as a positive turn in the season, a time for rest and a time to turn in – introspection and growth from within.

It is also a solar festival – the equinox of the waning sun. If thinking of the male divine aspect in his duality as wise ruler vs. wild fertility god, this is the descending of the first aspect, the Apollonian aspect waning.

Also in discussion was risk – the risks of summer (heat and dryness) turning to the risks of winter (cold, rain, snow). In the Mediterranean liminal periods such as the peak heat and stillness of noon being known as the ‘hour of Pan’, where the trickster spirit can disrupt the calm. We made the associations between Pan and places and times where risk was present – in our corner of Europe his places of risk are the dark and dense woodland, wild and camouflaged in the wet and leafy Autumn.

We also talked about moving with the wheel of the year and staying in contact with it – experiencing the changing seasons directly as important to accepting the rhythms of the seasons and one’s own life, attuning to them rather than expending energy resisting them.

Also came our first foray into discussions of personal magic. How do we reconcile the many different bits of advice thrown at us from various directions from various books, authors and traditions? How reliable are sets of ‘rules’ that one person has chosen to write down and present to us? We talked about intent and how important it was to getting the results we wanted.

A pearl of wisdom from our own Francesco: Magic is like a dance or a poem – when learning to compose it, to perform it – structure, direction, using someone else’s ‘choreography’ as a template, is often helpful. If confidence or originality has trouble shining through at first, learning someone else’s song can teach us – all the better become our own skills to improvise 😉