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 linked 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.