Like Bread for Lughnasa: A Letter
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Article ID: 15114
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Paladin of the Waxing Moon
Posted: July 29th. 2012
Times Viewed: 2,054
Merry Meet, Friend
Just to let you know, someday, I may have to do it. I mean, take an Internet sabbath -- maybe a weekend trip somewhere with no computer; no iPod; no news anywhere; leaving the cell phone behind so the gods canít find me. I donít know -- maybe build a tree fort far away, anything to get away from it all. Then, I could be blessed with ignorance of such world events and other news that would dispirit anyone. Itís not called a retreat for nothing. Like a hermit on a mountain, I could be apart from the world.
Really, I do not react like that to the entire worldís news. If I can compare myself to a lone craft on the seas, I believe Iím mostly even-keeled, rarely knocked off-course, and when I am, I can usually tack my way back to a sound heading. With the stars to steer by, or something like that.
Then, during a recent moon, it got worse because we learned the news of Jonathan Ramsey. This one hit me hard, very hard, knocking me off-course. He was an eleven-year old who was starved to death by his father and step-mother, and they tossed his body away in a creek. His skeletal remains were found several weeks ago.
Perhaps, you read of it, too. There are several Internet sources for it. Iím not the only one who became a little emotional over it. With all the worldís sorrows and hopes, its history of atrocities, miracles, and magick, would it do any good to retreat like a hermit from the world? To flee from such distress may not be the best solution. The Goddess walks with us, my friend, for weíre all on this small planet together.
The coming of Lughnasa brings such opportunities for me to find my true course again. This festival of the harvests, the sharing of abundance at the end of summer, is known by many names in many cultures. Traditions and rituals surrounding it are ancient and always tied to water, the healing earth and the bounty, like blessings, grown from it.
Your tradition may vary but I hope we have a large celebration on the beach with families, some playtime in the surf, and with a fire, dancing, song, games; or maybe just a bardic and a barbeque. Itís more than an excuse for a party, though. Traditionally, the harvest brings wheat, barley, other cereals, or corn, and from these, we can make bread; for Lughnasa is also a festival of bread.
In many religions, such as, Judeo-Christianity, Sufism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, bread is a prominent element in sacred texts and prayers. As a Wiccan, I have made bread for cakes-and-wine as well as the ritual feasts. I keep it simple, though, for a master baker I am not. (A wise word to Wiccan moms: teach your sons how and why to cook.) Still, there is something almost therapeutic, even spiritual, about working, or kneading, the bread dough with the hands. Bread machines are not allowed. First, the earth, my body: I use organic wheat flour and salt. Water, my blood: adding water to the flour to make and work the dough in my hands. Air, my breath: I use yeast to leaven, or raise, the dough. And, fire, my spirit, when I bake the bread. As Iím working the bread, Iím also blessing the bread, and Iím working my life, too. Of course, thereís more that makes it personal to me, much more. The elemental process of bread-making, though, hasnít varied much in thousands of years.
You know Lughnasa is a way to connect with the divine through community. In my coven, and I suppose in many others, we can only cut the wheat, that is, bring in a harvest symbolically in ritual. We may place bread on the altar as an offering. If thereís a fire, perhaps in a cauldron, some of us may toss totems of straw or bread into it as a figurative sacrifice. In some sense, I suppose, there is sorrow at the sacrifice, the cutting of the living crop, joy at the food it brings, and the promise of rebirth for the next harvest to come. We come together and share but thereís more to it.
In certain Abrahamic traditions, there is the parable of casting bread upon the waters, like into the sea, only to see it return as the waves come to shore. There are surely numerous interpretations of this parable. During Rosh Hashanah, I've heard, one may cast bread into water as a symbolic way of ridding one of sin. In some Christian traditions, casting bread upon the waters may be a lesson in charity to the poor and hungry; oneís reward for the charity is to come. My friend, with regard to the charity, I think we can agree our national shame is that there is still endemic hunger in this country that has undisputed abundance.
Then consider that, as a Wiccan, I find such biblical, poetic advice rather karmic. We know that the energies we send return to us three fold, and so it would seem the prudent Wiccan should only send blessings for all life within the biosphere (which can use all the blessings it can get) and, particularly, I think, healing. The search for inner healing, peace, or balance appears to be part of every major spiritual path, part of the search for the meaning of life. Our Pagan clergy need to be engaged with this.
The first compassionate counsel we should receive is from ourselves. Confiding in you with this letter is one way Iím working back to my own true course. The little trip to find quiet, solitude, and meditaton is another way, naturally. For personal spell work, I think I would invoke Demeter, the mother, goddess of the harvest and protector of children. I will learn soon what we plan for our Lughnasa festivities, but I am certain I will offer bread for the altar and the feast, and I will send a blessing for Jonathan.
Blessed Be To All That Is
Paladin of the Waxing Moon
Location: Colma, California
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