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Lughnasadh, The Ritual
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For those of us who celebrate Lughnasadh, this is a small reminder of what it represents and those who do not might find these facts interesting.
As the Wheel of the Year turns once again, we are just about to step into Laughnasadh on July 31 or August 1st. This is one of the largest Sabbats that we celebrate, and on this sabbat we honor the Goddess for bringing forth the first fruits of the year. Yet the Goddess is still pregnant with the future harvest of autumn and she is nurtured as such. All the first fruits of the season are consumed especially any and all grains.
We also honor the Holly King who is also known as the Corn King who gives his life for the love of the Great Mother. Most pagan cultures required that the last grain be left standing as an offering for the faeries or other nature spirits.
Native Americans left the last corn stalk in the field for the Corn Grandmother to live in. Middle Eastern pagans buried the last harvested grain back in the earth to insure that the corn spirit would want to return the following year.
Lughnasadh, The Ritual
The High Priest gives the High Priestess the Fivefold Kiss and then immediately himself delivers the Charge, substituting “she, her, hers” for I, me, mine”
The Group spreads themselves around the Circle and starts a soft, rhythmic clapping.
The High Priest picks up the green scarf, gathers it lengthwise like a rope and holds it with one end in each hand. He starts to move towards the High Priestess, making as though to throw the scarf over her shoulders and pull her to him; but she backs away from him, tantalizingly. While the group continues their clapping, the High Priestess continues to elude the pursuing High Priest... She weaves in and out of the group beckoning him to capture her with the scarf while other women in the group step in his way to help her elude him.
After a short while the High Priestess allows the High Priest to capture her by throwing the scarf over her head to behind her shoulders and he pulls her to him. They kiss and separate, and the High Priest hands the scarf to another man. The other man then pursues his partner who eludes him and beckons to him and teases him in exactly the same way; the clapping goes on all the time. After a short while she too, allows herself to be captured and kissed. The pursuit-game continues until every couple in the circle has taken part. The last man hands the scarf back to the High Priest.
Once again the High Priest pursues the High Priestess but this time much slower, beckoning more solemn, as though she is tempting him into danger; and this time the others do not intervene. The pursuit continues until the High Priestess places herself facing the altar about two or three paces away from it; the High Priest halts with his back to the altar and captures with the scarf. They embrace solemnly but wholeheartedly, but after a few seconds the High Priest lets the scarf fall to the ground and he steps back and drops to his knees, sit back on his heals and lowers his chin on his chest. The High Priestess spreads her arms, signaling for the clapping to stop.
She then calls forward two women by name and places them one each side of the High Priest, facing towards him. The High Priestess picks up the scarf, and the three of them spread it between them over the High Priest. They lower it slowly and then release it, so that it covers his head like a shroud.
The group now spreads themselves around the perimeter of the circle and face inwards. The High Priestess then picks up the small loaf from the altar and holds it for a moment just above the bowed head of the High Priest. She then goes to the middle of the circle, holds the loaf up high in the direction of the altar and invokes:
O Mighty Mother of us all, bringer of all fruitfulness, give us fruit and grain, flocks and herbs, that we may be mighty. By the rose of thy love, do thou descend upon the body of thy servant and priestess here. After a few moments’ pause, and gently at first, she starts her Corn Dance, all the time carrying the loaf as a sacred and magical object. She finishes Her dance by standing facing the High Priest (who is still motionless and dead) with the loaf still in her two hands, and says:
Gather round, O Children of the Harvest!
Behold the Holly King is dead—he who is also the Corn King. He has embraced the Great Mother, and died of his love. So has it been, year-by-year, since time began. But if the Holly King is dead----he who is the God of the Waning Year---all is dead; all that sleeps in my womb of the Earth would sleep forever. What shall we do, therefore, that the Holly King may live again?
The Maiden says:
Give us to eat the bread of Life. Then shall sleep lead on to rebirth.
High Priestess says:
So mote it be
The High Priestess breaks small pieces from the loaf and gives one piece to each person, who eats it. She does not yet eat a piece herself but keeps enough in her hands for at least three more portions. She summons the original two women to stand on either side of the High Priest, she gestures to them to lift the scarf from the High Priest’s head; they do so and lay it on the ground.
The High Priestess says:
Come back to us, Holly King, that the land may be fruitful.
The High Priest rises, and says:
I am a battle-waging spear;
I am a salmon in the pool;
I am a hill of poetry;
I am a ruthless boar;
I am a threatening noise of the sea;
Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen?
The High Priestess gives him a piece of the loaf and takes a piece herself; they both eat, and she replaces the last of the loaf on the altar.
The High Priest and Priestess then lead a ring dance, building up the pace so that it becomes more and more joyous, until the High Priestess cries “Down!” and everyone sits.
The Great Rite is then enacted.
The remaining portion of the loaf, after the Circle has been banished, becomes part of the Earth—Offering along with the last of the wine and cakes.
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