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Lammas: The Sacrificial Harvest

Author: Robin Fennelly [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: July 28th. 2013
Times Viewed: 5,419

Another turn of the Great Wheel and the first harvest is upon us. This Sabbat is known as Lammas or Lughnassadh depending on where and how it is celebrated. Lammas is derived from the words “loaf mass” and refers to the harvesting of the grains, preparation and baking of bread in celebration of the gifts of the season. The God may take the form of the Green Man, the Harvest King or Grain Father. Lughnassadh gives honor to the Celtic Solar God, Lugh and his cycle of waxing and waning energy. It is his willing sacrifice that ensures that this and the subsequent harvests will be prolific in their bounty. Regardless of what title is given to this Sabbat the themes of gathering what has come to peak, the sacrificing of what must be offered for continued survival and the carrying forward of what has been purposefully selected are prevalent.

As we continue through the cycle of the Wheel, two more harvests will occur in the process of breaking down what has been planted and subsequently allowed to grow. The second occurs at the Autumnal Equinox (sometimes called Mabon) and the third and final at Samhain. Looking at this triune cycle we see the energy of excess, balance and last vestiges giving way to decay and the composting for new growth. The first harvest offers the abundance of overflow for selection and the need to thin out what could soon overcrowd. The second, a weighing and balancing of what is coming into readiness and the third a final clearing away and gathering of anything that had been overlooked and remains. This harvest is also marked by death and the necessary slaying of the healthiest livestock for the meat to be kept for the long winter months ahead.

The time of the Lammas harvest marks the end of the growing season and if successful, is blessed by overflowing baskets of summer vegetables and fruit; setting into motion what will hopefully be the standard for the remaining gatherings. Grains are in abundance and at their peak, the sheaves of golds and browns awaiting the scythe of reaping. The tempting aromas of freshly baked bread and fruit pies call us in from field and orchard. And, as we gather this abundance to ourselves and our loved ones, the great sacrifice of all that is left behind or cut too early is transparent to us.

This cutting down of what is ready for the taking offers us the opportunity to clear the way for those things that will be newly planted after the frost of winter holds their seeds in slumber. This time of the harvest allows us to feast on what will nourish and sustain us in the darkened months ahead. This harvest offers us choice to carefully select only those products that have reached the peak fullness of their energy as we cut away what stands in our path. However, none of this can be achieved without the necessary sacrifice of what no longer serves and will decay and wither if left to stand. And, it is this point of sacrifice that is celebrated and honored in the Great Wheel of our own cycle.

In the cycle of the God and Goddess Lammas also represents the union of the sun and earth in their forms as the Sun God Lugh and the Mother Grain Goddess. It is the sun that has enlivened the earth and brought the fullness of their union to be harvested. And, now that his solar energy is waning, the God must also serve as the willing sacrifice transformed as the sheaf of wheat to be cut down and offered by the Harvest Mother so none will go hungry. This aspect of sacrifice is honored in the gathering of oats, wheat and barley. The baking of the traditional Bread Man from the dough of the newly cut wheat is a way of consuming the energy of the harvest, gifted by the living spirit of the God now transformed into the harvested grain. The cycle of death and renewal is acknowledged by the seeds that remain from what was harvested and will be used to plant anew in the Spring. And, we become the living essence of sun and earth, God and Goddess.

We can also think of this ending of the growing cycle and the waning of the sun as we set to the task of harvesting what has waxed in form as the necessary place of neutrality and pause before action is begun again. Within this space of neutrality is held the intention of sorting, picking and gathering of what is sustainable and what is not. It often also means allowing the course of this process to move in an organic and supportive way. In other words, not resisting what is part of the natural cycle of our own planting and reaping.

This time of the year is an invitation to harvest what you have planted in your work and your life, both spiritually and mundanely. It is the time to stand fearlessly and with great care scrupulously cut away what no longer serves and will not sustain you through the time of turning within and the continued waning of the year. The tricky thing about sacrifice is that for most people the idea of sacrifice usually pertains to something that they willingly give up. There is the implied choice in the matter and although sacrifice can be disruptive and emotionally charged deep down there was still the ability to choose what the sacrifice would be. The sacrifice I am referring to implies neither choice nor selection. But definitely requires faith that all will be resolved in a productive manner if you are willing to surrender to what must be. Sacrifice in its refined form is the release of something that you ultimately want to cling to, whether negative or positive in its form despite the negative impact that you THINK it will leave.

The courage that is needed is one that will allow the sacrifice of what you are least expecting to be removed so that your inner fields may be readied for new growth. And, the further requirement is that of offering up gratitude both for what has filled you and for what has been taken away. The energy of gratitude is one that is magnetic in receipt and release. It attracts those things to you for which you are able to show more gratitude. This in its own way is sacrificial in nature as well. It requires that you see the gift in what is experienced in your life (even when it does not appear to be a gift) and offer up your own energy in acknowledgement.

So, as you celebrate this turning of the Wheel in whatever way is in keeping with your path and as you eat heartily of what the season brings, give pause to remember what remains in the fields that will serve as compost for Spring’s planting. For without its sacrifice the harvest would not yield such sweet gifts at the next turning.

(Please enjoy the accompanying poem: The Sacrificial Harvest in the WitchVox poetry section.)


Robin Fennelly

Location: Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania


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