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The Light of the Harvest: Lammas

Author: Robin Fennelly [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: August 3rd. 2014
Times Viewed: 3,604

We come to the fields of the Earth Mother and ask that she offer up her bounty that we may be fed. What was quickened and newly birthed at Imbolc is ready to be taken in willing sacrifice as the cycle of quickening and cutting away continues. Grandfather Sun shines down brightly offering his last rays of strengthened light on each tender blade of grass and grain. Grandmother Wind sighs deeply in anticipation of what must be rendered as sacrifice having witnessed this cycle for time eternal.

All is still as words of gratitude and devotion are offered from throats eager to taste the gifts of the breadman. They move from heart through lips like liquid salve and hold the promise of healing and hope that the harvest will be plentiful and all will survival Ancient Winter’s icy grasp. Breath spirals up from words impassioned and lovingly caresses each blade of harvest gift. Voices call out as sharpened scythe is held aloft and blessings from the Greenman that he gladly offers up his charge so none will feel hunger’s pain.

The fields of Mother Earth’s body are swollen with wheat and rye, awaiting the farmer’s sharpened blade and the beginning of the First Harvest. Salty sweat beads on furrowed brow and earth and air feel the fires of need as each swing of the scythe cleanly cuts away. The rains of Her tears are held at bay so as not to rot the harvest and the Greenman stands at the ready, His strength of Spirit soothing the wounds of his Beloved as he whispers the promise of renewal to his children of plant and grain. His are the gifts from whose wellspring animal and plant will seek rebirth and His is the Law of Sacrifice of all under his care to feed those who would die in the cold without.

Grandfather Sun in sorrow and waning strength slowly averts his gaze as dusk settles heavily into earthen field. The day of harvest now ending as light fades and the work of carefully bundling what lay beneath in a newly cleared space of soon to be fallow field at hand. Mother Earth sighs in relief that she has provided well and she may now rest and heal as Greenman lays within her aching breast. All is quiet save the rustling whispers of grain that awaits the farmer’s blade at the first rising of the day’s light. Daughter Moon looks lovingly down on her sleeping Mother and offers her star-filled night as watchful keeper of the bounty of the Harvest.

The Feasts of Lammas/Lughnasdh

The Great Wheel of the Year continues its cycle and we turn our intention towards what will be offered in sacrifice as the gifts of the Harvest and what preparations will be required to support us as the Winter months loom on the horizon. This is the Sabbat of Lammas (or Lughnasaad) and is the first of three harvests. Agriculturally, this first harvest is the gathering of the grains and its name Lammas is derived from the old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “loaf-mass”. In ancient times, celebrations included the consecrating of the first loaf of bread baked from the first of the grains harvested. This is the inspiration for the modern day celebratory inclusion of the bread-man, who is ritually offered in sacrifice to the fires and consumed as life giving energy. In addition to wheat, barley was a popular grain to be harvested at this time. The tale/song of John Barleycorn recounts the various indignities suffered by him as metaphors relating to the stages of preparation required to produce alcohols such as beer and whisky from the barley.

In its Celtic form as Lughnasadh, this Sabbat it is one of four Fire Festivals (Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasadh and Samhain) in the Wheel of the Year. The name in Irish Gaelic means “commemoration of Lugh” or “Feast of Lugh”. Legend tells that Lugh Lamfada (an Irish Solar Deity) won the secret of tilling the land from the Balor, the dread king of the Fomori. Once in possession of the secret, he gave it over to his foster mother, Tailtiu, as her domain. As she cleared the lands for cultivation, she died of exhaustion. Lugh, honoring her sacrifice, dedicated a series of games of strength and skill called the Tailtean games (much like the Olympics) in her name as part of the Harvest festivities.

The Greenman or Lord of the Green is often invoked as part of ritual celebration. His is the energy of guardian of the animal and plant life and the preserver of all life as he insures a bountiful harvest, sacrificing those plants and animals under his charge so that humanity may survive. His is the hand that destroys and promises the healing of renewal and rising again stronger and more viable.

The Waning Light of the Year

As we move through this turning of the Great Wheel and its cycle of change, the light has begun to dwindle in outward expression in the physical world and the call to tend to the fires within and the heart of promise that awaits our cycle of inner retreat and silent sanctuary is amplified as the rustle of grain announces its readiness to be cut down. We have come to the place of twilight and the need to finish what is left of the day’s work before we settle into the space of rest and contemplation. This is the beginning of the process of integration where we stand ready to take in what filled our day with productive energy as we sit and offer up gratitude for food well prepared and a day well given. And, as the waning light of day gives way to the waxing darkness of night we use the last of the day’s efforts of exertion as we retire to the space of rest and recovery. As we enter this dreamtime, we have surrendered to the transformative Light held in the darkness and are readying to actively re-form the mantle of brilliance we claimed at the Summer Solstice into what will begin the cycle anew at the turning of the wheel at the Winter Solstice.

The Light of the Harvest

We have honored the fullness of our growing inner flame and now what has reached full potential must be culled and harvested to sustain us as the physical expression of Light wanes and the cold threatens what we wish to keep burning brightly, physically and spiritually. In opposition to Imbolc’s quickening and newly burgeoning Light that is expanding towards outer expression, this time of the harvest is the first step on the journey of feeding and quickening the inner paths of dark and shadow. In the physical world we gather our food and energy stores and offer up to composting those products that did not thrive in the heat of the spring and summer sun. We look carefully at what we think will nourish and sustain us in the dark months ahead and we choose wisely where we shine our light outward so as not to exhaust its inner reserves.

This First Harvest is one of choice. Choice as to how we will ration our provisions and choice about where we will place our efforts to keep the fires burning. Astrologically, we celebrate Lammas during the Solar Month of Leo. Leo is a sign of the Fixed Modality which means its is the stabilizer for what has preceded and what will flow from its transformative grasp. The symbol for Leo is that of the Lion and the Lion’s courage and strength is what is needed as we move within. The courage to claim the power of our Inner Light and the boldness to fiercely protect and guard it to keep the flame burning. Leo is ruled by the Sun and although the Sun is waning in its duration of daylight and intensity of heat, there is still enough light to cleanly and precisely harvest fields that are ready for the taking and will continue to ripen for a few more months.

As we celebrate this First Harvest of Lammas take some time to offer up gratitude for what has been revealed in the brilliance of the waxing light and for what awaits us as we seek that brilliance within ourselves. Be sure to thank the Earth Mother for her continued gifts throughout all of the Seasons and the God of the green for the protection and strength that flows through animal, plant and human. Stand outside and drink in the energy of the Sun and envision this energy as feeding the fires that flame brightly as the sun in you. And, on a clear and starlit night, go outside and find the brightest star in the velvety blackness of darkened sky. Breathe deeply and let your gaze soften and focus your awareness on the brilliance of this speck of light. Breath deeper still and envision this light expanding, growing and bursting in dynamics and energy. This is the spark of flame that you will find within your inner darkened sky. This is the space of stable light from which you may bolster the courage needed as you transform and expand your Inner Flame. This is the Light of the First Harvest that you will return to time and again to feed the hunger of your Soul.


Robin Fennelly

Location: Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania


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