We’re gearing up for the first Pagan harvest festival of the year: Lammas (also known as Lughnasadh in some traditions). How time flies; it’s this time of year again. Summer may still feel in full-swing in your area, but Mother Nature is tapping us on the shoulder with this first harvest of grain, reminding us that it’s not going to last forever, giving us a heads-up to be prepared for the inevitable winter-to-come. Following is more information on this holiday in our Pagan “Wheel-of-the-Year”, including the Goddess connection, my personal reflections on this harvest festival, as well as correspondences for Lammas, ritual suggestions, and recipes!
Read on, enjoy.
As the matron of ancient times would start early to prepare her family for the harsh winter months ahead, so the Mother Goddess prepares us. She reminds us of the bounty yet to come with an early harvest of grain. She encourages us to take stock of what we have, and this pertains to the physical harvests, of course, but it can also include taking stock of ourselves, re-evaluating our goals, our lives, our paths, our relationships, our strengths, and our weaknesses.
This is the first of the harvest festivals, and in the ancient world this was indeed a time of celebration. A successful harvest would mean survival in the harsh winter months. In the northern countries this was, in particular, a celebration of the first harvest of wheat, thus bread is featured in the celebration of Lammas, also known as Lughnasadh.
As the modern day Pagans celebrate this festival they will build roaring bonfires, feed each other a mouthful of bread, and with wine they will toast each other…”May you eat the bread of life.“
Yes, it’s a harvest festival. Yes, bread and wheat, as well as other grains, figure into it. But for me, it was more about the passage of time. It’s about how time plays tricks on us, and as a child on summer vacation from school, these three months seemed like a whole year rolled up into one magickal moment.
August 1 in South Dakota meant lots of lingering blistering summer days ahead, the heat being almost as intense as July; but it also meant something different in the air, that faint scent (an autumn scent), a nuance of change in the sunlight, the slight tinge starting at the edge of the leaves. And then one morning, being greeted with crisp air and a sky so blue it was almost painful to look at, so beautiful it was.
This holiday, this moment in time, is a mystery. It is the ability to look back into the past while standing on some invisible magickal horizon so that you can see the future, but just enough of the future to tease you forward. And you come to this exact same time and place year after year. August 1, another summer coming to a close, one of so many, and another autumn returning. An end, to make way for something new to begin, again, and again, and again.
The figure standing on the horizon grows, matures, changes, morphs, ages, expands, learns, regrets, loves, hates, wonders, questions, fears, laughs, and listens. The figure on the horizon passes through a human life time in the blink of an eye, with one inaudible breath…and then they fade into an ethereal creature of smokey wisps with a voice that is but the wind.
Herbs: frankincense, wheat, cornstalks, heather
Altar Flowers/Herbs: corn ears, hollyhock, myrtle, oak leaves, wheat
Feast Foods: apples/apple pie, cornbread, sweet potatoes/sweet potato pie, grapes, blackberries
Animals: calves, roosters, deer
Incense: chamomile, rose, rosemary, allspice, sandalwood, carnation
Rituals/Spells: maternal magick, prosperity spells, purification spells, thanksgiving rituals, career spells
Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
For the Muffins:
2/3 cup sugar
Grate 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
For the Icing:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan with paper muffin cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts, if desired
Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 8 1/2×4 1/2×2 1/2 inches, or 1 loaf pan, 9x5x3 inches.
Mix sugar and butter in large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. Add bananas, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt just until moistened. Stir in nuts. Pour into pans.
Bake 8-inch loaves about 1 hour, 9-inch loaf about 1 1/4 hours, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing.
[Source: This blog post is an excerpt from my book The Spiritual Feminist]