LAMMAS/LUGHNASADH LAMMAS is the festival of the ripening corn and the first fruits of the year. Lammas is a Saxon word meaning 'Loaf-mass', which describes the celebration of the corn being the main ingredient for our 'daily bread' The older, Celtic name for this festival is Lughnasadh which means 'mourning for Lugh'. Lugh was an ancient name for The Sun God and so the name Lughnasadh sums up the feeling of this end of summer celebration. The Sun is on the wane, the sun's strength is dwindling and his energy has gone into the ripening corn. Like any man in sexual union, he gave his 'seed' to the Goddess who then creates a harvest. The God gives his energy and temporarily looses his virility and strength....but will recover to make love again (i.e Next spring). Through his 'sacrifice' the corn and fruits of the Earth are brought forth. This is the origin of the corn dollie. The last sheaf of corn was not consumed but kept back and made into a effigy to represent the spirit of the corn and the harvest, sometimes called John Barlycorn. The effigy was placed at the center of the feasting table and then next year when the fields are being prepared for the sowing of new crops, it was ploughed back into the soil so that the spirit of the sun and the corn did not die. Death being part of an ongoing cycle of transformation rather than an ending, is the most recurrent theme in Witchcraft and Earth religions. Lammas is a time of abundance and a surplus of food. The hedgerows are now yeilding wild strawberries and raspberries. Gardens are fat with blackcurrants and beans. Green turns to gold, the flowers will begin to die back and bring forth their fruits instead. It is a time for gathering and we must bear in mind the coming of Autumn and Winter ahead. It is time to begin to lay in store the things we will need mentally and physically, to get us through the dark months. The energy that began to rise from the earth at Imbolc, now begins it's return journey. Lammas feasts traditionally lasted for 30 days: 15 days before August 1st and 15 days afterwards, during which time people would come together as a community to gather in the crops, reap the corn and celebrate the bounty through feasting and drinking ( beer being also made from the grain and so sacred!). Can the origins of the catholic rite of eating the 'bread of life' and drinking the 'blood of christ' be just a twist on the Lammas feasting and drinking of late summer? I think it most likely! LAMMAS CELEBRATIONS The nicest way I have found to celebrate this festival of food and corn is to get together friends and loved ones, go out into the countryside and have a massive picnic! Take wine, take bread, take a drum or two and have a chilled and gluttonous evening . I always like to make a 'food altar', which is just a picture on the ground made quite literally of food. I have found that this is really great fun to do with others and gets everyone envolved. In the middle, put a piece of your 'Lammas loaf' and build outwards with patterns and spirals of different foodstuffs. Try and make it as colourfull and varied as possible, just like the Earth.
When you have completed your food altar, then start your picnic. Do not eat any of the food altar....that is your gift to mother earth and for all her creatures to feast on after you have gone home. Take a large goblet for the red wine. Fill and pass it round the group and toast the summer. Make a wish and share it if you would like to. Before you leave, light some incense and leave it burning for the air and fire spirits, then pour your last drop of wine onto the food alter for the water elementals....and you have given somthing for all the elements which make up our earth. Lammas Altar If you can't get out in the elements, then bring some into your house. Decorate your table or altar with corn and grasses. If you have no corn, then bake a loaf of bread and plait it to represent the weaving of the summer energies and birthing. Light golden or dark red candles on your table to represent the waning sun. Bring in a bowl of raspberries or wild strawberries.....the colour scheme should be yellows, golds and reds.