Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lammas, History and Lore

Falling on the first or second of August, Lammas or Lughnasadh (Loo-nahs-ah) after the Celtic Sun God Lugh, marks the first of the three harvest festivals. The hot days of August are upon us and much of the earth is parched; the yellows, oranges, and reds of fall are quickly around the corner; apples are beginning to ripe and green corn stalks await picking. This is the time farmers begin reaping what they have sown, especially the grains corn, wheat, and barley, hence the name Lammas, which is the Anglo-Saxon word for loaf-mass.

Cultures across the world have held festivals during this time of year in honor of grain gods and goddesses. Native Americans held the Festival of Green Corn in honor of the Corn Grandmother; Romans honored the grain goddess Ceres at their annual August Ceresalia; In ancient Phoenicia, the grain god Dagon was honored by sacrificing a large portion of the harvest to him. However, like Imbolc, much of the modern traditions of Lammas originate from Irish traditions. The sun god Lugh, known as "the shining one," was a primary deity of druids. He was said to be able to take multiple forms, including that of a human who would worship alongside the druids. He was the God of Harvests, Fire, Light, and Metallurgy as well as the defender of the weak and King of the Tuatha De Danann, a mythological race. He ruled along side Dana, the Great Mother. While the sabbat focuses mainly on Lugh, Dana's role is also very important. She brings fourth the first fruits of the harvest, although still pregnant with later harvests.

Because grains are the first among the crops to be harvested and could be stored through the winter months, they became of high importance to all ancient civilizations. In Ireland it was considered bad luck to harvest any grain prior to Lammas as it meant that the previous year's harvest had run out early, a grievous error in any agricultural community.

Feasting while offering part of the harvest to the grain god or goddess is traditional at this time of year. Freshly baked bread, corn bread, berry cobblers, honey, and grain alcohol are commonly consumes and sacrificed. The baking of bread is a sacred ritual, representing not only the harvest, but Mother Earth, home, and hearth as well. Its gentle rising as it bakes symbolizes growth, fertility, and birth. Burying part of the first baked loaf of the season was thought to bring a bountiful crop the next year.

If you do not wish to celebrate Lugh or one of the other harvest deities during the sabbat, focus on celebrating the first harvest and remembering our ancestors who relied heavily on the first harvest for winter survival. Offer up a loaf of bread and honey to honor their hard work and determination. This is also a time to count your blessings and be thankful for what you have. After Lammas the sun drifts lower in the sky each evening, symbolizing the coming of fall and winter.

How do you celebrate Lammas? Are their any traditions you celebrate that I did not mention?

To learn more, please read the Lammas Correspondences post.

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