Southern Hemisphere February 1st - 2nd
Northern Hemisphere August 1st - 2nd
The first day of the Autumnal season, a time when all Grain Deities and Mother Goddesses are worshipped. The beginning and celebration of the first harvest and a time of abundance. This is when we must take heed from the Mother Goddess and begin to put all the fruits that she and the God have so willingly given to us to use. A time to start bottling, baking, freezing and preserving the many different foods before us and to increase our stores for the coming winter. The word ‘Lammas’ is derived from the Anglo Saxon word "Hlaf mass" meaning the feast of bread, so bread baking, kneading and eating the breads are another important aspect of this festival, as are all symbols and recipes of the grain.
Lammas marks the time when the Sun Gods power begins to decline in our southern hemisphere skies, the days are slowly getting shorter, and from now on we will notice a slight drop in the temperature, especially early morning and evenings. However, as if in bouts of intense feeling and emotion, the Sun God makes it known that he is still here and not yet gone. This is portrayed within the sometimes searing hot days and the thunderstorm weather that he has put upon us.
Another name for Lammas is ‘Lughnasadh.’ Translated, this means the Feast of Lugh, the Irish God associated with the sun, fire and light, known throughout Europe as the Grain God. In times gone, the day of Lughnasadh, August the 1st in Europe and February the 1st in the Southern hemisphere, was when people all over celebrated with feasts, gatherings and much merriment. Harvest fairs were everywhere and people really got into the swing of the occasion. Various produces were sold, candies, breads and cakes made and many a pint of ale was drunk. These festivities started before the actual day and carried on well after. Lughnasadh was also observed by some in a ritual that re-enacted the sacrificial death of Lugh and how he died for the good of us all. From his death we in turn could begin harvesting the fields of all their grains and crops. As with everything, there must be death so that we are able to carry on with new birth and growth. Death makes it possible for the seasonal wheel to turn.
As Lammas is the time when the first grains of wheat and corn are being cut from the fields, there is much ritual and tradition surrounding the first and last cuts of grain. Some countries however, didn´t actually cut the final grain until the Autumnal Equinox, it usually depended on countries and their own customs as to when they did this. The last sheaf of wheat to be cut represented the resting place for the spirit of the whole crop. Because of this belief, farmers usually cut this last standing sheaf together. They believed that by doing this, there would be no bad luck that would certainly had occurred had the sheaf been cut by a just one farmer. This custom still carries on today, with the last sheaf being ritually carried into the home to be made into the Corn Mother of Lammas or carefully put away to be made into the Corn Maiden of Imbolc.
As the summer time draws to a close, the God´s eye we made at Beltane marking the beginning of summer has now been replaced by the autumnal corn that will hang for this season outside our home, under the eaves. This corn will represent the sign of plenty, the beginning of the harvest season and the time for planning ahead to the colder days when crops will wither and die if left unattended and not harvested. This also applies to us and our bodies as well as our minds. We must learn to clear ourselves of all clutter and be ready for the coming months. A time to make the most of what nature has given us, rejoice in this harvest and remember the old saying of ‘and what you sow, so shall you reap,’ be it vegetables, herbs or karma! Herbs that weren´t picked at Midsummer should now be picked and dried for later use. Stored in clean labeled jars, they can be used in cooking or any magical works. The mugwort, wormwood and rue are among many herbs that have flourished well over the last few weeks. Catnip and thymes are ready to be cut and dried along with any other herbs that are left. The herbs that were trimmed at Midsummer have taken on a new lease of life and have really out done themselves while awaiting the harvest months for the last pickings.
As we get closer to the Autumnal Equinox, the days seem to be so crisp and clear, alive with a great deal of bustling around. People and animals scurrying about and making the most of the sun and warmth before we are once again plunged into the darker months. The cold air in the morning is invigorating to say the least but during this time it is nice to know that the sun is still strong enough to offer you warmth in return. For some however, this is a time of worry. The farmers knowing what is ahead of them are busy making provisions for their many cattle. If their crops are promising a good harvest, then they know that there will be an abundance of food to help keep their livestock going throughout winter. Poor crops will result in poor feeding. For many farmers, this is their livelihood, they follow their farming life as it was done many years ago, they do not consider going out to buy extra foods for cattle and the like. For those that do find they have to buy supplements, livestock feed is readily available from specialized merchants. The same applies to us as we have many foods available from various supermarkets and food stores. Perhaps it is because of this that many of us take the seasons for granted, knowing that vegetables, fruit and meats are available all year round, imported from all around the world whenever we need them. The sad part about this is that many people only notice the difference in price and not in the seasonal foods themselves. It is taking time but many people are beginning to come back to the seasonal wheel and getting in tune with the Earth, some have never left, while sadly others will never even realize what it is.
THE CORN MOTHER
Although many do not live on farms or have a rural lifestyle, you can still take part in your own harvest rituals that combine ancient traditions as well as new. On the eve of Lammas, February the 1st here in New Zealand, we decorate our home with a variety of grains and other Lammas symbols. Vases of wheat and bowls of corn, oats and barley are very fitting. We gather our wheat that has been wrapped in blue cloth awaiting Lammas where it will be consecrated before making it into the Corn Mother. The Corn Maiden made during Imbolc, can also be the Corn Mother of Lammas, without her bride´s dress of course. However if you wish to make a separate one for Lammas, that is also fine. Keep it simple, a bundle of hay, straw and wheat secured to make arms and a waist make a very fitting symbol of the Corn Mother for your Lammas celebrations.
We give thanks for the wheat and acknowledge the sacrifice of Lughnasadh so that in turn we may harvest the grains and crops. When the Corn Mother has been made, she is then placed onto our altar until the next day where she will then join us during our Lammas festivities. After Lammas, we place the Corn Mother in the direction of the west, symbolic of Autumn, where she will stay until the Autumn Equinox. She is then usually taken down once more and put away to rest until she will be honoured again at Imbolc as the Corn Maiden, or until next Lammas where she will once again become the Corn Mother. An ever changing aspect of the Goddess.
The day of Lammas was always a busy one for many cultures and families. In many countries, the women baked bread with the first wheat that was cut, they also used previously sprouted grains and baked them into their breads. The sprouting of the grains symbolized the Grain God´s return. Lammas, the festival of Bread, a celebration of the grains that are used to make this sustainer of life. Bread has been worshipped and used in many feasts and rituals for thousands of years. Lammas is the time for mixing, kneading, baking, slicing and eating breads made from barley, oats, wheat and corn, a time to honour the Grain Gods, for without them the world would be a different place.
In times gone and still in some parts of the world, breads that were traditionally baked from the first grains of the harvest were considered sacred and were consecrated before being given out to the members of the family or village. There are many superstitions surrounding bread. A lot of them are quite grim and forbade you to overturn loaves once cooked, to cut them certain ways for fear of bad doings, others tell you never to throw bread into the fire, however they do not tell you that it is alright to throw bread into the Lammas fire on that night alone. On the more positive side of things, small pieces of bread placed under the pillow of a child will protect them from nightmares and evil beings. Bread sprinkled with black pepper is known to dispel negativity when small pieces are thrown into the corner of a room and left there for one moon cycle. (Waning moon until the next waning moon.) White bread when heated with sunlight soap is an old remedy used to help remove pain and swelling when placed onto an open wound on the body.
Associated Names - Bread day, Festival of Bread, Festival of First fruits, First harvest, Hlaef-mass, Lughnasa, Lughnasadh, Lugh’s Feast, Pagans First Harvest.
Activities - Balefires, bread making, collecting wheat and corn, cutting herbs for drying, gathering first fruits, harvest fairs, harvesting, kneading and eating bread, making the Corn Mother, popcorn garlands and wheat wheels, visiting orchards and fields.
Colours - Gold, orange, red, tan, yellow.
Deities - All Grain and Agricultural Deities, Mother Goddesses, All Grain and Father Gods.
Foods - All grains, any form of bread, buns and rolls, apples, barley, barbequed foods and outdoor cooking, barley, berries, beer, cider, corn, crab apples, first harvest foods, frumenty, locally ripe produce, pies, plums, popcorn, pot luck suppers, sun god figures, toffees, yeast cakes and breads.
Herbs and Plants - All wheats, corn, cornflowers, cornsilk, goldenrod, goldenseal, hay, oregano, rosemary, stattice, straw, thyme.
Moon - The Barley Moon.
Symbols - Acorns, agricultural tools and machinery, alder, all grains, apple, boar, bulls, cats, colours of the earth, corn, Corn Mother, cornucopias, dogs, dragonflies, earth, farm implements, food pantry and stores, graves and burial mounds, hay, hay bales, hazel tree, high hills, horns, horseshoes, John Barleycorn, lions, magpies, mounds, orchards, raffia, sacks, scarecrows, scythes, seeds, shields, sickles, spear, spirals, straw, sun wheels, water, wheat, wheels.