So, back to Lammas or Lughnasadh as it had been known before – call it whichever you want to but I use Lammas as round here, they still have lots of Lammas Fayres in little villages and towns. Lammas, an Anglo-Saxon name means “loaf-mass” when the first corn was baked into bread and shared amongst the villages during their celebrations, whilst Lughnasadh was named after the God Lugh who was God of the sun, corn, harvest and light and was the start of the hunting season (and still is disguised as the glorious 12th which was Old Lammas Day.)
On 31 July at sunset, the party to celebrate the harvest begins. The crops are full and ready to be gathered. The first grain would be harvested and baked into loaves especially for the occasion. The husks would then be used to make a corn dolly and hung in the home to bring a year of good fortune, the previous year’s dolly being burnt on the Lammas bonfire. This is known as the festival of first fruits and any celebrations would include raspberries, blackberries, brambles or whatever was ripe and ready for picking.
In days gone by, this was the party before the hard work of harvesting really began. Over the next 6 weeks, the village would all work together to bring in the harvest. Even the children were included in this and one of the reasons behind the 6 weeks off school in the summer. On farms and the likes, this will still be valid, as the harvest had to all be in by the Autumn Equinox, and stored ready for the winter. Lammas was the fun before the grind. Here in Aberdour, the Lammas fair has been revived and we have fun and frolic for 9 days. OK so we push it a bit, but there isn’t the work to do in the fields for the majority of us, but more a rest from the work of today. Another point is that, in days gone by, the party began when the grain was ready. They judged by nature, not calendar, as we do today. Remember, the lives of the people in days gone by depended on plentiful crops and a good harvest to last them through the winter.
Lammas celebration is that of plenty, the bounty of the fields about to come in – the festival of First Fruits. The earth will go into mourning as the bounty from her fields will be taken and left barren. It is a celebration of transformation – grain will become flour and make bread, and the products of the trees and the hedgerows will be turned into pickles, pies, wine and jams. The death of the fields, so to speak, will give us life over winter. The rule of life – there is always a price to pay. And an extra bit – Lammas was so called after “loaf-mass”, in which the first grain from the field was baked into bread and thanks given for the blessing of the harvest.
Things to do at Lammas
Decorate your altar with corn, oats etc, poppies and other greenery that is around, and burn beeswax candles, a product sacrificed by the bees from their home to give you light. If you want to be really adventurous, collect wheat from the fields and make a corn dolly for your altar.
Have a look at the last 6 months, and see what your personal harvest has produced. Have you completed all that you planned at the spring equinox? Or have you not done anything about your ideas yet? Evaluate where you stand and if your life is going how you had planned. And if not, then what are you going to do about it!!!
On a nice day, take a walk and experience the hedgerows and fields – the reason for the celebration. See how the brambles are doing. Are they ready yet for picking? Is the corn? Bring something back from the field or hedge for your altar. I remember as a child spending part of August picking brambles and coming home with black fingers stained with the juice and nettle stings all over your knees as the best brambles always grew with the nettles (they feed them!). It also taught you to find the nettle cure – dock leaves – something kids seem to have forgotten these days. So, spend an afternoon in the country with a friend, partner or the whole family if not picking, then at least having fun exploring. I remember we were always driving looking for sections not yet picked over, yet these days of supermarkets and chemicals, no-one ever seems to pick from the hedgerows any more but this would have been a tradition at this time, gathering food for jams, wines and pies for the winter.
Important is to include a loaf in any ritual that you do, to celebrate the transformation of the sun’s rays into the corn into the bread into you. Get a bottle of organic berry wine such as bramble or raspberry or some freshly squeezed fruit juice and include this as part of your ritual of thanks too.
So, enjoy as in days gone by, the hard work was about to start again and this party-time was deserved.
Whilst you are out and about examining the hedgerows, why not do a little magic too. Without the magic of trees, we could not live. They turn the nitrogen we exhale back into oxygen for us to breathe. This is why trees are so important. Cut down all the trees, we die too.
So, find a tree and have a chat. Talk to the tree whilst you sit under it. Tell it of your problems. These old and wise guardians have stood, some of them, for thousands of years. They are indeed magickal and we can use this power to transform. Do you have a bad habit you want to kick? Take a charcoal pencil or a burnt piece of wood and draw the bad habit on a fallen leaf or piece of bark. Now bury it at its roots, all the time telling the tree what you want to happen. Place an offering to the tree in the hole along side the leaf and cover up. Don’t forget to water the spot too and it will be done.
I have already mentioned going out for a walk and checking out the hedgerows, but what about the rest? It is very important for a witch or prospective witch or pagan, to attune with nature. Any self-respecting witch finds it a necessity to walk by water, stand open-armed and let the wind blow through, lay in the sun and feel it’s warmth and energy or sit in the light of the moon and let her healing powers flow through you. This is far more important in the understanding of the elements and it’s powers than to worry about getting the words to a long-winded spell correct. You cannot worship nature if you never go out in it.
A witch is a person who is environmental and honours that environment around her. You cannot appreciate the power of nature unless you visit it and can feel it on a regular basis.
Your magickal Harvest jar…
People’s lives depended on the harvests in days gone by…it was necessary for life to have enough to eat over the winter, so people hoped and prayed for a good harvest and this would all be celebrated at the turn of the wheel. We also have harvests in our lives from the seeds we too plant, whether ideas, children or businesses, and wishes in our daily lives to help improve them are just as important today as they have always been. Your long-term goals should be in your wish box, which is updated 6-monthly but are for things in your future i.e. partners, new home, perfect job etc but the things we harvest seasonally can be wished for in the family harvest jar.
First, you will need a pretty jar, whether gifted with maybe a candle in but too good a jar to discard, or even a recycled marmalade or honey jar that you have decorated with relevant symbols yourself…but a pretty wide-necked jar with a cork or lid. Also collect dried sage or fresh leaves if you have them in the garden, wishing grains, a sprinkle of oats, barley or wheat, fresh from harvested fields, but otherwise a little sprinkle of porridge oats will suffice, 4 hazelnuts (or acorns or other nuts in the shell), a small piece of pyrite and a piece snow quartz. You will also need paper and a gold or yellow pen, and some golden coloured ribbon or cotton (golden harvest theme)
On the night of Lammas, when you make your fire, you can put together your Family harvest jar. Hold the sage between your “magick mittens” and charge the herb ‘to set your wishes in motion’. Add to jar. Now repeat with the rest of the items and layer in the jar with your chosen nuts and crystals on the top. If you don’t have all of the items, then no worries, just use what you have. You are now ready for wishes. With your Sun/harvest pen, write a single wish on a piece of paper, roll into a scroll and tie with a little ribbon (different colour per family member). Place in the jar. All family who live in your home can add their wishes, as many as they want, but only one wish per scroll. When all are done, close the jar with the lid and place in a prominent position in the family room, but not where it can be played with or opened by mistake. You have set your wishes into motion and now leave them and wait for your harvest to appear. Review your wishes in the spring, remove what has materialised or no longer relevant, and replace what is still relevant and yet to occur. Wishes can be added to the jar as needed!
The importance of Friendship
Us humans need friends. Friends are the family your choose to have around you, people who are there to support you in times of trouble, to act as a sounding board when you need to offload, and to help you celebrate when times are good. They share our secrets, our fears and worries and support us in times of loss. You may be lucky enough to have a large circle of like-minded, trustworthy friends who you can call on at any time to help you out (and, no, I do not mean likes or friends on Facebook!). True friends are people to be treasured and enjoyed like a fine wine… good friendships grow better as the years go by. Even if you haven’t seen each other in a while, it will be like it was yesterday when you meet or call on them for help or guidance, and true friends also tell it like it is.
Sometimes, however, life gets in the way, and friendships change. Maybe you have had to move towns for work and leave your friends behind, had a family and your friends were work-based, or maybe you have divorced and your circle of friends get split or you realise that a friendship is actually one-sided and you can’t deal with the negativity that friendship brings any longer. Life changes and moves forward and sometimes you just feel a little lonely and need to enhance your social life and make a new friend. Lammas is about celebrating and being thankful for the good things in life, so is a good time to add a little magick to improve your social circle.
Lammas Friendship Talisman
Before Lammas eve (31stJuly), gather together 3 similar sized crystals of moonstone, jade and rose quartz, a small green pouch or scrap of material, a large ivy leaf (check out walls etc) some patchouli oil and a piece pink ribbon.
On Lammas eve or Lammas, light your bonfire or bbq (still fire/heat) as part of your Lammas celebrations, or simply a candle or tealight. Cleanse your crstals in water, ready to be used.
Sit with the firer and some incense, (any will be fine as you need frankincense in it) and think about what your life needs, whether to seek more friends, deepen friendships that already exist or strengthen the bond between you and those you have left behind in another location. As you think of your need, place the crystals in the bag or centre of the material, and draw together, then tie it with the pink ribbon, three times, making 3 knots. Sprinkle the bundle with 3 drops patchouli, then bury in a safe place, such as in a potted plant or outside planter and look forward to a livelier social life. This spell can also be performed in the spring or on any waxing moon, as no-one should feel alone or lonely in this world. To quote the Beatles: ‘We get by with a little help from our friends”
Are you worth it?
The first instant response to this question should be “Of course I am”…and this was me, when asked why I had indulged myself with expensive perfume on a girly shopping trip – because I am so worth it!!! If this wasn’t your first response to this question, the question has to be asked as to why not?
Women today have more money, more power, more independence than ever before, yet some still feel undervalued or worthless? Maybe I am selfish but I have developed the attitude that I am well worth it. Maybe Witchcraft has done that for me, but I work hard to provide money and a home for my children and if I want some me-time away from them, it opens their independence, not my guilt. Why can’t women go shopping for an hour with the girls or take a bath in peace? I am much calmer and can handle so much more when I have had my quiet cup of coffee, a lonesome walk with the dog or 20 minutes in a sumptuous oil bath. What’s more, I deserve what little time I award myself. I am not here to be at my family’s beck and call 24 hours a day. I deserve a life and, as a witch, I aim to live that life to the best of my ability…not merely exist as Wife, Mother and Domestic Slave. When the kids are wee there is little choice, but you can still start your plan for when they are bigger, and take that first step sooner rather than later. Taking valuable time away from the kids teaches them the life lesson that parents ARE entitled to a life. Time to take a stand and get your life back on track!
It takes courage but all women should head for the joy in life and not the doldrums – things that make you happy and grow, not miserable and limited. Make your wish list for the future and start planning how to get a little of what you wish for yourself: if you don’t have a plan, it will never happen!
A wee note to the men & offspring who read this newsletter: give them a helping hand and help them to grow, not keep them slaving over the sink. Witchcraft is all about balance and, as I see it, the scales aren’t exactly in balance. All work and no play makes Jill a knackered domestic Goddess!! Whilst at home, pick up those books, and help keep the brain ticking. Take up a night class as the start to your plan for the future, or read every minute you get on subjects that interest you. A friend of mine took a degree whilst raising her kids, which is to be applauded and her plan was ready once the kids were all in school…it just takes a little focus!!
Lammas is all about enjoying the summer before the hardship of winter and working out what you have achieved and where you go next. It is time to begin making that plan or wish list if you don’t have one in place. I realise that decisions can be easy and straight-forward, but other times, not so easy, especially when the decision is about things that are very important, and not small issues, but life-changing decisions. So, how to you make your decision on where you are going is a question I am often asked and if it was as simple as handing over a stone and your decisions are sorted, life would be so much easier. However, it isn’t quite that simple for most, so here is some help in seeing clearly the right choice to bring about moving your life forward. Don’t worry – be happy!
A Lammas Tarot spell at dusk…
Lammas is a time to be grateful for the good things in life, but sometimes we are weighed down with problems and cannot see the wheat for the chaff. At sunset on Lammas Eve (31st), take a small yellow candle, yellow or gold fairy dust and the 10 cups tarot card outside (make use of that old set) and sit at the garden table or altar. As the sun begins to go down, turn the card face down and light the candle next to it. Think about the family issues that are weighing you down and troubling you, and visualise them building up in your heavy heart, then flowing down your arms into your hands! Once in the palm of your hands, sprinkle fairy dust on them, hold up to the sunset and blow your troubles on the dust to the sunset. Then whisper to the Sun…
Mighty fire of blazing Sun, take away my troubles as the day is done
As you watch the sunset, know your troubles are being burned by the Sun. Then flip over the 10 Cups. This is your wish card and symbolises a happy settled family life. Let the candle burn out and place the tarot card on your altar or mantle-piece until your troubles have worked themselves out. Happy days…
A few seasonal traditions
I love superstitions, folk lore, weather lore, old wives tales and the likes (if you have any you would like to be included, send them in to me!!) So here are a few for this time of year:
Babies born in August were regarded as children destined for a great future whilst those who were tired of life and wanted to die ate cabbages during this month!! Bizarre
One of my all-time favourite flowers is the tiny Scarlet Pimpernel. Looking to see if this flower is open or closed will tell the weather this month – when it’s petals begin to close, rain is on its way whereas if the petals are wide open, the weather is set to stay fine.
Crossing water on a ship/ferry and want a safe sea voyage? Then toss a penny over the ship’s bow as it leaves port to pay the God of the Sea to keep you safe!
Watch the tides in August if you live by the sea, especially in Scotland when the Lammas floods can be particularly high and would predict a very wet August which can traditionally be the wettest of the summer months anyway, whereas a misty or dewy start in Wales would mean a month that would end in heat!