by Melody Lee, co-creator
August 1, the ancient Celtic festival of Lughnasa is the cross quarter day between the summer solstice and fall equinox. It is a celebration of the first fruits of the harvest, a time to eat the first meal of the new crop year. Máire MacNeill in The Festival of Lughnasa notes that the six weeks from summer solstice to August were often times of hunger because little was left of last year’s crop, and the new one had not yet come in. In Ireland the last Sunday in July was called Garlic Sunday. Every farmer dug up the first new potatoes and feasted on them. The people gave thanks that the hungry month of July had past.
Today most of us no longer experience the natural feast and famine cycle known to farmers who are dependent on what their efforts coupled with the earth, sun and rain can produce. Nevertheless, this cycle is worth contemplating as a reminder that our existence depends upon the bounty of mother earth. Lammas is time to give thanks for all she has given us.
In New England the first ears of corn ripen in the fields and begin to appear in Farmer’s Markets around Lammas. Flower gardens brighten my suburban world. I marvel at the rich riot of color and variety coaxed forth from the earth by my friends and neighbors who are gardeners. Through the long sun-kissed days of summer, gardeners must weed and prune and select from nature’s rampant growth what will bloom and bear fruit what will be cut back or plucked out.
At Lammas the autumn joy comes into bloom. Its large heads of tiny blossoms keep many pollinators busy well into the fall. It is my favorite perennial. It reminds me to rejoice in the abundance of my crone’s life and to consider the sources of my joy. It is a reminder to consider how I might better align my life with my soul’s needs. What soul hunger aches deep within me begging still to be filled? What aspects of my life do I need to prune or let fall away so I can attune to what is most important?
Time is a precious gift. With Lammas comes a perceptible shortening of daylight and evenings filled with the stridulation of crickets. When I was a child summer was long, when I was a teacher it was never long enough, and now as a crone, I know the shortness of summer’s lease in the marrow of my bones. Life is but for a time and more of that time is behind me than before. I want to cultivate the ability to enjoy my time without worrying what I will do next and to expand into the spaciousness of truly being in the present moment. May that be the harvest of my years and the treasure of my heart.