Lammas celebrates the beginning of the grain harvest in northern Europe and parts of North America. It is a Christianized holiday with deep pagan roots. It is a time to show gratitude for the fertility and abundance of the earth on which our lives depend. The first farmers in Britain constructed Silbury Hill at Avebury whose rotund shape is a permanent reminder of the fecundity of harvest. Up until the early 20th century, agricultural fairs in Britain and Ireland were held on tops of hills in honor of the earth’s fertility.
The Celts called the holiday Lughnasadh, after the god Lugh who established the festival in honor of his mother Tailtiu. She died of exhaustion after clearing all the fields of Ireland so crops could be planted for the first time. A later Celtic myth about Macha, the horse goddess, has a similar theme. At Lammas, Macha is forced to run a race against the king’s horses while pregnant with twins. She wins, gives birth, and dies. The herculean effort of producing crops exhausts mother earth. After the harvest the land must lie fallow. In Ireland the Goddess of the Land, known as the Sovereignty, is triple in form. She is sometimes young and beautiful, at other times heavily pregnant with a vast round belly, and at yet others, barren like the land in winter.
At the summer solstice, death was merely a kernel of darkness. With harvest time upon us, death’s presence grows with the encroaching dark of winter. Even as we rejoice in the abundance of this season, we are busy canning and freezing fruit and vegetables to prepare for the long winter to come.
One way to come more deeply in touch with nature and with your own inner wisdom is to find a place to sit quietly alone in the woods, a park, or other secluded natural spot. Sit as still as you can for 20 minutes and begin to see the place as it appears when you’re not there. See the world through animal eyes. Listen to the sounds; experience nature through all your senses. Notice what animals show up. Consider what message they may have for you. Take time to record your experience in your journal or see how it inspires you to creativity or social action.
As crones, we feel the pull toward darkness in the limitations of our aging bodies. However, for us there can be a second harvest. What wisdom is calling to be born through you? At Lammas we are called to honor and care for the earth and to honor and care for ourselves. What artistic, political, or practical gifts do you feel called to share with others this Lammas? What might you do to show gratitude for the bounty of nature’s harvest? What action you might take to assuage the earth’s cries of pain as she is wracked by the excesses of human technology and industry?
Carla Gomez, Communications
Melody Lee, Karen Edwards, and Dorothy Emerson, co-creators