Summer is well underway. A profusion of daylilies, sunflowers, gladiolas and sweet peas, brighten city sidewalks and gardens as they bake under the blazing fury of the sun with its enervating heat. For many contemporary people in Europe and America, August 1, marks the beginning of summer vacation, not a reckoning that we have come to the mid-point between summer solstice and fall equinox.
This season of abundance in the northern hemisphere has many goddess-rich traditions that mark the first fruits of the harvest. In traditional Celtic life this was a time to gather to enjoy festivities before the hard work of the grain harvest, a time to pick wild berries, race horses, and hire workers. According to myth, the sun god Lugh (loo) declared this celebration, called Lughnasa (loo-na-sa), Lugh’s assembly, in honor of his foster-mother the Irish goddess, Tailtiu (tell tu), who cleared the land so that humans could grow food. She is a goddess of great strength and endurance whose name means the Great One of the Earth.
The earth mother, about to bring forth her bounty, is symbolized by hills. They are round like her pregnant belly, and from their swelling summits the checkered fields stretch out below in a colorful display of fecund growth. Such hills were often the sites chosen for Lughnasa fairs. Lammas, a Christian name, comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “hlaef-mass (loaf mass) which marks the consecration of the first bread made from the newly harvested grain. In Bavaria, on August 15, the herb harvest is celebrated along with the Christian commemoration of The Ascension of Mary. Bundles of newly harvested herbs are attached to sticks and paraded through villages and fields. Once consecrated, the herbs are stored for use during the dark days of winter (“Deeper into Lughnasadh,” www.druidry.org). This holiday may have its origin in part in The Festival of the Torches or Nemoralia, dedicated to the goddess Diana, which took place in ancient Rome over a three-day period. Beginning on August 13 with a ritual descent to Hecate in the underworld, it culminated on August 15 with the ascension of the goddess Diana to heaven (“Origins of the Feast of Hecate,” www.otherworld-apothecary.com). In many forms and over many millennia the power of the divine feminine has been honored during this season of abundance. Now growth is reaching its pinnacle and soon the grain must fall to the scythe.
As crones, we are in the harvest time of life. This is an opportunity to take time to consider what we are now reaping. What rewards do we now enjoy? What sacrifices have we made to get them? What further effort is required? And what dreams tug at our hearts that inspire us to start anew? These are questions to ponder and write about or explore in art. Dreams of the future can stir new life in us when the harvest of raising children or dedication to a career reaches an end. New goals may lead us to explore deeper levels within ourselves.
In August of 1985, when I cradled my two-month-old son and looked out over the Atlantic Ocean in Ogunquit, Maine, it seemed impossible that this infant would ever grow into a fully formed adult human. This August, sitting on a different beach, but by the same ocean, I looked around and almost everyone there was younger than I am. Many of these young adults, some parents of young children, were not yet alive in 1985. The world continuously remakes itself. Life is endlessly becoming without surcease, generating forms, releasing them, and generating more in a never-ending cycle.
Freshly bathed in the waters of the spirit we come into this world, as Wordsworth writes, “trailing clouds of glory.” Much of Nature’s “vision splendid” slips from our perception as we take up our part in this world. “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;/The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star/ Hath elsewhere its setting/ And cometh from afar.” (Ode on Intimations of Immortality). As we enter or near old age, and the steady drumbeat of life’s demand slows, can we detect a clarion call rousing our soul? What further actions are required to fulfill our destiny?
Being a crone may well have stages. Each stage is a harvest earned by long labor, wrestling with life’s challenges, and surrendering to life’s limitations. Perhaps the first is the stage of mastery and clarity, with opportunities to lead, mentor, and craft a legacy. Perhaps, the second, is the stage of turning inward toward memoir writing, contemplation, and the quickening of our soul toward the ultimate mystery, however that power manifests itself to us. Perhaps our growing devotion will enliven our elder years with spiritual insight and serenity.
May the abundance of this season with its fruits, vegetables, herbs, and grains nourish us now, and in the days to come. Make and sip herbal tea throughout the hot summer days to refresh your body and spirit. I suggest vervain (lemon verbena).
First fruits of the harvest blessings,
Clothed with Flowers – A Druid Meditation
Follow the link below. This meditation will transport you to a place of healing between the worlds with its tranquility-inducing blend of music and words. It evokes the spirit of the herbs that can help us balance and heal. Listen to Clothed with Flowers!