Blessings of the First Harvest my friends,
August 2nd is Lammas (meaning loaf-mass), the celebration of the beginning of the three traditional harvest festivals (along with September 21st and November 1st). The Celts called this time Lughnasadh (pronounced loo-na-sa), Native Americans called it the Green Corn Festival and in Slavic Regions it is called the feast of the Big Glad Woman.
In India, a cotton festival is held to honor Cotton Mother and the great Bull Dancing of Minoan Crete occurred at this time. (At the opposite time of the year in Peru there is a Corn Parade.) Ireland still celebrates Big Sunday and farming communities gather at hundreds of traditional hilltop sites to set up craft fairs, feast, play games and dance. A part of every one of these gatherings is a ceremonial meal where the first fruits of the harvest are eaten.
Lammas is primarily a feast of joyful thanksgiving for Mother Earth’s bountiful offering of her first fruits that will sustain her children. Although Lammas is now dated August 2nd, an ancient date was August 6th when the astrological sign of Leo is positioned at 15 degrees. Early August is also called The Dog Days, not so much for the heat as many believe, but because the Dog Star, Sirius becomes visible in the sky.
Ancient tribes met to share news, trade goods, settle arguments, and play games to show off their skills. Most importantly it was a time to court and arrange marriages. Bread baked from the first grains is one of the most universal symbols of these celebrations and virtually every culture honored a Grain Goddess: Corn Grandmother, Ceres, Demeter, Freya, Isis and Ziva, to name a few.
In Stone Age cultures, tribes gathered at hill sites, such as Silbury Hill in Somerset, England (a 130 ft. high human made mound) to be with the Goddess as she neared her time of giving birth. Her labor was thought to begin at the full moon.
Several years ago, I was inspired to write a guided meditation to help us reconnect to the spirit of these ancient hill rites. As you read it, I encourage you to visualize the scene, imagining yourself back in the times when all people depended on the bounty of the harvest for their survival through the long days of winter ahead. Allow yourself to be filled with gratitude for the gifts of the Goddess.
Imagine you are walking along a path that winds around and up a great rounded hill. It is just pre-dawn and the light is a pale purple band along the horizon. You feel the cool refreshing mist on your skin and you are eager to join the procession of celebrants making their way up the Tor. You are thrilled because the wise elders have told you the stories of the ancients and how they created this hill especially for this ceremony. It feels very sacred to be walking on the same path that they trod so long ago. Carrying a basket of the first fruits from your orchards and a loaf of bread baked from the very first grain that has ripened on your land, you make your way up the spiraling path. As you smile silently to your neighbors, your community, you see that each has a similar basket in their arms and you feel a shiver of anticipation. There will be a great festival of rejoicing today, but first you are all winding your way up this sacred hill to greet the sun. People have left a bit of space between themselves and you take your place in the procession, deep into your own thoughts.
The Walking Meditation of Thanksgiving
As you walk, think of all that you are grateful for; all that is fulfilling in your life. It may be the fruits of your labor, the gifts of abundance from the Goddess, or the love of friends and family. Your walk is a meditation of thanksgiving. You picture everything and anything as you walk silently around the gently ascending pathway, feeling full of gratitude.
The Pulse of Life
Now, as you enter the great circle of community standing on the top of the hill, you set your basket down with the others and the High Priestess offers you a piece of ripe, juicy fruit. You bite into this gift of the Earth Mother, this first fruit of the harvest, enjoying its sweet and tangy flavor. This is Gaia’s labor of love.
As you take your place in the circle of thanksgiving, you feel the energy of the life force coursing through your body. A chill of the sacred pulse of life moves within. You feel yourself at one with the Goddess. In the few moments of silence before the sun rises and the ceremony begins, you listen to her voice within you. She offers images, words, songs and feelings, so pay attention to them.
The Song of Harmony
And now, the purple light of dawn gives way to the beautiful red/orange glow of the rising sun. The whole community turns towards the east with a quiet gasp of wonder. The head priestess begins the song and that is slowly picked up and joined by all of the celebrants. "My song is my prayer; I send the voice of gratitude. We pray for peace, we pray for love, we pray for life and for the life of this planet. Teach us to live in harmony, teach us to live as one.”*
*From “Prayer Song” by Leah Wolfsong; Songs of the Circle