Friday, July 26, 2013


Lammas, also called Lughnasadh, falls at the beginning of the harvest season. Apples are ready and grain is beginning to ripen.  The word Lammas derives from the Old English phrase hlaf-mas, which translates to loaf mass. It is the first of the three autumn harvest festivals, the other two being the autumn equinox and Samhain.  In early Christian times, the first loaves of the season were blessed by the Church.  The loaf was blessed and in England it might be employed afterwards to work magic: A book of Anglo-Saxon charms directed that the lammas bread be broken into four bits, which were to be placed at the four corners of the barn, to protect the garnered grain.

Lammas in Norse is compared to Freyfaxi, or Freyr Fest, marking the beginning of the harvest. As a fertility deity Freyr would be intimately tied to the land and the food grown upon it.  It was a time for celebration with horse races and a feast for God Freyr. Thor was also honored as is his wife Sif, whose golden hair reminds us the wheat fields. Traditionally, three stalks of the first grains are bound together into a sheaf and kept as an amulet of fortune. Sometimes it was also left in the field for Odin’s horse Sleipnir.

Depending on your individual spiritual path, there are many different ways you can celebrate Lammas, but typically the focus is on either the early harvest aspect or the celebration of the Celtic God Lugh, Norse Freyr or others. It's the season when the first grains are ready to be harvested and threshed, when the apples and grapes are ripe for the plucking and we're grateful for the food we have on our tables.

In some Wiccan traditions, Lammas is the time of year when the Goddess takes on the aspects of the Harvest Mother. The Earth is fruitful and abundant, crops are bountiful, and livestock are fattening up for winter. However, the Harvest Mother knows that the cold months are coming, and so she encourages us to begin gathering up what we can. This is the season for harvesting corn and grain, so that we can bake bread to store and have seeds for next year's planting.
Ironically, today this is probably the least-honored Wiccan festival.  As we've become industrialized, harvest celebrations have all but been forgotten. Our daily bread comes not from the bounteous fields, nor gifted of the generosity of the Earth Goddess and the Corn God, but bought plastic-wrapped in bulk at a supermarket.  As global food production teeters on its delicate framework of agribusiness, cheap oil, chemical pesticides and fertilizers, nuclear irradiation, and now genetically-engineered non-reproductive seeds - not to mention climate change - we would benefit by remembering just how crucial the farmers' harvests are to our continued well-being.

Honoring the Past

In our modern world, it's often easy to forget the trials and tribulations our ancestors had to endure. For us, if we need a loaf of bread, we simply drive over to the local grocery store and buy a few bags of prepackaged bread. If we run out, it's no big deal, we just go and get more. When our ancestors lived, hundreds and thousands of years ago, the harvesting and processing of grain was crucial. If crops were left in the fields too long, or the bread not baked in time, families could starve. Taking care of one's crops meant the difference between life and death.

By celebrating Lammas as a harvest holiday, we honor our ancestors and the hard work they must have had to do in order to survive. This is a good time to give thanks for the abundance we have in our lives and to be grateful for the food on our tables. Go outside and thank the ancestors with bread, fruit or other gifts.  Lammas is a time of transformation, of rebirth and new beginnings.

Feasting and Food
Bread is the ultimate symbol of the Lammas season. After all, once the grain is harvested, it is milled and baked into bread, which is then consumed. It is the cycle of the harvest come full circle. The spirit of the grain God lives on through us in the eating of the bread. In many traditions, a loaf of special bread is baked in the shape of a man, to symbolize the God of the harvest. You can easily make a loaf of Lammas bread by using a pre-made loaf of bread dough, found in the frozen food section in your grocery store. Certainly, you can make your own dough, but if you're not much of a baker, this is an easy alternative.

Bread recipe:

Warm in saucepan or microwave until very warm: 1 cup water, 3/8 cup vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses. Mix in: ½ cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup white all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 package active dry yeast, 1 cage-free egg. Let sit five minutes. Add ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup yellow corn meal, and enough white all-purpose flour to make a dough (about 1 more cup).

Turn out on floured surface. Knead until smooth. Grease a bowl, place dough in bowl, and turn dough so that all its surface is greased. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes. Punch down dough and knead. Grease cookie sheet. Form dough into God or Goddess figure on cookie sheet, decorating according to your preference. Remember the dough will swell as it rises and cooks. Let rise again, 30 to 45 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool.

Tear and eat.  Don't forget to leave some for you divine friends and ancestors. 

You will probably have too much dough. Use the excess to create a second figure or make rolls.

Experiment with other kinds of flour and meal, as desired.

First Fruit of the Year
This time is also honored as the First Fruit Festival, place the first fruit of the year on your alter as decorations during your ceremony. These may include berries, apples, peaches, plums, etc...  If you can, go to an outdoor market or to the field and pick up your divine gifts.  The cold months are coming, so enjoy the outdoors while you can. 


Prayer for the Grain

Fields of gold,
waves of grain,
the summer comes to a close.
The harvest is ready,
ripe for threshing,
as the sun fades into autumn.
Flour will be milled,
bread will be baked,
and we shall eat for another winter.



Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.



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