Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times for August 2020 Lughnasadh/Lammas
This year is flying by. I can hardly believe it’s almost Lammas or Lughnassadh, depending on which you celebrate.
Both are first harvest, celebrating first fruits, some being wheat, some being corn or berries, and all giving thanks for the beneficial harvest from hard work.
Today’s Pagans seldom grow wheat and corn, since nowadays, we buy it!
For us, our harvests are symbolic!
Let’s do a bit of history before talking about personal harvests!
Halfway between Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox, Lughnasadh is an old Pagan holiday celebrated in Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man. I don’t know about you, but I believe the Irish myths are history being told, not fictional stories for entertainment. So, I’m not going to say “Irish folklore says” I say Irish history says the games were begun as funeral games in honor of the god Lugh’s foster mother, Tailtiu. While some folklorists think her role was an earth goddess, who was symbolized as dying back come late summer, I think Lugh and Tailtiu were real.
There were merchants, livestock sales, food, extensive athletic games, and marriages at her festival.
It was a wonderfully good time, and people must have really looked forward to it. While we don’t know for sure exactly what year the games started, we know for sure they went on until the Norman Invasions.
Not only were the dead honored, and the games held, but new laws would be proclaimed. One very important legal proceeding that took place was handfastings or Taillten marriages. These were first attested to in something called Brehon Law Texts, put together by Druids. Some say pre Xtian Pagans did not utilize a form of writing, and that is simply not true. Plenty of early writing exists penned by Pagans. This is just one example. The handfastings were a kind of trial marriage people could dissolve a year and a day later. Today’s Pagans sometimes handfast exclusively, and never get legally bound. These were used until about the 13th century.
I lucked into finding an online link about the Brehon Law Texts you can access here. So interesting!
Some would assume the games died out due to Xtianity, with some practices dissolved into Xtain church holidays, and indeed, it was non Pagans who revived them. In the 1800’s, the Gaelic Athletic Association tried to raise enough funds to resurrect the games, and failed. But in 1922, efforts started, and in 1924 and 1928, they put on a games open to all of Irish ancestry, regardless of citizenship. There have been several groups revive games, in honor of Tailtiu. She will never be forgotten.
Lammas is a word used by different groups of people, including Xtians. Their early church absorbed cultural practices, and devoted them to their god and saints instead.
The church took over the blessing of first fruits, or wheat, and many were required to present wheat to their landlords. Breads would be baked, and sometimes, those breads would be used in church services, representing the body of their Christ.
It is interesting how the myth of the dying gods body being consumed by the faithful was recycled by Xtians. In the book of John 6:54, Jesus told his apostles, “Whoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
The blessed bread can also be split into four pieces, and placed at the four corners of the barn for protection of the newly harvested grain.
A song that I think reflects Xtian mindset, and one that could certainly be applied to other harvest gods is one written by a Paul Smith and John Newton Howard. It’s called Lord of the Harvest. I am including a video, which is a 1982 performance. One of the members of this band was Paul Smith, a co-writer of this. Now if you don’t want to see Xtian gospel that can be used in Pagan song, skip this video. If you want to see a song you might like, click the link and listen.
Our Personal Harvests
Many do a Lughnasadh gathering with groups, be they larger or small. But the focus is typically on giving some gift from the garden in a communal fire, or pouring some libation like milk and honey, or leaving flowers to the gods or spirits. All of this is beautiful.
But what if we took the time to examine something as well?
What if we really sat down to think about what has come to pass? What harvest have we reaped in our own personal lives, be it mundane or spiritual?
For some, they make a list of what they are thankful for, and count their blessings.
But, what about what you tried for, and could not accomplish? What goals have been set and worked hard for, and not met? On one hand, sometimes we need to keep trying, and see things through. But truthfully, humanity is an emotional, willful species, and we don’t always know the difference between what we need, and what we want. Sometimes, we try for things that are not ours to try for, and when things show us we are working towards the wrong goal, instead of asking for guidance as to what we should work towards instead, we suffer shame, and beat ourselves down. We tell ourselves we are not quitters, and keep beating our heads against the wall, trying to force things to go the way they won’t.
Society and our toxic culture shames us, and poisons our thinking to focus on constant acquisition and displaying accomplishments. It’s the “survival of the fittest” theory on speed, and this attitude fails to accept the #1 way to be fittest is to be most adaptable, not most stubborn. There is a time to dig in our heels and keep trying, and also a time to redirect ourselves to what we are supposed to be doing instead when we realize it.
Furthermore, think of which of those goals, if they had been met, would have held you back from something even better?
For example- I worked very hard at a dead-end career where money was bad, my health suffered in many ways, and there was zero appreciation from the companies I worked for. I was stubborn, and refused to get out of the field although nearly everybody I knew tried to talk me into doing so. I finally prayed to my father god, Odin, to get me out of there, and four hours later, was fired. Since I was stubborn, and would not act, that was my only way out. I had other opportunities in the field, but just did not have the stomach or heart for it. I accepted Odin’s help, and moved on.
I was able to transition into a better job field where I was appreciated, and emotionally and mentally, I started to decompress, and heal. I was able to start writing again because I was no longer mentally drained, and I also started my art and crafts again.
Furthermore, it was working in Nursing Homes, and 40% of Covid-19 deaths have been staff and residents in nursing homes. I have underlying health issues that put me more at risk, and I can tell you, I might be dead by now.
My father god fixed everything. I did not see it that way at the time, and I was mad as hell at being fired. You can see how much better off I am not being in that job, which I literally put all that I had into.
That’s a long-term harvest, though.
Many of us have something more recent we are thankful for, that we would never have been lucky enough to have had we gotten what we thought we were going to get.
So, for this working, this is the focus.
Saoirse’s Lammas Working
This can be done solitary or with a group.
If in a group, share about what your harvest you would not have gotten had you got the one you were working towards. Talk about how much better off you are with what you got than what you thought you were going to get.
Give a gift to your God/Goddess of choice, thanking them for blessing you more than you would have thought to bless yourself.
Then at some point do something for yourself in honor of this. It could be a gift, or an experience. Whatever you feel is fitting, do so.
If you are doing this solo, write a letter to your God or Goddess, to bury or burn, thanking them, or speak your thanks aloud, give the offering of thanks, and still do something for yourself.
For goal-oriented individuals, it can be very difficult to acknowledge we did not accomplish what we wanted to- but it happens to all of us at some point or another. If we can take a breath, step back, and look at everything through objective eyes, we can see the way we tell ourselves things have to be is not always the best way- and the gods know best. I am so thankful they give me what I need instead of what I want, and sometimes things I want more than I wanted what I thought I did!
May your first harvest be blessed, and full.
Blessed Lughnasadh and Lammas.
About the Author:
Saoirse is a practicing witch, and initiated Wiccan of an Eclectic Tradition.
A recovered Catholic, she was raised to believe in heaven and hell, that there is only one god, and only one way to believe. As she approached her late 20’s, little things started to show her this was all wrong. She was most inspired by the saying “God is too big to fit into one religion” and after a heated exchange with the then associate pastor of the last Xtian church she attended, she finally realized she was in no way Xtian, and decided to move on to see where she could find her spiritual home.
Her homecoming to her Path was after many years of being called to The Old Ways and the Goddess, and happened in Phoenix, Arizona. She really did rise from her own ashes!
Upon returning to Ohio, she thought Chaos Magic was the answer, and soon discovered it was actually Wicca. She was blessed with a marvelous mentor, Lord Shadow, and started a Magical Discussion Group at local Metaphysical Shop Fly By Night. The group was later dubbed A Gathering of Paths. For a few years, this group met, discussed, did rituals, fellowship, and volunteering together, and even marched as a Pagan group with members of other groups at the local gay Pride Parade for eight years.
All the while, she continued studying with her mentor, and is still studying for Third Degree, making it to Second Degree thus far.
She is a gifted tarot reader, spellworker, teacher, and was even a resident Witch at a Westerville place dubbed The Parlor for a time.
Aside from her magical practice, she is a crocheter, beader, painter, and a good cook. She has been a clown and children’s entertainer, a Nursing Home Activities Professional, a Cavern Tour Guide, a Retail Cashier, and a reader in local shops. Her college degree is a BA in English Writing. She tried her hand at both singing and playing bagpipes, and…well…let’s just say her gifts lie elsewhere! She loves gardening, reading, antiques, time with friends and soul kin, and lots and lots of glorious color bedecking her small home!
On the encouragement of a loved one several years back, she searched for a publication to write for, and is right at home at PaganPagesOrg.
She is currently residing in Central Ohio with her husband, and furbabies.
Saoirse can be contacted at [email protected].