Lammas, sometimes known as Lughnasadh or Loafmass, is the first of three harvest festivals in the Wheel of the Year. The Wheel of the Year is the name for 8 holidays practised by many (but not all!) modern witches and pagans.
The Wheel of the Year
The Wheel is comprised of four Celtic fire festivals (Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, Samhain), the solstices, and the equinoxes. While the Wheel itself is a modern conceit, celebrating the turn of the seasons this way still creates a spiritual connection between us and our ancestors.
Amidst the pressures and wonders of modern life, it’s easy to forget that our forebears relied directly on the natural world for survival, and thus had to pay careful attention to her moods.
Seasonal celebrations were a way of offering gratitude for the earth’s bounty or, in leaner years, a sacrifice for better harvest. They were also a way of cementing community ties, which increased odds of survival for the community as a whole.
The Wheel of the Year has three harvest festivals, starting with Lammas. The next one is the autumnal equinox, known by many as Mabon, and the last is Samhain, also known as All Hallows Eve, Hallowe’en, and the witch’s new year.
Lammas happens on August 1st in the Northern Hemisphere (in the Southern Hemisphere everything is reversed), and is the traditional beginning of fall.
(If you get me started on the “correct” starting days for the seasons we will be here ALL day, so let’s leave it at that.)
In Irish mythology, Lughnasadh is in honor of the god Lugh as well as being funerary rites for his mother, Tailtiu. His mother is said to have died of exhaustion after clearing the plains for planting — directly linking the myth to the agricultural cycle.
Many modern celebrants of this holiday will celebrate on the full moon nearest the time, which often coincides with a fruit harvest. Here in the Pacific Northwest, that fruit is blackberries — so our own Powell River does its own version of Lammas with the Blackberry Festival!
Did you know? Lammas is also a Christian holiday.
Much is shared between Christians and Neo-Pagans, and Lammas is no exception. The holiday’s name, Lammas, comes from Loaf Mass, and this refers to the liturgy around the holy communion. Often loaves of bread will be brought to church for celebration of this day.
In fact, you’ll see many similarities between celebrations of the pagan Lammas and the Christian one. Ancient pagan traditions were brought into Christianity as people converted to the new faith, and modern day pagans often look to established Christian liturgy for inspiration in building their own, individual paths.
We’re more similar than we are different.
Celebrating Lammas today
The lovely thing about seasonal celebrations is the seasons change slowly, over a period of time. This means if you miss “the day” with your celebration, it’s not the end of the world!
In the case of Lammas, the day is often seen as August 1st — but the astronomical midpoint between summer solstice and autumn equinox is August 7th, so truly Lammastide is anywhere in the next week and a half. (Or longer, if you’re me.)
Here are a few ideas on how to celebrate Lammas this year:
- Bake some bread. Have you never done so before? It’s a perfect time to learn! Or if you don’t have the energy and time to do the from-scratch route, a bread machine can turn out amazing loaves with a bit of practice. (Wolffy’s has a copy of Bread Therapy in stock!)
- Create a corn dolly — this is a traditional form of straw work done as part of harvest traditions in pre-Christian Europe, and the tradition carries on today. You can make one as a representative of the god Lugh, or you can enchant it for a bountiful harvest in your life — whether that’s in your garden, your creative life, or your wallet!
- Gather the first ripe berries of the season. Or party at Blackberry Fest!
- Give thanks to the earth for her bounty. We’re starting to see the gains of our harvest — what we planted earlier in the year is coming to fruition. Even if you don’t garden, you can still thank the earth for all the nourishment she provides.
- Run a marathon or get temporarily married. Sounds weird, I know! But these activities are completely in line with traditional Lughnasadh celebrations, which often involved feats of physical strength or endurance and year-and-a-day marriages. August weddings have a long history!
Want to know more about Lammas, the Wheel of the Year, or learning how to create your own set of seasonal celebrations? I recommend the following books:
Lughnasadh: Rituals, Recipes, and Lore for Lammas by Melanie Marquis. Part of Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials series, this little paperback is jam-packed with information on the first harvest festival. Available in-store as of mid-August — give us a call if you want to reserve it!
Year of the Witch: Connecting with Nature’s Seasons through Intuitive Magick by Temperance Alden. If you don’t connect much with the traditional Wheel of the Year, Temperance Alden’s book is all about figuring out your own thing for seasonal celebrations. There’s also a matching planner for 2022-2023 (and yes, we’ll have both in stock by the end of the month).
Seasons of Witchery: Celebrating the Sabbats with the Garden Witch by Ellen Dugan. If you’re looking for a Wiccan perspective from a very down to earth witch, you can’t go wrong with Dugan. Her books are written from her experience as a hearth, home, and garden witch, and they’re full of practical ideas for creating your own celebrations. (Interested? Let us know and we’ll order it.)
I hope this has given you some ideas on how to celebrate Lammastide.
Wishing you a happy and bountiful harvest season!