Pagan Holidays: Lammas

I admit to not being as interested in the sabbats this past year but it has been a somewhat stressful time. Normally we witches will take any situation as an excuse to celebrate (which is why we have eight sabbats every year) and I was always on the front lines planning, cooking, decorating and then feasting and having a good old fashioned witchy ritual to cap it off. I am well-known for my Samhain (Halloween) celebrations as well as Yule, Beltane and Midsummer. But alas my usual excitement for the sabbats has been supplanted lately by so many other concerns that it seemed almost vulgar to celebrate.

We did have a nice family Father’s Day celebration and Midsummer Eve Faerie walk on June 21st which was the first time in a long time that my family was together to do so. Usually it’s a much simpler affair. Sometimes there isn’t even a feast, just a quiet ritual bonfire and some lovely tea enjoyed by the herbacious smoke of the fire.

Years ago I celebrated every sabbat like clockwork, decorated my altars like mad, wove flower wreaths, made special wands, dried herbs and gathered flowers and cooked up a storm. Often you’d find me baking bread and oatcakes in the wee hours. I think it may have been the mead that always helped! (Ah, a witch and her mead – we shall never be parted!)

I resolve to finish this year (the witches new year begins at Samhain) with a renewed vigor in my celebratory creativity. Since there is only one more sabbat before Samhain, I will have to make it Lammas (also called Lughnassad) which is August 1st. Let me tell you more about it: (notes cribbed from one of my favorite pagan goodies shops)

In the Wheel of the Year, Lughnassadh is the first of three harvest festivals, and although the days are still hot and sunny, they are growing ever shorter, marking the rapidly approaching winter season (which for the ancient Celts began at Samhain, our modern Halloween). Like Imbolc, its partner across the Wheel, Lughnassadh is a cross-quarter day, and as other cross-quarter holidays is celebrated from sunset the night before, as the Celts believed the days began with the vanishing of the sun as opposed to its rise.

( I must be honest here and say that only rarely do I do the night before thing. I’ve always celebrated the sabbat on the actual day except for Midsummer which was usually the night before and Samhain which is technically November 1st but I celebrate it obviously on All Hallows Eve.)

The alternate name for this Sabbat is “Lammas”, which is derived from the Christian festival of “Loaf-Mass”. In essence, this festival was a day of first fruit offerings, marking the beginnings of the harvest with bread baked from the first grains. “Lughnassadh” translates to “the feast of Lugh”, the Celtic sun-god of many skills. Traditionally, this is the time of year for fairs and festivals. Many Highland Games and Clan Gatherings occur around this time of year, family reunions and games of skill to honour Lugh and the mythical funeral games he held to honour his foster mother Taillte.

(This is my BIG BREAD BAKING HOLIDAY – I go nuts with bread on the sabbat. I bake bread, buy bread, butter it, toast it, make little loaves, big loaves, quick-breads, soda breads – sweet Goddess if you like bread – this is the holiday for you! Did I mention my favorite – GINGERBREAD? That’s a bread, sort of, right?)

Colors: Golden Yellow, Orange, Green, and Light Brown. (very harvesty)
Gemstones: Aventurine, Citrine, Peridot, Sardonyx, Cat’s Eye, Golden Topaz, Obsidian, Moss Agate, Rhodochrosite, Carnelian. (These stones would go on the altar.)

Decorations:  corn, sunflowers, orange & yellow flowers, sheaves of grain, first fruits & vegetables,  sickles, scythes, sacred loaf of bread, harvested herbs,  gold figures made of bread or dough, phalslic ymbols, Green Man images. (Usually I would dispense with the farm tools and phallic stuff – I like to think less of Lugh and more of the Goddess Ceres. I also never had a Green Man as part of the decorations because he didn’t seem harvest-like to me.)

Deities: Lugh (Celtic solar diety worshipped by ancient Druids), John Barleycorn (personification of malt liquor), Demeter, Ceres, Corn Mother, and all deities presiding over agriculture.

Foods & Offerings: Homemade breads, Barley Cakes, Crab Apples, Rice, Elderberry Wine, Ale, Beer, Meadowsweet Tea, Grains, Berry Foods and any locally ripe produce. (Bread, bread and more bread! I would make oatcakes too and we’d have this incredible brown rice casserole and drink ale and mead.)

Herbs: Cornstalks, Frankincense, Heather, Hollyhock, Oak Leaves, Heather, Blackberries, Sloe, Crab Apples, Pears, Goldenrod, Peony, Nasturtium, Clover Blossom, Yarrow, Heliotrope, Boneset, Vervain, Queen Anne’s Lace, Myrtle, Rose, Sunflower, Poppy, Milkweek, Irish Moss, Wheat, Rye, Oat, Barley, Rice, Garlic, Onion, Basil, Mint, Aloe, Acacia, Meadowsweet, Apple Leaf, Raspberry Leaf, Strawberry Leaf, Blueberry Leaf, Mugwort, Hops, Holly, Comfrey, Marigold, Ivy, Hazelnut, Blackthorn, Elder, Bee Pollen. (Many of these would be gathered and dried for the sabbat. In fact this year I will have a nice supply of vervain, myrtle, mugwort, comfrey and marigold.)

Scents: Wood Aloes, Rose, Rosehip, Rosemary, Chamomile, Eucalyptus, Safflower, Passion Flower, Frankincense, Sandalwood, Heliotrope, Elder. (My traditional Lammas incense blend is the following – sandalwood, rosewood, frankincense and aloeswood.)

Lammas Spells: At this time, witches cast spells for connectedness, career, health, and financial gain. Spells for abundance are completely appropriate now. (The main ritual is usually for health, harmony and prosperity.)

Concepts: harvest; family;  the bounty of the Earth; the diminishing power of the Sun God and the approach of the end of the witches year.