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August 2 Lammas celebration

by Pat Hacker | July 29, 1998

The first harvest of summer is when the early apples come in, blueberries are abundant, as are raspberries, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, apricots, watermelon and cherries. It is also the time when the first harvest of corn and grain takes place. What is sweeter and more enjoyable than tasting the summer’s first tender ears of corn? Silver queen or peaches and cream are among the taste triggers that bring to mind August and the abundance of the earth’s generosity, of warm days, sunshine, shores and picnics.

The goddess and guardian of the harvest is Habondia, the generous one, she who is abundance. The great mother goddesses of the world are overflowing with their goodness:

  • Kwan-Yin, guardian of mothers, children and childbirth;
  • Hestia, the keeper of the hearth and home; and,
  • Lilith, the first bride of Adam, Arianrhod and Yemaya.

In connection with the wider world than our own, it is a time to remember that not all peoples of the world are experiencing abundance that we may have in our lives. Due to war and interventions that are in opposition to the nature of the goddess, the natural rhythms and gifts of the earth have been curtailed or limited for some. It is good to send out to the universe energy and wishes for peace and abundance.

Lammas is also a time for blessing animals. At your ritual, you may not want to bring your animals along, but it is appropriate to remember them in the ritual circle. The donkeys throughout history and all over the world have helped in the building, the travel and the development of civilization. It was a donkey that carried Mary and Joseph into Jerusalem. Dogs have been friends, companions, guardians, workers and lifesavers throughout history; cows, sheep, pigs and goats have given us meat, milk, cheese and warmth since they were domesticated by women. We certainly want to remember the blessing of our cats who have been mousers, psychic connectors, teachers and companions throughout all time. It is a time to bless the wild animals left in the world; in the sky, on the earth and beneath the sea.

As the wheel of the year turns, the first harvest corresponds across the wheel to the February 2 celebration of the earth’s quickening. The great mother has moved through the seasons from the promise of new life in February to the fulfillment of that promise with the harvest beginning in August.

August reminds us also that we are in the waning time of the year. The persistent song of the katydids tells us that in six weeks, there will be frost. Persephone, who strayed from her friends at the summer solstice is now on the path to the underworld and her mother, Demeter, is beginning to search for her and feels a chill.

However, this is the time of the year to gather with friends and share the abundance of August, to dance a spiral dance and together weave corn dollies from newly harvested wheat, to make corn angels from newly harvested corn and corn necklaces to dry and wear for celebrations.

a Lammas or first harvest ritual
  1. This is definitely a ritual circle for grassy spaces and the out-of-doors. This ritual may take a bit of planning and organizing, assigning everyone a task in advance of the ritual. One person may find the wheat sheaves, another the corn and still others may bring the fruits, candles, beer, loaves of bread, wild grape vines and flowers which are part of this celebration. Don’t forget blankets or lawn chairs to sit on. This is a ritual that is perfect for an afternoon that moves into evening and feasting. This August Lammas falls on Saturday, August 2. The lunar Lammas, the full moon or corn moon of August, falls later on August 22, which is also a good time for celebration.
  2. Be prepared to build a fire, if possible. Bring the necessary items for your altar including candles of red, yellow, white, blue, green and black. Ask everyone attending to bring items they want blessed on the altar and items or charms that may represent their animals if they want to do a blessing for the animals. Bring fresh wheat which you can find growing wild along the highways and roadways, or ask a wheat farmer in the countryside if you may have a few sheaves of wheat, about 25 or 30 for each corn dolly.
  3. Make garlands or bring enough wild grape vine for everyone to make their own garlands. If you are able, find wild flowers for decorating the altar and the garlands.
  4. Place the altar at the north or at the centre of your circle and decorate it with fruits of the season, flowers, special tokens, charms or personal items of the women of the circle. Ask different women to participate in casting the circle and in calling in the elements and directions. Let this circle be shared by many priestesses.
  5. Let the oldest member of your group lead the rest into the formation of a circle while symbolically sweeping the area as an act of purification. You can use any broom you have available but bless the broom first, asking it to do its job of sweeping away undesirable energy or spirits thus making way for protection.
  6. Opening the ritual:
    • Priestess 1 addresses the circle from her standing place in the circle: “In the beginning, people prayed to the creatress of life, the mistress of heaven. At the very dawn of religion, god was a woman. Do you remember?” (Merlin Stone, When God Was A Woman)
    • Priestess 2 addresses the circle from her standing place in the circle: “The human woman gives birth just as the earth gives birth to plants. She gives nourishment, as the plants do. So woman magic and earth magic are the same. They are related. And the personification of the energy that gives birth to forms and nourishes forms is properly female.” (Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth)
    • Priestess 3 from her standing place in the circle: “The women who were the original tenders of the fields and gardens, the first farmers, the domesticators of animals, those women who learned and taught others to plant, tend and harvest as early nomadic hunters and gatherers settled, were the givers of agriculture and of civilization. They were the embodiment of the goddess of abundance, Habondia, the mother goddesses Kwan-Yin, Demeter, Isis, Yemaya, Gaia, Sedna.”
    • Priestess 4 moves to the altar and lights the candles, saying: “Red for south and fire, Blue for west and water, Green for north and earth, Yellow for east and air, White for spirit and black for centre.” She then moves to the south quadrant of the circle and says, “Welcome to our Lammas circle spirits of the south, element of fire. Welcome mother goddesses Oya and Hestia, keepers of the fires and the hearth. Bring your presence and your protection to our work today. Blessed be.” She then returns to her place in the circle.
    • Priestess 5 takes from the altar a chalice of clean well water or charged water (previously gathered from an August thunder and lightening storm, if possible) and walks to the west quadrant of the circle, saying: “Welcome to our Lammas circle, spirits of the west, of the waters of earth’s womb. Welcome the great mother goddesses, Yemaya and Kwan-Yin. Bring your blessing and protection to our Lammas circle.” Priestess 5 takes the chalice around to each woman in the circle who sips the water. She then returns the chalice to the altar and takes her place in the circle.
    • Priestess 6 moves to the altar and takes a dish of raspberries, then moves to the north quadrant of the circle saying, “Welcome to our Lammas Circle, spirits of the north, element of earth. Welcome Ishtar and Oshun, great mother goddesses, bring your energy and protection to our celebration of the season of abundance.” Then, “The mother of us all, the oldest of all, hard, splendid as rock. Whatever there is that is of the land it is she who nourishes it, it is the earth that I sing.” (Homer, Hymn to Earth) Priestess 6 carries the berries around the circle for each woman to eat a berry and returns to her place in the circle.
    • Priestess 7, from her standing place in the circle, reads: “The goddess gradually retreated into the depths of forests or onto mountain tops, where she remains to this day in beliefs and fairy stories. Human alienation from the vital roots of earthly life ensued, the results of which are clear in our contemporary society. But the cycles never stop turning, and now we find the goddess re-emerging from the forests and mountains, bringing us hope for the future, returning us to our most ancient human roots.” (Marie Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess) “Welcome spirits of the east and element of the air, great mother goddess Lilith, Adam’s first bride, and Sappho, woman-goddess of song and poetry. Be with us in our Lammas circle to surround us with your compassion and protection. Now let us sing, howl and breathe deeply to celebrate the element of air, and the direction of east.” Deep breaths together with moans, howls and sighs.
    • Priestess 8, from her place in the circle, says: “Welcome all spirits of the centre of the circle, the place of transformation. Great Mother Goddesses Gaia, Ceredwin and Sedna be with us now to transform our wishes and energies into the work of the Goddess. Blessed be! The circle is cast. We are between the worlds.”
  7. Now is the time for fun, for stories and for making corn necklaces, corn dollies and corn angels. As we begin making our charms, let each of us call into the circle fore-mothers, friends or historical figures we would like to have in the circle and for what reasons. Let us share memories of summers past, of August corn moons, of childhood memories of summer and of the harvesting we may be doing of plans and efforts begun earlier in the goddess year. A libation of beer may be passed around the circle clock-wise from the south three times. Someone may have to keep filling the chalice.
  8. When the corn dollies, angels and necklaces are completed and placed on the altar, it is time for the spiral dance. “The spiral is a sacred symbol, a sacred dance and a sacred motion. It represents, among other things, a journeying inward to the core of the essential self, the dwelling place of the mysteries.” (Burleigh Mutén, Return of the Goddess | 1993)
  9. With everyone holding hands, the first woman leads the chain in a spiral dance that leads to the centre, then reverses, passing each woman face to face until everyone has reached the centre of the spiral and returned to a circle.
  10. It is time now to open the circle and to release the spirits, directions and great mother goddesses who have attended. Let each woman who called in an element thank it and release the spirits and energy. The order of release is in reverse of the order called: first, east and element of air; then north and element of earth, west and element of water, then south and element of fire.
  11. Now is the time for feasting and pleasure, enjoying the abundance and generosity of the great mother.

Blessed be!

more to consider

Pagan beliefs and practices seem to have universal roots and meanings for cultures the world over. Even though we may have different religious beliefs, the roots are similar and the events of earth and sky are fundamental to the events we honour and the holidays we keep. It is comforting to think that we could, perhaps with women leading the way, find some common points of agreement about natural events that we all recognize.

resources for this story

calendars

  • Return of the Goddess Annual Date Books, by BURLEIGH MUTÉN, Stewart Tabori and Chang, New York (for submissions of poetry or slides of artwork, email Burleigh Mutén @ goddess@crocker.com)
  • Witch’s Calendar, Llewellyn Worldwide

National Film Board of Canada films directed by Donna Reed

  • Goddess Remembered
  • The Burning Times
  • Full Circle

books:

  • Return of the Great Goddess, by BURLEIGH MUTÉN, Stewart Tabori and Chang, New York (for submissions of poetry or slides of artwork, email Burleigh Mutén @ goddess@crocker.com)
  • Book of Greek Myths, by INGRI and EDGAR PARIN D’AVLAIRE, Doubleday | 1962
  • Drawing Down the Moon, by MARGOT ADLER, Beacon Press, Boston | 1992
  • A Woman’s Book Of Rituals and Celebrations, by BARBARA ARDINGER, second edition, New World Library, San Rafael, California | 1995
  • The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, by ZSUZSANNA BUDAPEST, Winghbow Press, Berkeley, California
  • Rites of Passage, The Pagan Wheel of Life, by PAULINE CAMPANELLI, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, Minnesota | 1994
  • Wheel of the Year, Living the Magical Life, by PAULINE CAMPANELLI, Llewellyn Publications, fifth printing | 1995
  • Ancient Ways, Reclaiming Pagan Traditions, by PAULINE CAMPANELLI, Llewellyn Publications, fourth printing | 1993
  • Wicca, A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner, by SCOTT CUNNINGHAM, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, Minnesota | 1993
  • The Goddess Workbook, by JILL FAIRCHILD Fairchild, Jill and REGINA SCHAARE, The Great Goddess Press, Portland, Maine | 1993
  • The Great Cosmic Mother, by BARBARA MOR and MONICA SJOO Mor, Harper Row | 1989
  • Arladne’s Thread A Workbook of Goddess Magic, by SHEKHINAH MOUNTAINWATER, The Crossing Press, Freedom California | 1991
  • Women-Church, by ROSEMARY RADFORD RUETHER, Harper and Row, San Francisco, California | 1990
  • Encyclopedia of White Magic, by PADDY SLADE, Hamlyn Press, London | 1990
  • The Spiral Dance, by STARHAWK, Harper Collins, San Francisco, California | 1991
  • The Women’s Spirituality Book, by DIANE STEIN, Llewellyn Publications
  • Jambalaya, by LULSAH TELSH, Harper Collins, San Francisco, California | 1990
  • Women’s Rituals, by BARBARA WALKER, Harper and Row, New York, New York | 1990
  • The Women’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, by BARBARA WALKER, Harper and Row, San Francisco | 1990
  • Earth Magic: A Dianic Book of Shadows, by MARION WEINSTEIN, Phoenix Publishing Inc., Custer, Washington | 1980

This feature was first published on section15.ca’s predecessor site CoolWomen.

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