Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Blessed Lammas

Lammas is one of the four major pagan festivals originally celebrated in Britain and now celebrated in other countries, including the United States. Its the first of the three Pagan harvest festivals.
As the days now grow visibly shorter and by the time we've reached autumn's end (Oct 31st)<--(My favorite hoilday), we will have run the gammut of temperature from the heat of August to the cold and (sometimes) snow of November. Lammas, the festival of the First Fruits of the Harvest, is the first festival of the Waning Year. It is celebrated on August 1, while the climate (in the United States) is essentially still Summer. Never-the-less, technically, Lammas is the first day of Autumn. Lammas takes its name from the Old English "hlaf," meaning "loaf" and "maesse," meaning feast.

  • Lammas has often been taken to mean Lamb-mass, because on August 2, the next day, is the Feast of St. Peter's Chains, at which lambs are taken to church for blessing.

  • This festival is also called "Lugnasadh" (Loo-nah-sah), which has an entirely different meaning. The element "nasadh" relates to the Gaelic, "to give in marriage," and so would mean the "Marriage of Lug," rather than Lugh's Mass, which is a common interpretation. There is also some debate as to who the bride is, if there is one. Some authorities favor and others favor Eriu --> Ireland, herself.

However, no mention is made of Blodeuwedd, "the Lady of Flowers" created for Lugh by Math and Gwydeon, the ultimate cause of his death. One clue to the identity of this particular bride may be that "handfastings" (marriage for a year and a day) are still called "Taillten Marriage", and many are performed at Lammas Fairs.

Another common interpretation of "Lughnasadh", perpetuated by Christian historians, is "Lugh's Games" and some say it is a festival created by Lugh, in honor of the memory of Tailltiu.
The Lammas festival was adopted by the Christian Church in 1843, and today, in England, people decorate churches with sheaves and corn dollies, celebrating the old Pagan holiday, as they sing "Bringing in the Sheaves" and make offerings of corn to the Church.

In some areas, Lammas was a time of sacrifice. Sacrifices at Lammas were made to thank the Deities for the First Fruits and to guarantee an abundant Harvest. The victim was often the king, who was God Incarnate to his people. Sometimes a substitute king, a fool or "scapegoat", was sacrificed in the king's stead.

Until recent years, in Scotland, the first cut of the Harvest was made on Lammas Day, and was a ritual in itself. The entire family must dress in their finest clothing and go into the fields. The head of the family would lay his bonnet (hat) on the ground and, facing the Sun, cut the first handful of corn with a sickle. He would then put the corn Sun-wise around his head three times while thanking the God of the Harvest for "corn and bread, food and flocks, wool and clothing, health and strength, and peace and plenty." This custom was called the "Iolach Buana."

In the British Isles, the custom of giving the First Fruits to the Gods evolved into giving them to the landlord. Lammas is now the traditional time for tenant farmers to pay their rent. Thus, Lammas is seen as a day of judgment or reckoning. From this practice comes the phrase "--at latter Lammas", meaning "never", or "not until Judgment Day."

An old custom that can be re-created today is the construction of the Kern-baby or corn maiden at Lammas. This figure, originally made from the first sheaf, would be saved until spring, then ploughed into the field to prepare for planting. ( if you have a corn dolly from last year throw it into the fire at lammas with prayers of gratitude for a years of good fourtune.

Most of us, today, have no first sheaf nor shall we prepare a field at Spring, but as a means of adding continuity to our festivals, the maiden can be made from the husks of corn served at the Lammas Feast, then saved for use as a brideo'g at Candlemas.

To the Celts, Lammas was, of course, one of the four Great Fire Festivals, -->cross-quarter festivals. The custom of lighting bonfires to add strength to the powers of the Waning Sun was wide-spread. Brands from the Lammas fires were kept in the home, through the Winter, as protection against storms and lightning, and against fires started by lightning. The Need-Fire seems to have been an integral part of most Fire Festivals, but was not limited to them. Since the ashes from such a fire had properties of protection, healing, and fertility, a Need-Fire might be lit at any time a "need" for such things existed.

Lammas is often celebrated as the Wake for the Sacred King. As you know, a Wake is a Celebration of Life, not a time to grieve. Lammas is a joyous time of celebration.
So feast to your heart's content, sing, dance and make merry.
Light your Need-Fires and make your Kern-babies.
You'll "never forget that happy night" you celebrated in The Old Ways!

Blessed Be!!!