Although in the heat of a Rocky Mountain summer it might be difficult to discern, the festival of Lammas (August 1st) marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall. The days now grow visibly shorter and by the time we’ve reached autumns end (October 31st), we will have run the gamut of temperature from the heat of August to the cold of October.
“Lammas” was the medieval Christian name for the holiday and it means “loaf-mass”, for this was the day on which the loaves of bread were baked from the first grain harvest and laid on the church altars as offerings. It was a day representative of ‘first fruits’ and early harvest.
Lammas marks the middle of summer and the beginning of the harvest season. Lammas is considered a time of thanksgiving and is the first of the three Pagan harvest festivals. The Sun’s strength begins to wane and the plants of spring begin to wither and drop their fruits or seeds for our use as well as to ensure future crops. At this time, we become conscious of the sacrifice the Sun God is preparing to make. We experience a sense of abundance at the same time we begin to feel an urgency to prepare for the death of winter. First grains and fruits of the Earth are cut and stored for the dark winter months.
Lammas also represents the culmination of the marriage between the Goddess and the God that took place on Beltane. The God now becomes the product of that blessed union – the bountiful fruits and grains – and must be sacrificed. He is the personification of the crops that must be harvested for the survival of the people.
Underneath the symbolism of sacrifice is the theme of rebirth. The Corn God must die, and He has to do so in order to return. Without the sacrifice, the cycle stops. Although His strength is waning, His essence is still palpable as His energies begin to merge with the harvested crops. It is at this time that the Sun King has reached the autumn of His years, and His rival (or dark self) has just reached puberty. The Sun God has reigned supreme over the ripening grain during the hot summer months. His dedication, perseverance, and action in tending the seeds sown in spring bring a ripe and fruitful bounty.
Although Lammas is the first of the harvest festivals, fertility imagery may still be found, as there are still crops in the field continuing to grow and livestock and game yet to be killed. As the God is honored for His harvest, so the Goddess is honored for bringing forth the first fruits, much as a new mother is honored.
Symbolism: first harvest festival, aging of the Deities, honoring of Sun Gods
Symbols: corn dollies, cornucopia, grains, the sun
Foods: bread, grains, potatoes, summer squash, cider, blackberry pies and jellies, berries, apples, roasted lamb, elderberry wine, meadowsweet tea
Plants and Herbs: ash, camphor, caraway, fern, geranium, juniper, Mandrake, marjoram, thyme, sunflowers, wheat
Incense and oils: allspice, carnation, rosemary, vanilla, sandalwood, aloe, rose
Colors: red, gold, yellow, orange
Stones: aventurine, citrine, peridot, sardonyx
Animals and mythical beasts: roosters, calves, the Phoenix, Griffins, basilisk, centaurs
Goddesses: all grain, agriculture, and mother Goddesses; Alphito (Greek), Ashnan (Sumerian), Bast (Egyptian), Bau (Assyro-Babylonian), Ceres (Roman), Demeter (Greek), Gaia (Greek), Ishtar (Assyro-Babylonian), Isis (Egyptian), Libera (Roman), Persephone (Greek), Rhiannon (Welsh), Robigo (Roman), Tailtiu (Irish)
Gods: all grain, agriculture, Sun, and father Gods; Cernunnos (Celtic), Dagon (Babylonian), Lahar (Sumerian), Liber (Roman), Llew (Welsh), Lugh (Irish), Neper (Egyptian), Ningirsu/Ninutra (Assyro-Babylonian), Odin (Norse), Osiris (Egyptian)
Decorations: corn, hay, gourds, corn dollies, shafts of grain, sun wheels
Activities: games, country fairs, making corn dollies, baking bread, gathering fruit, visits to fields, orchards, lakes, and wells.
Spell/ritual work: Offering thanks, honoring fathers, prosperity, abundance, generosity, continued success, connectedness
Ritually sacrifice negative emotions, outworn habits, etc. by ‘transferring’ them into a small bread ‘person’ you have baked, and then throwing it, either whole or in pieces, into the ritual fire.
Mix well in an airtight two-ounce jar. Turn jar over once a day for at least 10 days before using. Concentrating on the Sun, rub the oil on the person or token representing the Sun.