How To Hold a Lammas Harvest Ritual
In some Pagan traditions, Lammas is the time of year when the Goddess takes on the aspects of the Harvest Mother. The earth is fruitful and abundant, crops are bountiful, and livestock are fattening up for winter. However, the Harvest Mother knows that the cold months are coming, and so she encourages us to begin gathering up what we can. This is the season for harvesting corn and grain, so that we can bake bread to store and have seeds for next year’s planting.
This ritual celebrates the beginning of the harvest season and the cycle of rebirth, and can be done by a solitary practitioner or adapted for a group or coven setting. Decorate your altar with symbols of the season — sickles and scythes, garden goodies like ivy and grapes and corn, poppies, dried grains, and early autumn foods like apples. If you like, light some Lammas Rebirth incense.
Have a candle on your altar to represent the Harvest Mother — choose something in orange, red or yellow.
These colors not only represent the blaze of the summer sun, but also the coming changes of autumn. You’ll also need a few stalks of wheat and an un-sliced loaf of bread (homemade is best, but if you can’t manage, a store-bought loaf will do). A goblet of ritual wine is optional. Also, if you have celiac disease or are otherwise sensitive to gluten, be sure to readCelebrating Lammas When You Eat Gluten-Free.
If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, do so now.
Light the candle, and say:
The Wheel of the Year has turned once more,
and the harvest will soon be upon us.
We have food on our tables, and
the soil is fertile.
Nature’s bounty, the gift of the earth,
gives us reasons to be thankful.
Mother of the Harvest, with your sickle and basket,
bless me with abundance and plenty.
Hold the stalks of wheat before you, and think about what they symbolize: the power of the earth, the coming winter, the necessity of planning ahead. What do you need help planning right now? Are there sacrifices you should be making in the present that will be reaped in the future?
Rub the stalks between your fingers so a few grains of wheat fall upon the altar. Scatter them on the ground as a gift to the earth. If you’re inside, leave them on the altar for now — you can always take them outside later. Say:
The power of the Harvest is within me.
As the seed falls to the earth and is reborn each year,
I too grow as the seasons change.
As the grain takes root in the fertile soil,
I too will find my roots and develop.
As the smallest seed blooms into a mighty stalk,
I too will bloom where I landed.
As the wheat is harvested and saved for winter,
I too will set aside that which I can use later.
Tear off a piece of the bread. If you’re performing this ritual as a group, pass the loaf around the circle so that each person present can take off a small chunk of bread. As each person passes the bread, they should say:
I pass to you this gift of the first harvest. When everyone has a piece of bread, say:
Everyone eats their bread together. If you have ritual wine, pass it around the circle for people to wash the bread down. Once everyone has finished their bread, take a moment to meditate on the cycle of rebirth and how it applies to your own life – physically, emotionally, spiritually. When you are ready, if you have cast a circle, close it or dismiss the quarters at this time. Otherwise, simply end the ritual in the manner of your tradition.
Ritual Honoring Lugh of the Many Skills
Lugh was known to the Celts as a god of craftsmanship and skill — in fact, he was known as the Many-Skilled God, because he was good at so many different things. In one legend, Lugh arrives at Tara, and is denied entrance. He enumerates all the great things he can do, and each time the guard says, “Sorry, we’ve already got someone here who can do that.” Finally Lugh asks, “Ah, but do you have anyone here who can do them ALL?”
Take the opportunity this day to celebrate your own skills and abilities, and make an offering to Lugh to honor him, the god of craftsmanship.
Before you begin, take a personal inventory. What are your strong points? Everyone has a talent — some have many, some have one that they’re really good at. Are you a poet or writer? Do you sing? How about needlecraft, woodworking, or beading? Can you tap dance? Do you cook? How about painting? Think about all the things you can do — and all of the things you’d like to learn to do, and the things you’d like to get better at.
Once you sit down and think about it, you might be surprised to realize how accomplished you really are.
Decorate your altar with items related to your skill or talent. If your skill relates to something tangible, like sewing or jewelry-making, put some of your craft supplies on the altar. If it’s an ability to DO, rather than MAKE, such as dancing or singing, put some symbol of your ability on your altar. Do you have a favorite outfit you wear when you dance? A particular song lyric that you know you’re fabulous with? Add as many items as you like to your altar.
You’ll need a candle to symbolize Lugh, the god. Any harvest color is good, because he came up with the idea of a grain festival to honor his foster mother, Tailtiu. Place the candle on your altar in the center. Feel free to add some stalks of grain if you like — you can combine this rite with one honoring the harvest, if you choose.
Light the candle, and take a moment to think about all the things you are good at. What are they? Are you proud of your accomplishments? Now’s your chance to boast a little, and take some pride in what you’ve learned to do. Announce your own talents in the following incantation. Say:
Mighty Lugh, the many-skilled god,
he who is a patron of the arts,
a master of trades, and a silver-tongued bard.
Today I honor you, for I am skilled as well.
I am deft with a needle,
strong of voice,
and paint beauty with my brush strokes.
**Obviously, you would insert your pride in your own skills here.
Now, consider what you wish to improve upon. Is your tennis-playing out of whack? Do you feel inadequate at bungee jumping, yodeling, or drawing? Now’s the time to ask Lugh for his blessing. Say:
Lugh, many-skilled one,
I ask you to shine upon me.
Share your gifts with me,
and make me strong in skill.
At this time, you should make an offering of some sort. The ancients made offerings in exchange for the blessings of their gods — quite simply, petitioning a god was a reciprocal act, a system of exchange. Your offering can a tangible one: grain, fruit, wine, or even a sample of your skillwork — imagine dedicating a song or painting to Lugh. It can also be an offering of time or loyalty. Whatever it is, it should come from the heart.
I thank you, mighty Lugh, for hearing my words tonight.
I thank you for blessing me with the skills I have.
I make this offering of bread and wine* to you
as a small token of honor.
Take a few more moments and reflect on your own abilities. Do you have faith in your skills, or do you deflect compliments from others? Are you insecure about your abilities, or do you feel a surge of pride when you sew/dance/sing/hulahoop? Meditate on your offering to Lugh for a few moments, and when you are ready, end the ritual.
If you are performing this rite as part of a group, family or coven setting, go around in a circle and have each person take their turn to express their pride in their work, and to make their offerings to Lugh.
Warrior Meditation for Lughnasadh
At Lammas, the harvest is kicking in. This is a time of year when the masculine energy of the earth is in full swing. For starters, it’s the season of the spirit of grain, and a time to honor Lugh, the craftsman god. Lugh was not only a craftsman, but a gifted smith and swordsman. The season from late summer to the middle of fall is often a season of heightened energy for those who identify with the warrior soul.
Who Is the Warrior?
The warrior in today’s society is someone who understands the idea of right action. He or she follows a code of honor, and abides by that code even when it may be inconvenient or unpopular. The warrior recognizes that the forces of creation and destruction must be balanced. The warrior is empowered because he or she knows his own circumstances, limitations and goals. Perhaps most importantly, the warrior is someone who has made past mistakes, owned up to them, and learned not to repeat them.
A note on women and the concept of warrior: the notion of a warrior soul is not exclusive to men.
Many women have powerful warrior spirits. Think of the warrior soul as an archetype of personal empowerment. Indeed, throughout history, many women have been known as mighty warriors. If it helps you get in touch with your inner warrior, envision some of them as you work. Picture Boadicaea of the Iceni, conquering the Roman army, or Penthesilea battling her lover, Achilles. If you lean towards more current history, consider France’s Jeanne d’Arc, or Grainne’ ni Mhaille, the Irish pirate. For those who connect best with pop culture, even television’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly‘s Zoe, or Xena make perfectly good warrior woman archetypes.
Setting the Mood
You may wish to prepare your mind and body prior to starting the meditation. Some people like to take a ritual bath as a method of cleansing the body, and clearing the mind. If you wish, you can anoint yourself with Blessing Oil or another oil of your choice before beginning. Since you’re performing a warrior meditation, why not try adding a bit of war paint to your face amd body?
Before getting started, make sure you can work undisturbed somewhere for about an hour. Turn off the cell phone, get off the Internet, and send the kids off to play with friends for a while. Perform this meditation outside if at all possible. Set up a small altar that you can sit in front of. Since you’re working outside, consider using a flat stone or a tree stump as a natural altar. On it, place symbols of the warrior spirit: a knife, a drum, an arrow, a shield — anything that helps you connect with your inner warrior. If you have ancestors or loved ones that represent the warrior archetype to you, feel free to include photographs or other heirlooms. Finally, add a purple candle – purple is the color of royalty and power, and of honor.
Although this meditation is designed to be performed solo, it can easily be adapted into a group practice, or turned into a full-fledged ritual.
Welcoming Your Inner Warrior
Sit before your altar, and light the purple candle. Focus on the flame, and visualize the fiery passion of the warrior soul. Think about the things you’ve done in your life, incidents in which you should have taken one path, but instead chose another. Consider mistakes you’ve made, and how they’ve affected not only you, but other people. Think about the consequences of these actions. Did you learn anything from these events?
Take this knowledge of past action, and move it into the present. As a warrior, you have followed a particular path to get to the present, one with many roadblocks, twists, and obstacles in the way. How has this helped to shape the person you are now? Think about the person you have become, and how you have grown during the different experiences you’ve had.
Now, think about the person you wish to be, and how the past and present will influence the future. Understand that for you to follow a principle of right action, there may be times when you make decisions that are unpopular. Are you willing to stand up for your convictions? Are you willing to live in a manner that will earn you the respect and honor of others? To do this, you must first and foremost honor and respect yourself. One way to live rightly and with honor is to make a pledge, both to yourself and to the gods of your tradition.
As you focus on the burning flames, say:
I am a warrior.
I am one who lives with honor and pride,
in my deeds, words, and actions.
I am a warrior,
and I pay tribute to myself, my family, and my gods,
by living rightly.
Honor is found not in the sword and the first,
but in wisdom, and courage, and strength.
I will make the changes I need to make,
that I may live in an honorable way
and follow the code of the warrior.
I am a warrior,
and I have control over my mind, my thoughts, and my sword.
I pledge to hold truth in my heart,
to hold strength in my hands,
to be honest in my words,
and to stand on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.
This is the way of the warrior,
and I shall live with honor.
While you do this, envision the warrior archetypes that you wish to emulate. Who are some warriors you look up to and hold in high regard? Think about them, and draw their energy into you. When you are ready to end the ritual, put the candle out.