ughnasadh also known as Lammas, Lúnasa, Lùnastal, Luanistyn take place on August 1st or thereabout and find us celebrating the first of three harvest rites. While the timing is not necessarily technically middle of summer-in the PNW it is the middle of our hot and sunny season of the year and it is now that food stuffs are becoming ready for harvest and processing.
At this time in the PNW roses are still blooming and fragrant, yet the abundant hips are starting to turn a bright red signaling that there are changes coming. Wheat and oats have ripened and are ready to be cut. Grass hay and alfalfa have been baled and put up in our barns and fill the air with their fresh mown scent. Vines have climbed high reaching towards the sun’s rays with hop flowers being readied for tea or beer and grapes sweetening in their ever-tightening skins to be eaten fresh or made into wine and jellies. The puddles have long since dried and the water levels are getting lower in ponds and rivers which find little tree frogs, salamanders, bees, jackets and wasps crowding around watering holes and fish barrels.
As pagans, we have specific rites on special days as a way of bringing everyone together to raise energy that we may realign our frequency and sense of purpose to the season’s activities both internally and externally. However, the sabbat days we celebrate together are not the beginning and ending for us, but kick off an entire season of nurturing, maintenance, gratitude and harvest.
In the season of Lugh or Lammas, we honor deity and adorn our altars with sunflowers, red hollyhocks, elfwort, heather, roses, poppies, indian corn, blueberries, blackberries, squash blossoms, nasturtiums, topaz, carnelian, yellow gold and red candles. Ripened cereals of oats and wheat along with the first foodstuffs of corn, green beans, artichokes, crab apples, eggplant, early squash, a few grapes, mulberries, plums, pears and apples are added and generate gratitude in our hearts for the cyclic relationship we enjoy with our Earth Mother. Grasses and grains are fashioned into a Grain Goddess with plenty of seeds to save for next year’s sowing. Flours of wheat and corn are made into fresh loaves of bread and an anatomically correct John Barleycorn is added to our altar.
At this time we call to the Goddess of Abundance of the God of the Green. We give offerings of gratitude, enlivening our hearts and rejoicing in the abundance all around us. We acknowledge the strong life-giving sun while recognizing the change in shortened days require a shift of duties and focus. A noble and brave man is chosen to sacrifice himself for a time as John Barleycorn so that our cycles of give and take may continue. We use this time to clear out our physical and spiritual storehouses of that which no longer feeds or nourish us, so that we may make room for the strongest and most nutritious energy sources to sustain us during the fallow time of the year. At this time we have walked between the worlds and have gathered the required energies to move forward with the harvesting tasks at hand. We drink and pay homage to the old gods and call upon their continued favor for our crops that we have the energy to continue our journey.
Each area around the world has smells that speak of the seasons and for us in the summer season, it is bilberry/blueberries, blackberries and apples. It would not be summer in the PNW without the sweet pungent smells of those fruits baking in the sun. Blackberries, blueberries and apples are so nutritious and are eaten fresh, made into pies, syrup and wine. Can’t get enough of the blackberries! The lavendar has dried and been stripped of their stalks to be added to spell-workings and Full Moon Shortbread. The beauty and abundance is all around and fills my heart with gratitude. Though I will admit that all of the hard hot days of work see me longing for the cool crisp autumn nights and I relish the casual relaxed evenings with my family, the bbq’s, cool down swim time and midnight desserts. We ponder the work/life balance, knowing the necessary hard work in the next weeks leading up to Mabon and continuing into Samhain will end with a cozy firelit evening to rest and contemplate further the journey of our souls.
How do you celebrate the summer harvest and what smells signal summer for you?
Bright Lughnasadh Blessings to you and yours!