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CURRENT SABBAT - LUGHNASADH/LAMMAS (1st August)
LUGHNASADH/LAMMAS is one of the eight annual holidays, referred to as 'Sabbats', which are observed as part of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. There are four Greater Sabbats: Samhain (31st October), Imbolc (2nd February), Beltane (1st May) and Lughnasadh/Lammas (1st August); and four Lesser Sabbats: Yule/Winter Solstice (21st December), Ostara/Spring Equinox (20th March), Litha/Summer Solstice (21st June) and Mabon/Autumn Equinox (22nd September). Solstices occur when the Sun enters Capricorn and Cancer; Equinoxes when the Sun enters Aries and Libra.
The festival of LUGHNASADH marks the time of the first corn harvest - and the name literally means the 'nasad' or feast of Lugh, and is of Southern Irish origin. The Anglo Saxons named this ancient festival hlafmaesse, meaning 'loaf mass' or 'bread mass'. All these names refer to a thanksgiving feast to celebrate the first of the corn harvest - and to this day, this feast is always celebrated with bread, wheat and ale or beer. LUGHNASADH was a time for feasting and games, much like the modern Olympic Games, that took place around the time of the first harvest. Games of this form can be seen in the traditional Scottish Highland Games which take place during the Summer months.
In Irish mythology, Lugh, who symbolises the harvest, is brought to find a wife. However, none can be found, so one is fashioned for him out of flowers. However, his flower bride is lured away by another and Lugh is killed in the ensuing battle. The killing of Lugh symbolises both the harvest, and the end of Summer, which is seen at SAMHAIN.
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It is a common tradition at LUGHNASADH/LAMMAS for hand-fastings to take place. These are a form of marriage, where each party agrees to remain together for a year and a day - if after this time they are still together, they would be considered man and wife, but if they wished to part they could do so, with no ties and no ill will. It is from this ancient ceremony where hands are literally 'fasted' (fastened together with cord) that we derive the colloquial term 'to tie the knot'!
At LUGHNASADH/LAMMAS the fields stand golden-proud with ripened grain. Sunflowers turn their eager faces towards the golden orb, tomatoes and peaches ripen, fleshy and succulent on the vine, and everywhere the Goddess blesses us with her bounty. Native Americans honoured their life sustaining crop by referring to the August Full Moon as the 'Corn Moon', and ancient Romans paid tribute to two of their greatest Goddess figures in August: Diana and Venus. In modern times, this honouring of the Divine Feminine has been kept alive with the Christian feast day of the Virgin Mary in August.
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LAMMAS is a festival of rich colour, with an abundance of produce. Although the Earth is offering up the richness of her fruits, we know that Summer is ending and the countryside feels noticeably different betwixt the profusion of Her bounty. We already feel the approach of Autumn and Winter, and many wild plants have already dried up and gone into their time of rest and renewal; the weather begins to feel cooler and the nights draw in. At LUGHNASADH, the Sun God is lovingly sacrificed by the Corn Goddess, thereby ensuring plentiful crops for the next year. His blood feeds the land and ensure fertility. His role of kingship has come to its conclusion - he has finished the work he was called to do - now he must die and return to the Underworld to undergo renewal, and to care for the souls of the dead. LAMMAS marks the first harvest festival of the year, and a time to honour the beginning of the grain harvests. The hunter has now become the hunted. The God is a being of fertility. His function is to lie with the Goddess (the Earth), impregnate her, marry her, stand by her side to aid the ripening of the land, and then to die when his help is no longer necessary. He is reaped and harvested by the Goddess; just as we reap the fields of wheat and barley. She cuts him down with sickle, striking him below the knee and then upon the shoulder. (After LITHA/Summer Solstice, the Sun begins to gradually decline and grow weaker, hence the 'death' of the Sun King.)
The death of the God is just an earthly death, for life in the Underworld continues, and his soul begins further development. The death of the God promises his rebirth at YULE. The dead King/God always comes back to life!
Flickr Upload Bot 2007
At LUGHNASADH/LAMMAS, it was traditional in the Scottish Highlands to sprinkle drops of menstrual blood on doorposts and around the house using a wisp of straw. The sprinkling was always done 'sunwise'. This was considered to be a potent charm against evil and ill luck! The famous English folksong 'John Barleycorn' is much more than a representation of the production of whisky or beer from the crop and the indignities he suffers in that process. It is interesting to note the correlation between the ancient Pagan ceremony of LAMAS and this 'ditty'!