It is the time of the sacred Sabbat of Lughnasadh, or Lammas, which falls this year on Aug. 1in the Northern Hemisphere, while Pagans who live in the Southern Hemisphere are celebrating the Sabbat of Imbolc, so here’s wishing everyone has a very blessed holiday season.
[Imbolc is at the opposite side of the Wheel of the Year, celebrating the spark of light that was born at Yule and has become a flame to warm people and the land.]
Today also begins the sacred month of Ramadan for our Muslim brothers and sisters in the North Hemisphere, while it begins tomorrow in the Southern Hemisphere. I wish them a memorable and spiritually rewarding time of faith and renewal.
According to the Holy Koran regarding Ramadans:
O you who believe, fasting is decreed for you, as it was decreed for those before you, that you may attain salvation. (2:183)
Ramadan is the month during which the Quran was revealed, providing guidance for the people, clear teachings, and the statute book. Those of you who witness this month shall fast therein.... (2:185)
For those reading this who are not Pagan, it might seem strange to mention a different faith in this blog, which is primarily devoted to Wiccan practices. As a Wiccan, I honor all beliefs and faith paths, even atheists who do not believe in the existence of a Sacred Other or Sacred Others.
Before describing this joyous Sabbat, it is important to restate what is the platform of my Wiccan faith:
"Bide the Wiccan laws ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust...Mind the Threefold Law ye should – three times bad and three times good...Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill – an it harm none, do what ye will."
Lughnasadh, or Lammas, means the funeral games of Lugh (pronounced Loo), referring to Lugh, the Irish sun god. However, the funeral is not his own, but the funeral games he hosts in honor of his foster-mother, Tailte. For that reason, the traditional Tailtean craft fairs and Tailtean marriages (which last for a year and a day) are celebrated at this time.
This day originally coincided with the first reapings of the harvest. It was known as the time when the plants of spring wither, and drop their fruits or seeds for our use, as well as to ensure future crops.
As autumn begins in later weeks, the Sun God enters his old age, but is not yet dead. The God symbolically loses some of his strength as the Sun rises farther in the South each day, and the nights grow longer.
The Christian religion adopted this theme and called it “Lammas,” meaning 'loaf-mass,' a time when newly baked loaves of bread are placed on the altar. An alternative date, which fell around Aug. 5 (Old Lammas), when the sun reaches 15 degrees in Leo, is sometimes employed instead of Aug. 1, by certain Pagan Covens.
In the Celtic Ogham, August is the Month of the Vine (muin), whose fruit has been used for centuries to make wine. The vine itself is symbolic of joy and euphoria, and in the past wine was often drunk as part of Ritual to enhance divination and vision quests.
This month’s Full Moon is the Wyrt (Corn or Barley) Moon, closely linked to the Goddess and the Green Man, and falls on Aug. 13.
In mid to late August, we celebrate the beginning of the Wyrt or Corn Moon. This moon phase is also known as the Barley Moon, and carries on the associations of grain and rebirth that we saw back at Lughnasadh. August was originally known as Sextilis by the ancient Romans, but was later renamed for Augustus (Octavian) Caesar. Some Native American tribes knew that the sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this Full Moon, for them it was the Full Sturgeon Moon. Others called it the Green Corn Moon or the Grain Moon.
Day of Hekate
On the same day as this month’s Full Moon, is the Day of Hekate, the Dark Mother. She is the Goddess of the Crossroads, a Triple Goddess, representing the Crone Aspect of our Mother.
Hekate is primarily a goddess of the Underworld, holding dominion over death and rebirth. This is meant both in the literal sense and in the metaphorical as well. For life is filled with many deaths and rebirths aside from that of the flesh. Because of this the Dark of the Moon especially is her time of the month, since it is a time of endings and beginnings, when what was is no more, and what will be has yet to become.
Hekate guards the limenoskopos (the doorstep), for she is a goddess of liminality and transition. Of being on and crossing boundaries. This includes not only the boundary between life and death, but any boundaries, such as those between nature and civilization, waking and sleep, sanity and madness, the conscious and the subconscious minds. Indeed, any transition can be said to be her domain.
As such she is also goddess of the crossroads, where the paths of one's life fork and a person must choose which future to embark upon. In ancient times these were believed to be special places where the veil between the worlds was thin and spirits gathered.
In the ancient world a crossroad was a point where three roads met to form a "Y"-shaped intersection. It was believed to be a place where spirits gathered, including those of the Underworld and those of Fate. It is also a metaphor for the divergence of possibilities in an individual's future. Their life will bring them to the crossroad along one of the roads, and they will be met with a branching, where they must choose one path or the other to continue onward. As goddess of transitions, Hekate rules this place where the roads separate and differing futures are possible.
Hekate is often portrayed as a three torch-bearing female figures standing in a circle looking outward, with their backs joined so that they are in fact one being. This exhibits her dominion over the triple-crossroads and her ability to see in all directions simultaneously. The road a person had come from, and the directions they might take in the future. These hektarion (or hekataion) were placed at crossroads. Their earliest forms consisted of a pole upon which three masks were hung, with one facing each road. In more recent times these became statuary, sometimes of three figures standing with their backs to a central pillar, other times a similar portrayal without the column in the center. Typically, devotees often left her gifts of grain at these markers.
[Note: The Romans knew Hekate as Triva, which means "where the three roads meet."]
Hekate is also the goddess of psychological transformation. Her Underworld is the dark recesses of the human subconscious as well at that of the Cosmos. Many have accused her of sending demons to haunt the thoughts of individuals. What they fail to understand is that the demons are not hers, but their own. By the light of her twin torches Hekate only reveals what is already there. These are things which the person needs to see in order to heal and renew. However, if they are not prepared for the experience of confronting their Shadow then it can truly feel like they are being tormented. Hekate is not motivated by cruelty, nor is she seeking to harm. But her love can be tough love. She will prompt a person to face the things that they must, whether they like it or not.
Then and now Hekate is a goddess of Witchcraft and those who walk between the worlds. In the ancient world she was the patroness of those magicians – often women and the transgendered – who practiced magick, herbalism, and religion outside of the boundaries of the established temples and civil authorities of Greece. This is one reason she and her followers have often been feared and reviled. They stand with at least one foot outside of the conventional world.
Hekate is my personal Goddess to whom I am deeply devoted. Here are the prayers I say in her honor daily:
“To she who leads us into the cave of our own darkness, and brings us back to the light of our true being.”
“Hear her words children, worship and be glad, for if you seek Her, She will be with you always. She was with you in the beginning, and shall be at the end.”
“Dark Mother, Dark Mother, You walk with me like no other!”
I also repeat the following at dawn and at dusk, reversing the language depending on the time of day:
“At the gate of (dawn/dusk) I stand, Hekate Dark Goddess on either hand.
Guard me with you magick power,
Guide me through the Crossroads hour.
From the (glory/beauty) of the (night/light) to the (beauty/glory) of the (light/night),
In the name of the Ancient She and He,
So mote it be,
Now and forevermore,
I truly look forward to her Feast Day each year, as I owe her a great debt and much love for all she has brought and taught me throughout my life.
Lughnasadh General Correspondences
Traditional Foods: Apples, Grains, Breads and Berries.
Herbs and Flowers: All Grains, Grapes, Heather, Blackberries, Sloe, Crab Apples, and Pears.
Incense: Aloeswood, Rose, and Sandalwood.
Sacred Gemstones: Carnelian, Citrine, and Tiger Eye.
As summer passes, many Pagans celebrate by remembering its warmth and bounty in a feast shared with family, friends or Coven members. As a Solitary Practitioner, I do not belong to a Coven, so my religiously open-minded family and friends attend the feast.
As a devotion, you might want to save and plant the seeds from the fruits consumed during the feast or ritual. If they sprout, grow the plant or tree with love and as a symbol of your connection with the Lord and Lady. Walk through any fields and orchards you live near, or spend time walking or sitting by springs, creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes reflecting on the bounty and love of the Lord and Lady. If you have access to an ocean, the beach and its rocks overlooking the waves can be especially spiritual at this time of year.
A Prayer and Ritual to Celebrate Lughnasadh
“Oh Lady, your breast is the field. Inanna, your breast is your field.
Your broad field pours out plants, your broad field pours out grain.
Water flows from on high for your servant.
Bread flows from on high for your servant.
Pour it out for me Inanna. I will drink all you offer.”
Bake a loaf of bread making sure to honor the source of the flour as you work the dough. Shape the loaf into the figure of a man or a woman and give your grain-person a name such as Lugh or Demeter.
If you have a garden add something you've grown to the loaf. Bread combines the elementals of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water to become a substance that has nourished and sustained people since the first discovery of grain. Bread combines seeds from the Earth (flour and salt), with Water and Air (yeast the secret, airborne traveler, sacred changer of the Gods), adding Fire to bake. Suddenly, from those four ancient, basic elements: Bread.
If you don't wish to bake bread, consider making corn bread, muffins or even popping popcorn. It is the important to honor the harvest, and the baking process allows us to mindfully enter the sacred by being fully aware of our intentions.
In many parts of the world, it is traditional to make a “corn dolly,” out of cornstalks/husks from the late season harvest. If you decide to do this, as you work on her, think of what you and your family and friends have “harvested” this year. If you are like most people, you have brought both the positive and negative into your life. This is the perfect time to reflect on your life as a whole, deciding if there are aspects you wish to change.
— Place an ash leaf under your pillow for prophetic dreams.
— Decorate sheaves of grain with flowers or ribbons.
— Eat and drink in the name of the Goddess and God. Begin with a prayer of thanks for the bounty laid before you.
— Leave offerings of bread to the Faerie Folk.
— Honor the pregnant Goddess and the waning energy of the Sun God by offering them bread and wine.
— Hang crystals, faceted glass and sun catchers in the windows of your house to deflect unwanted energy and to create dancing rainbow colors in your home.
— Sacrifice unwanted habits and things from your life by throwing symbols of them into the Sabbat fire. Prayer scrolls can contain written descriptions of offerings, or they can be doodled or drawn representations. Thus, they can include symbols or words, whatever makes the most powerful emotional connection/association for you.
Detailed Lughnasadh Correspondences
Goddesses – Anat, Blodeuwedd, Ceres, Cerridwen, Demeter, Isis, and Sif.
Gods – Adonis, Hercules, Tammuz, Lugh, Odin, Loki, and Baal.
Colors – Orange, gold, yellow, citrine and gray.
Candle Colors – Golden yellow, orange, green or light brown.
Stones – Yellow diamonds, adventurine, sardonyx, peridot and citrine.
Animals – Roosters, calves, and stags.
Mythical Creatures – Phoenix, griffins, centaurs and speaking skulls.
Plants – Corn, rice, wheat, rye, oats and ginseng.
Herbs – Acacia flowers, aloes, calendula, cornstalks, cyclamen, fenugreek, frankincense, heather, hollyhock, myrtle, oak leaves, sunflower, and vervain.
Incense – Aloes, rose, rose hips, rosemary, chamomile, passionflower, frankincense and sandalwood.
Foods – Homemade breads, corn, potatoes, berry pies, barley cakes, nuts, wild berries, apples, rice, roasted lamb, acorns, crab apples, summer squash, turnips, oats, all grains, and all First Harvest foods.
Traditional Drinks – Elderberry wine, ale and meadowsweet tea.
1 pound dried apricots
4 quarts warm water
6 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
2 lemons, thinly sliced
2 oranges, thinly sliced
1/2 cup yeast
Wash the apricots in several batches of water and then dry them and cut in halves. Place in a large crock and pour on the warm water, reserving 1/2 cup, which is then used to dissolve the yeast. Stir in the sugars, fruit, raisins and ginger. Then add the dissolved yeast and mix well. Cover and let stand for 30 days, stirring the mixture every other day. After 30 days, strain the mixture and bottle.
1 part oak bark
1/4 part pine resin
A few drops oak moss oil
2 parts red sandalwood
1 part cedar wood
A few drops cedar oil
3 parts frankincense
1/2 part sunflower petals
6 cups berries
1 cup sugar
Loaf of white bread, one or two days old
Wash the fruit and leave in a bowl with the sugar overnight. The next day, put the contents into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Gently simmer for 2 or 3 minutes., there should be lots of juice.
Cut the loaf into 1/4 " thick slices and remove the crusts.
Cut a circle from one slice of the bread slightly larger than the bottom of a 34-ounce pudding dish and place in position. Cut wedges of bread to fit around the sides of the bowl. If there are any gaps push in small pieces of bread.
Pour half of the fruit and juice mixture, cover with bread cut to shape and add the remainder of fruit and juice.
Cover the top with a couple slices of bread, trimming off the excess to make a nice, neat finish to the pudding.
Place a plate on top and weigh it down with two or three cans of food. Leave in the refrigerator for a day or two.
When serving, run a thin, flexible knife between the pudding and the bowl to loosen it. Place a serving dish upside down on top of the bowl Quickly turn it over and remove the bowl. Serve with lots of whipped cream.
Barley Mushroom Soup
5 cup vegetable broth
1 cup uncooked barley
1/2 pound of mushrooms (use morels or enoki for a woodsy flavor)
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup chopped, fresh carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves minced fresh garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring the vegetable broth to a low rolling boil on the stove and then reduce heat. Add the mushrooms, onions, carrots and celery, and allow to simmer for ten minutes. Add the barley and garlic, cover and simmer for another hour.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Lughnasadh Corn Fritters
1 can corn
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp salad oil
Additional oil for frying
Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, eggs and salad oil in a bowl until the batter is smooth. Add the can (or 1 cup of fresh) corn kernels and mix well. Heat 1/4 " of salad oil in a frying pan and drop fritters by level tablespoon full into the hot oil. Fry until golden, turning once. Drain and serve.
Here are some other August dates of note:
— Aug. 9; Festival of Sol Indigis, the Roman sun god.
— Aug. 13; The Vertumnalia, the Festival of Vertumnus, the Roman god of seasons, gardens and orchards.
— Aug. 13; Day of Hekate.
— Aug. 13; Full Moon Wyrt (Corn) Moon
— Aug. 15; Festival of Torches – Nemoralia
— Aug. 17; The Portunalia, or the Festival of Portunes, the Roman god of gates, doors and harbors. At this festival, people would throw keys into the fire in order to bless them.
— Aug. 19; The Vinalia, the Festival of Jupiter, who was the primary Roman god.
— Aug. 21; Festival of Consus, the Roman god of good council.
— Aug. 21; Sun enters Virgo.
— Aug 23; The Volcanalia, the Festival of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire (from which we get the word Volcano.)
— Aug. 25; The Opiconsivia, the Harvest Festival of Ops, the Roman goddess of harvest.
— Aug 29; New Moon.
As always, any Sabbat is the perfect opportunity to offer thanks to the Goddess and God through sacred sex. If you are a consenting adult, take your partner, or just yourself, and shout your thanks in the perfect expression of ectasy.
— Danu’s Daughter