The Wheel of the Year just passed August 1st, a cross-quarter day for most of the Pagan world. On August 1st, we honor the halfway mark between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox. Two of the most common names we see for observances at this time are Lammas and Lughnassadh. Lammas translates to loaf-mass and references the grain harvest. Loaves of bread were brought to mass and blessed. These loaves could later be used for protection among other magick. Lughnassadh (the spelling varies because Gaelic) comes to us from the Celtic god Lugh. His feast-day included rituals, athletic competitions, trading and, of course, lots of food. One of the sacrifices offered to Lugh was a gift of ‘first fruits,’ a specific offering of the new food now ripe for the taking.
Our contemporary practice echoes the gratitude for and celebration of the abundance around us. Gratitude is good – it’s good to be thankful for what we have. The thing is, many if not most Pagans are missing some of the depth here. We’re largely suburban at this point, far removed from the agricultural world. Those of us who keep a vegetable garden are a little more connected to the cycle of the agricultural year but we can always pop off to the grocery store if the spaghetti squash doesn’t produce as much as we’d like.
Remember, the harvest was once the difference between survival and starvation.
Remember, the harvest was WORK.
The first fruits weren’t in their finished form. Sure, you can cut up and eat a zucchini, but bread doesn’t grow in the wheat fields. The process of wheat to flour to bread is a chain of working hands and interlocking tasks. Transforming raw materials into a feast was its own harvest labor after the first fruits were carried in.
The first harvest is a celebration of what the labor of the growing season plus the bounty of the earth produced. The first harvest is something all of us can access, but it needs to be brought in.
We don’t all work in the fields anymore, but we do all work. Whether you realize it or not, you are in a constant state of growth. Maybe you work at an office, or on a job site, or from home. Maybe you work at writing or creating or teaching. The work we spend our energy on may seem far removed from tending fields of corn, squash and beans, but it is work all the same. We bend our minds, energy and wills to create abundance from our efforts. The metaphor of seed to leaf to fruit to harvest holds true.
As we work we learn. We don’t always realize that’s happening, of course. Humans as learning creatures are so adept at processing new information that it’s not always a conscious activity anymore. We figure out easier ways to do things. We discover methods of structuring our time and energy to be more effective. We pick up skills, tricks, techniques and alliances and we barely even register that it’s happening. We just know that Laurie in accounting has our back because we’ve gotten her out of hot water with HR.
Bringing in the harvest is work. Are you ready to bring in yours?
Think back to Ostara – to March. What changed? What abundance have you created? What have you learned? It’s time to take stock.
Here is my first harvest.
- I am more experienced as a healer, teacher and shaman. I am not done, nor will I ever be, but I learned some great new techniques to help people. I learned valuable lessons from the Spirits I work with. I learned to trust myself more as a healer.
- I learned about my limits. I discovered that there’s a ceiling for how many events I can do, how many projects I can manage and how many healing sessions I can perform in a week. I learned that there are some kinds of tired that have nothing to do with my muscles. When I learned that, I finally started learning to rest. I put things on hold. I’m really proud of this – I’m bad at resting. But I’m finally starting to do it.
- I learned that my gut instincts were right about some people in my life. I relearned to trust the warning bell.
- I worked with lots of new clients, many of whom have chosen to return to me for further healing. There is no greater praise than repeat business.
- I delivered sermons, taught classes, counseled people, led rituals and continued to weave the web of community. I learned that the community I serve is now so big and vibrant that I can’t facilitate it alone. I asked for and received help from community members I adore, respect and admire.
These are my lessons, my achievements, my bounty. And in true heathen fashion, this work is worth boasting about. It’s worth celebrating. So is yours.
Sit down and write out a list – what have you learned during spring and summer? What did you create? What skills did you hone? What alliances did you foster? Where are you stronger, better, more determined, wiser?
Then, and this is the important part, celebrate it.
Treat yourself. Eat something delicious, give yourself a foot massage, take an hour off to go walking somewhere, buy a shiny thing you’ve been eyeing up, do a victory dance… Celebrate your work, your labor and your harvest in the way that works best for you. Work is good, labor is good, focus is good, but without celebration it is not fulfilling. It’s important to celebrate our steps forward, our hard lessons. Our ancestors knew this and turned wheat into bread, then blessed it.
Go harvest your grain. Knead it into bread. Bless the fruits of your labors. Celebrate your abundance. You earned it.
Blessed Lammas-tide to you. Got an achievement or a piece of hard-won wisdom you want to share? Hit me up in the comments.
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