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Posts Tagged ‘lammas’

Almost a full year ago, I retired from public service with the coven of which I’d been a member for more than eight years. Shortly after I retired, the two remaining members of my initiatory class also retired, and we spent the rest of the next year in retreat from public ritual, enjoying the mental and emotional and spiritual space after having been members of a large group for a long time, and also re-grouping and re-discovering who we were as private pagans, as semi-solitaries once again.

During this time, one of the things that I came to realize, and which the other two agreed with me on, was that we missed having regular observations of the solar year.

Our coven observed each Sabbat with quite a bit of pomp and circumstance, and over the years, had re-invented them to be specific to the coven, with specific non-ancestral names and ritual actions that accompanied them. Some of this I liked, as it gave some continuity to Sabbats which can otherwise be a little meaning-obscure beyond random traditions (Ostarra and easter eggs, for example), but we had all three missed the more seasonal component, which had seemed to us to get a little lost in the shuffle. We’ve all grown up in areas of the country with distinct seasons, and turning the wheel of the year felt important to us, along with the recognition of the more ancient roots and practices that went along with these holidays. So, we decided that we would like to start observing them again, though not publicly at first, and do the work of figuring out what their meaning and importance was to us on an individual and group level.

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Spell work with divination cards laid out on a table

We had been discussing this for a while, but the next Sabbat really coming up by the time we felt ready to venture into ritual again was Lammas/Lunadsagh. So, the first thing was to figure out what pieces of Lammas felt important to us: for my hive-sister, Ivy, the harvest aspect of it was important, particularly the idea of the fruit harvest. For me, it’s a feast of bread and the first grains, and also closely tied to Mary. For Kian, our third hive-member, Lammas was less of an important holiday to him, but he was on board for the ritual eating and drinking! We also decided that divination and/or spellwork at every Sabbat for the period of time following it was important, and we inaugurated that at this event.

It was a relatively small affair, but it felt really good to be doing even just small ritual again. Ivy and I baked a bunch of bread, hers with fruit in it, which was delicious. I created an altar that celebrated Mary, Sif (a Norse grain and hearth and home [among many other things] goddess to whom I’m dedicated, and the general theme of abundance and the first of the harvests, with offerings of fruit and grain and honey and wine.

Ivy working on her corn dolly, with a two corn dollies standing up in front of her next to a pink teacup

Ivy brought corn husks, and we made corn dolly men and women, which was a lot of fun- we’re keeping the corn women until Imbolc, at which point we will ritually drown them, and the corn men we will burn at Mabon as a sacrifice. We also took the time after we’d eaten to draw cards from a variety of decks, and lay out a spell for what each of us wanted to manifest in the time before Mabon- you can see mine above.

We’re still a long way from doing anything public, if we ever do, and we’ve scaled everything way back from what it was with a large group, of course. It was an interesting feeling, I have to say- it very much feels like a cycle of re-discovery, moving from the way I celebrated the solar holidays on my own as a solitary witch, then how I learned to observe them working in a large group, and now falling to somewhere in the middle. It’s good, though- a re-birth of sorts just in time for the feasts of abundance.

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A back-lit corn man standing in front of flowers and offerings on a plate

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What follows is a story I told at a Lammas ritual,  a ritual designed to focus on the past and future roots of community, and our own responsibility to our worlds and tribes. When I told it in the ritual, it was interspersed with a song many of you probably know, Breath, found here, which was entirely appropriate for the ritual. However, here, on its own, I have interspersed it instead with a hymn, #760 in Wonder, Love, and Praise (which I normally hate with a passion, but every so often it comes through for me). I think it works well.

In the darkness that followed the beginning of the world, there arose a great clamor; a roaring in the heavens, the sound of chariot wheels racing across the sky. In the midst of the furious noise there came a great flash, and a BANG that reverberated throughout the realms.

Lightning had struck the earth.

At dawn, the ancestors crept out from their dwellings, leaving the tents and shelters behind, and made their way to the fields. The earth was damp with the rain from the night before, the waters of the world sinking into the dirt. They came to the place where the ground had been struck, and put their hands out and touched it.

It was warm.

They marveled, taking each hand in turn and pressing it to the heated ground. Surely, this was a sign.

One of them spoke a flurry of words, sudden and excited, and went running back to the camp, returning quickly with palms cupped and eyes bright. Putting out her hands, she showed them all what she had brought- a small cluster of seeds.

The others began to smile.

They found more seeds, and dragged rows, planting them in the dirt with a smile and a prayer and a song. All that morning they watched them, watched with sharp eyes as the seeds sent up shoots, small and green, unfurling in the light of the rising sun. They watched, and they waited.
oh wheat, whose crushing was for bread
oh bread, whose breaking is for life
oh life, your seeming end is seed
a seed for wheat, our bread is life
By the afternoon, the shoots were waist-high and sturdy, and the ancestors were delighted. They plucked the weeds from between the rows, and they propped up the wilting stalks. they watered the shoots that were getting too much sun, and trimmed back the trees where they shaded the corners of the field. They built a man out of twigs, and posted him at the end of the field to keep the birds away. They hoed and shooed and weeded and smiled and laughed. They took hands and danced, ringing around the field and singing, the Earth is our Mother, Thunder our Father, the fields are our bodies, the harvest our joy.
oh fruit, whose crushing was for wine
oh wine, whose flowing is for blood
oh blood, you’re pouring out is life
our life in you, oh fruitful vine

As the sun moved across the sky, the harvest ripened. When the first shadows of the mountains hit the edge of the field, the ancestors grasped their scythes and waded into the tall stalks. They moved as one, blades swinging in the deadly dance of foot to foot, stalk to ground. It was a long work, but then the field was finished, all of the ripened grain standing in bundles in the now-empty field. They wiped the sweat from their brows, and stood around, nodding in pleased exhaustion at the great work they had done.
As they gathered up the sheaves and carried them to the village, one woman stayed behind, plucking the last of the stalks from the ground and fashioning them into the shape of a small doll. It made her smile, there in the twilight, and so she brought it with her as she followed the rest out of the field.

oh life, whose crushing was for love
oh love, whose spending was to death
oh death, your mourning is our joy
full joy in birth to lasting life

And as the night darkened, the sound of merry-making rose from the small cluster of houses- the sound of revelry as the grain was crushed and needed, husked and fermented. and as they baked their bread, and drank their beer, they laughed and smiled and sang. They shouted and danced, because they knew that this was only the beginning- they knew that just as they had tended and watched and strengthened and reaped, so too they would do again, and again, and again. and so too would their children, and their children’s children. That as they rejoiced in the cycle of growth and sacrifice, they were bringing new life to the world at the cost of their own.
We are the spark of lightning in the earth; we are the growing shoots. We are the crops, standing tall in the fields, receiving our ancestors songs. We are the grain at harvest, the kernels crushed and pounded into flour, we are the loaves of bread and the cups of mead. The ancestors sacrifice themselves for us, because we are our ancestors harvest. And we will do the same.

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