On August 1st or 2nd is the Sabbat of Lammas (meaning “loaf-mass” in Anglo-Saxon), also known as Lughnasadh (“LOO-nah-sah”), Lunasa, First Harvest, August Eve, Festival of Green Corn, and other names. This Sabbat celebrates the first harvest of the year. At the beginning of August corn, wheat, barley, and most other grains are ready to be picked from the fields. As such, the festival of Lammas is primarily a grain festival and a celebration of bounty.
In Ancient Rome the holiday was in honor of Ceres, the goddess of grain, and was called Ceresalia. The Celts also celebrated Lammas as a grain festival but it was called Lughnasadh and was in honor of the sun god Lugh as well. Lugh was honored as more than a sun god, but also as the god of harvests and the consort of the Great Mother, Dana. Other gods were honored around the time of this Sabbat as well, such as Egyptian Isis, Roman forge god Vulcan, and Phoenician grain god Dagon, who reeived a hefty amount of the harvest in sacrifice.
Corn is one of the most well-known images of Lammas, as well as a staple crop. The Native Americans celebrated the Festival of Green Corn by gathering together and honoring the Corn Grandmother who resides in the corn stalks. They also held days of festivities with feasting and games and religious rituals. Cherokee tribes called this festival Busk, and used it as a means of offering thanks, rekindling sacred fires, and rededication to personal deities. Blackberries ripen in July and August, and were included in the Lammas festitivies for the Irish and Norse for the deities Brigid and Thor.
Lammas is a time to reap the benefits of the fertile earth, but there is still at least a month of growing time in many climes. This means that there is still some aspect of fertility to Lammas, however small, because it is a celebration of the fertile earth’s bounty and the ancient people knew there was more harvest to be expected before winter. Wiccans (and perhaps some other traditions as well) would say that the Goddess is still pregnant at this time, and still growing, thus there is still much fertility and growth in the world. There were few traditions which allowed animal sacrifice on this Sabbat in the ancient world, the only sacrifices considered acceptable being some of those grains harvested thrown back onto the field or placed on an altar.
After Lammas, the sun is noticeably lower in the sky and the days start to become noticeably shorter.
Ways to celebrate:
- Have a feast (or just a really special dinner) in which all the first fruits of the season are consumed, especially the grains that were harvested at this time.
- Go to the farmer’s market and pick up a fresh loaf of bread. Chances are it was made with grains from this harvesttime. You could eat it plain or with honey, which is a sun-associated food.
- Make (or eat, if you’re terrible at cooking) cornbread.
- Make blackberry pie.
- Eat corn.
- Have an August Eve party, and of course eat of the fruits of the season. You could also inlude fresh melons, which, while not a traditional food, can certainly be included now that many local farmers grow melons.
- Stargazing is a good way to end rituals. It’s not only fun, but the August sky is known for having many shooting stars and meteor showers.