In the Celtic wheel of the seasons, the holiday ‘Lammas’ on August 1st marks the shift from summer to autumn. It's also my daughter's birthday, and so in recent years I've had a second excuse to celebrate this special day. But if it weren't for Simza, I have to admit that this holiday would most likely slip by with not a ton of fanfare. But why?!?! This holiday is a celebration of food, communal effort, and pausing to be grateful for the abundance all around. This post contains some historic information about Lammas and a ritual you can use or adapt on your own. But I also encourage you to use this opportunity to thank the farmers at your local market, prepare a festive meal and some "spirits" (of the alcoholic variety), and invite your friends for an evening of sharing gratitudes.
More about Lammas:
Historically, Lammas (or Loaf-mass) was a harvest festival, blessing the first crop of wheat. Loaves were baked in honor of the harvest, and offered back to the earth in thanks for the abundance that would help to sustain the people through the winter months ahead.
Lammas also marks the shift from the element of fire to the element of water. Yes, there are still hot days to come and plenty of summer activities to enjoy, but around August first, as the light begins to fade earlier, there is a change in the energy of the land. A cooling down. A drawing in. The energy that was growing consistently up and out in the leaves of the trees starts, imperceptibly at first, to move back down to the roots. Like the people, the trees are starting to stock up for winter too.
Some years are good years. The crops grow in abundance, and people can rest easy knowing there will plenty to share. Some years are hard years, and it is not clear whether there will be enough to make it through. But no matter what, the first harvest is an offering, a thanks to the earth for for sustaining our lives, and making life sweet. Even in hard years, there must be gratitude and celebration.
In modern times, we experience this same reality. Some years are good, others are hard. But at Lammas, we have the opportunity to look at the abundance that has grown up around us and express our gratitude.
Lammas Gratitude Ritual:
1. Set up a ritual space. I like to do this outdoors where I can be connected to the land, but you could do this indoors as well if you have a houseplant to represent the earth. At a minimum you will need:
Cup/vessel filled with water, plus extra water for refills
You can also add any objects or images that represent abundance to you. I like fresh fruits and vegetables, an overflowing basket, a cup of coins that is overflowing, etc.
2. Light your candle.
3. Take a few minutes to sit in your ritual space, breathe deeply, and feel yourself get connected to the abundance of the earth.
4. Take your journal and write answers to the questions
What is helping to sustain you right now?
What will give you energy this winter?
What gives you inspiration?
What helps to soothe you, or helps you to rest?
What is happening in the “big picture” that gives you hope?
5. Once you are finished writing, take your cup and offer a libation, or pouring of water for each item on your list. As you pour the water, give thanks in whatever way feels best to you. For example you can say “Thank you, earth/spirit/creator/etc, for my flourishing garden. Thank you for grassroots organizers and alternative media. Thank you for time to laugh with my friends and remember that I am not alone.”
6. Refill your cup.
7. Take a sip of water, giving thanks for each thing on your list and feeling the blessing of the water with each drink.
8. Repeat as many times as you’d like. Going through the list multiple times can allow you to sink into the magic of gratitude, “filling the well” of your heart and providing water for the earth.
9. Blow out your candle, take a few more deep breaths and you are done!