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Image: Jan ShepherdLammas

Here are Graham's thoughts:
Lammas is another one of the less well known festivals, a trait it shares with Imbolc, which is opposite Lammas on the Wheel. It is usually thought of as being on the first of August, but can also be celebrated any time between the 31st of July and the 2nd of August. The word Lammas comes from the Saxon words for Loaf Mass, hinting at the broad message of this festival - it is the blessing of the first loaf, the beginning of the harvest of cereal crops. Traditionally the first wheat would have been cut at dawn, then winnowed and ground so that a symbolic first loaf could be baked and shared among the community that evening. It is interesting how resonant the idea of breaking and sharing bread is in binding people together.

As well as having a range of dates, this festival also has an alternative name, Lughnasedh, or Lughnasa (pronounced “Loo-na-seth” or “Loo-na-sa”). In Celtic mythology, the month of August was sacred to Lugh, the God of Light, and the name is prevalent in Ireland. While it shares a lot of symbolism with Lammas there is much academic debate as to whether there was a common, pan-Celtic early August festival. It is probable that there was a general early August celebration of the first harvest across the ancient world. It was called Lughnasedh in Ireland and Lammas in Anglo Saxon lands.

All that aside, this festival is a celebration of first fruits. It is the beginning of the harvest. This would have been the time of maximum effort and hard work in any rural community, and was of vital importance. The work put in at Lammas, in gathering and storing the harvest, would determine the survival or otherwise of the community. It is no surprise then that many of the rituals involve bringing everyone together, symbolically gathering the first of the harvest and blessing the barns for storage.     [More...]

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