One theme that appears to have been
common across both Ireland and Great Britain is the importance of hills
to this festival. There have been many references to climbing the
highest hill in an area and then enacting some sort of ritual there.
Given that standing stones and barrows were often placed on the
sky-line, there may have been some sort of ritual pilgrimage to these
ancient, sacred places at this time of year.
it would be a good exercise to climb the highest hill at the beginning
of August and survey the land around. (Make sure to take plenty of
water!) There may have been practical reasons for this as well – being
able to see all the corn fields spread out would have been a valuable
tool in planning the harvest.
The fact that Lammas means
Loaf-Mass tells us that it comes from the early, Anglo-Saxon
Christianity. With distinctly pagan overtones it involved blessing the
first harvest in the local church. It has gradually been falling out of
favour, being superseded by the later Harvest Festival. This is usually
at the end of September and is a celebration of the harvest being
Although I have written a lot about the God, this is
also a Goddess based festival. It is through the Goddess that we have
the bounty of harvest. Indeed, this day is Lugh's day because it was
when he had a feast in honour of his foster-mother's funeral. (This is
also the origin of the name, Lughnasa or Lughnasedh). This hints at a
darker side to this time of year. 15th August is the time when the
Virgin Mary ascended to heaven. I think this is an old memory involving
the death of the corn maiden. Although we are enjoying the bounty of
this time of year, the harvest is a process of killing the plants in
order to get food. As with everything though, it is cyclical and tidal
and the Gods are always reborn. [More...]
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