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Image: Jan ShepherdLammas

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.

Certainly, 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 It has gradually been falling out of favour, being superseded by the later Harvest Festival.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 brought in.

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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