Author: Patty Tomsky
Many of us are so divorced from the turn of the seasons, we barely understand the meaning of the word “harvest” anymore.
But gardeners know: even if you’ve got a single, spindly cherry tomato plant on your deck, when you pick that first, bright fruit, you’ll feel a sense of joy, wonder and completion. A tiny seed you nurtured is now bursting sweetly in your mouth.
You’ve probably guessed I just referenced my poor plant from a few years back that yielded 3 tiny, super sweet tomatoes. And I’ve got to say, the meaning behind the festival of Lughnasa — or Lammas — came home to me in that moment, from the first red bite.
What is Lammas?
The festival of Lammas is held on August 1. According to We’Moon, this holy day represents “first harvest, breaking bread, and abundance.”
Lammas is a time to celebrate and be grateful for:
- Completed projects and goals
- The culmination of a personal journey or a change
- Time to assess the past diurnal year (not calendar year, but time as it passes between the sun risings and moon setting)
Some observe the festival at the astrological midpoint between the summer solstice and autumn equinox, or at the full moon nearest this point.
It’s celebrated in the Green Corn Ceremony (Creek), the Sundance of the Lakota people, the Corn Mother festival of the Hopis, and in the goddess festivals including Amaterasu (Japanese) Hatshepsut’s Day (Egyptian), Ziva (Ukraine) and Habondia (Celtic).
The History of Lammas
For the witchy among us — or those who follow the Celtic/Gaelic path — we equate Lughnasa (Lammas) with honoring the sun God, Lugh.
Legend has it that Lugh’s foster mother, Tailltiu, died from exhaustion after she cleared Ireland’s plains for agricultural cultivation.
Lugh held a festival in her honor that ended with a funeral pyre at the end of harvest. Today, young men in Ireland (and other countries) still leap over bonfires to celebrate Tailltiu’s hard work and prove their mettle.
How to Celebrate Lughnasa
Traditional Lughnasa or Lammas celebrations have included hand fastings (weddings), feasting, and dedication of the first fruits of the harvest festival and feats of strength and sport.
Some covens use fire imagery and chanting, as well as corn dolls and other totems to mark the demise of the sun as it moves toward the darker months, losing his power to grow food from the frozen earth.
Many of these festivals begin at sunset the night before the holy day, while others are celebrated at “the cardinal points on the wheel of the year,” especially among First Peoples of North America. Corn dolls are used in celebrations in the west and southwest, where corn traditionally represented the center of nourishment for these cultures.
A Tarot Ritual for Lammas
I’ve designed a Tarot exercise for you to use as a nighttime intention-setting ritual the night before Lammas.
How to Perform the Lammas Tarot Ritual:
- Start by gathering 3-8 small pieces of paper, and lighting yellow candles around your ritual space.
- Sit centered at your altar, breathing in for 5 beats and out for 8. This calms the vagus nerve, and signals to your body that it’s time to relax.
- Take the Sun card and the Star card and place them to the left and right on the altar. Shuffle and pull a Tarot card to place between them.
- Use this card to set intention for the next phase of life. Often, this Tarot card will align with intentions for action — in work, love, or personal growth.
- Your Lammas intentions can be focused on gratitude and thankfulness for the harvest that your creativity has unleashed during this season. If you’re an artist or musician, you may want to write down ideas for a melody, song, poem, essay, or a painting that any of the 3 cards may inspire. Even starting an afghan to crochet through the months until December’s cultural and Pagan festivals of giving can allow you to manifest joy.
- Many Pagans bake bread to mark the Lammas. Star-shaped breads are eaten in Starhawk’s ritual for Lammas — and passed out among those gathered. The celebrants ask, “What do we hope to harvest?” and answer, “May the star of hope be in us always.”
Write down what do you hope to harvest — create, begin a business, have a new baby, renew your intention to keep your environment cleaner, etc.).
What are your hopes for the next few months? What active steps can you take to realize these hopes? These don’t have to be for you, but can be for others, too.
- Take the slips of paper to a safe, fire-resistant place (your cauldron in a private place in the backyard works just fine) and burn them. Watch the sparks and smoke as physical representations of your intentions being sent off to the creative universe.
Centering Questions for Lammas
Each time the harvest is gathered, I’m reminded of the winding down of the year and the many gifts the earth deigns to offer.
I often see where I haven’t been particularly generative or generous — where my fear has blocked me from enjoying the fruits of my labors, or from relaxing and doing something just for me.
Other questions that relate to the pause that Lammas offers — the bright blaze of our self-regard and examination — can give us direction for months and years to come.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Once you’re grounded and centered at the altar, follow your breath until you feel ready to open your eyes and calmly examine these few questions.
- Bring your Writual Planner with you and write down your own questions (and answers) as well:
- What do I want to start, stop, and continue for the rest of the year?
- What have I learned this past year (few months, since Mabon, etc.)
- What are my failures? Can I forgive myself? Am I learning the lessons that I’m supposed to learn?
- Who needs my good prayers and intentions? Who can I help with a specific gift or offer of service?
- Am I contributing to my community? If not, is there something I can do for the larger world?
- How can I find more time to play? To laugh and be lighter?
- What do I want to manifest for the good of all and to harm none?
Deepen Your Spiritual Practice Daily
While Pagan holidays are a great time to reflect and center yourself, you don’t have to wait for a holiday to practice your spirituality.
At Writual, we make space for everyone — including beginners and seasoned witches — to learn more about Tarot and how to engage in meaningful rituals.
That’s where The Writual Society comes in. Here, you’ll find Tarot resources, helpful courses, and a community of like-minded intuitives to share your experiences with.