Here in the UK Lughnasadh has just passed. What was a fresh green landscape at Beltane is now gold, with corn swaying under a somewhat illusive Sun, but ripened none-the-less. Now John Barleycorn, the Spirit of the Fields, is being cut down by the combine harvester.
The days of scythe are far behind us, and I guess it’s easy to look back at times when our relationship with the land and our food was closer. I’m sure those who worked the fields with scythes would look at the combine harvester as a great gift that could save their backs from great pain, but every year at Lughnasadh I step into one of our local corn fields and, with my own sickle, cut a few ears of corn for our Lughnasadh ceremony by hand, offering my own prayer of thanks to the Earth, and John Barleycorn, for the gift of our food.
The ceremonies leading up to the Summer Solstice with their growth and promise are often celebrated by asking for that same energy to enter our lives, but for me Lughnasadh marks the first festival of thanksgiving. As the year begins to wane so we gather the crops of the harvest, both of the land, and of those gifts that may have entered our lives, and offer our love and thanks, unconditionally. Last weekend about 45 of us gathered at the Long Man of Wilmington to offer this thanks. It was cold, windy, and rainy, not the expected heat of late Summer, but somehow this made the ceremony even more poignant. When we can gather our own harvest from the shelves of the local supermarket, our personal sacrifice of a little bit of discomfort to mark and honour the gifts of this beautiful, miraculous Earth seems like the least we can do.
And, of course, our friends in the Southern Hemisphere were at that same point celebrating the gentleness, and growth, of Imbolc. So as one half of the Earth offers thanks and begins to gather the harvest, so the other looks towards hope, growth, and the gift of new life. And so the Earth spins ever on, as the Wheel forever turns.