This morning I read the article on Patheos Pagan by my buddy Jason Mankey called Why No One Loves Lammas (or Lughnasadh) and felt moved to put finger to keyboard and type my thoughts.
I have always had a complicated relationship with Lughnasadh, but I wouldn’t say that I don’t love the festival. I love them all in different ways. I’m very lucky to live on the seasonal line where the Pagan Wheel of the Year makes total sense. Every festival reflects what is happening to the land around me. From the snowdrops and lambs of Imbolc, the May Blossom of Beltane, the green wheat and hedgerows full of Elderflower at the Summer Solstice, the falling of the wheat in the fields of Lughnasadh, bright apples and berries at the Autumn Equinox, storms and gathering darkness of Samhain, and the early evenings and stillness of the Sun’s rebirth at the Winter Solstice. It’s all there. How can I not love it all?
However regular readers will know that I am most definitely a Spring and Summer person. It’s been hot here for a week or so, but we have nothing like the Summers of the southern states of the USA. On the whole here they are very warm, but bearable. So the first complication with my relationship with Lughnasadh is that is marks the high point of Summer that also shows the first stirrings of Autumn. To a Sun worshipper that means it’s all downhill from here. The days will soon be visibly shorter, the evenings tangibly colder. It means Autumn is on its way, and although I like the colours of Autumn, I know what comes next, and soon that warmth I love so much will be very far away. It used to get me down quite a lot, but for some years now I have learned to live far more in the moment, and to see the beauty in all of the seasons, so the dread of the darkness of Winter falls more lightly upon my shoulders these days.
Complication the first…
But this is the big one.
I get very emotional at Lughnasadh. I see the seasons reflected as a dance and relationship between the Green Man/Horned God and the Earth Goddess. It’s the story that was told to me when I first found Paganism and I love it. I follow the youth as he grows, his face reflected in the fresh green leaves, as the green of the corn at the Summer Solstice, and at Lughnasadh he stands, old, pale and wan, as the Three Men from the West, and the Goddess stand, scythe in hand to slay her son/lover.
That moment is the ultimate moment.
It’s what the entire Wheel of the Year has been moving towards.
In that moment, as the wheat falls, we see life reflected in death. John Barleycorn falls – we can eat. Without that sacrifice that happens to every single piece of food on our plates, meat, vegetables, bread, ale, whisky, cereal, none of it exists without that sacrifice, and the falling of the wheat, to me, offers me a moment to give thanks, to honour all off the plants and animals that die so that I can live. Without the turning of the seasons, without the dance of the God and Goddess, there would be no life. The seasons and the cycle of life shown in the Wheel of the Year affects everything. So when I see the representative of the Life of the Fields symbolically cut down, and those seeds fall from their hands onto the earth, well, it’s emotional.
Sad and joyful.
From then until the Winter Solstice the land is without that energy. The Horned God has transformed through the death of the wheat and now sits upon the throne of the Otherworld, waiting for the Goddess to return. As the Cailleach she opens the doors of the Otherworld at Samhain and out he will ride, to lead the Wild Hunt.
Do I love Lughnasadh like I do some of the other festivals? No, not really, but that isn’t to do with the lack of story, or that others around me aren’t celebrating it as we see with Samhain and the Winter Solstice, it’s because it’s a really painful and deep representation of what is happening in the fields and woodlands that surround me. I mourn the death of the Corn King as I would a friend, but I know that without that death, nothing lives.