Thinking About – Lughnasadh

Here in the Northern Hemisphere we are approaching the first harvest. The festival of Lughnasadh, or Lammas is raising its head and peering over the horizon. It’s a bitter-sweet time for me on my yearly journey through the seasons. I’ve watched as the grey has turned to green. The bare fields have filled with life, the bone branches of Winter blessed by the touch of the Lady have brought forth leaves of verdant green, that are now settled in and turning a darker hue. And in those fields the short grass of the Equinox has grown. The tall stalks and green wheat that has stood tall and defiant in youth are now slowly bowing their heads, and turning from green to gold – a bearded man, with a crooked cane – not quite there yet, but age is showing, and it won’t be long before John Barleycorn is ‘cut down to the scythe’, or more than likely the mechanical combine.

For some this is the first sign of Autumn. To me though it is the height of Summer. The falling of John Barleycorn, his sacrifice, brings with it the hottest time of year, as the Zenith of light of the Solstice finally catches up with the heat of Summer. But that Solstice Zenith is also, after Lughnasadh, showing an obvious wane, as the arc of the Sun shallows, heralding the march of Autumn and then Winter.

I’ve read that some Pagans don’t get Lughnasadh. To me it’s the culmination of what it’s all about. Maybe that’s because I came to Paganism when The Golden Bough, with it’s dying and resurrecting vegetation God, was at its height, and was still recommended reading. Some people might have moved away from that belief somewhat, but for me it’s still relevant. John Barleycorn’s sacrifice is in my house right now. In the bread I eat every day, in the beer I drink, and so many more things I love and help me stay alive. Along with the blessings of Brighid at Imbolc I also know this as the final time of planting, and John Barleycorn’s life journey is one of the ways I anchor my own journey through the seasons.

The date we have for Lughnasadh is the 31st July/1st August. An arbitrary date really, like the other three fixed dates we have for the Fire Festivals. To me it’s Lughnasadh when the fields are being harvested. Personally, one field in particular. When the field of wheat just below the Long Man of Wilmington is being harvested. Of all the fields here in Sussex it’s probably the field I feel most connected with, being there for all of the 8 festivals, rain, snow or sunshine, seeing it change. When that is falling I know that the God of the Corn is dying, offering his life as sacrifice so that we can have our bread. And as the neck is taken, so the great doors to the halls of the Otherworld open, and an old and weary man steps through, footsteps echoing, as he takes his throne, and awaits his Lady to join him once more, at Samhain.

11 Comments

  1. Denise July 20, 2017 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    Wonderful imagery. Like you, I still find the metaphor of the dying god evocative of both the wheel of the year and the life sustaining gift of agriculture. Here the corn fields are actually maize and the harvest later in the year but it doesn’t really matter. I am grateful for it all.

  2. Yasslad July 20, 2017 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    Comforting imagery while we shiver our way through the minus 8 degree Canberra mornings here in the southern hemisphere. Bring on the spring. Though there is a stark, cold, beauty in the grey misty mornings, with naked, frosted branches and the thin clear air.

  3. Thesseli July 20, 2017 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Beautiful. I don’t understand why some Pagans don’t get Lughnasadh (except for some hard polytheists and reconstructionists who don’t place much importance on the cycles of the earth and the life on it).

  4. Anne July 20, 2017 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Like you I’ve watched the fields that are near to the village where I live turn from brown earth to golden stalks swaying in the breeze. One field has already been harvested & bales stand dotted round the field. I find comfort in the cycle of death/rebirth and enjoy the merging of the seasons. Soon autumn will be here, but for now I am enjoying summer, although it doesn’t always seem like summer in this part of Scotland!

  5. Jio July 20, 2017 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    I once had this connection to the changing earth. I moved to the city and it was damaged and I am still attempting to regain it. The move wasn’t worth it by any means…

  6. Char Lewis July 20, 2017 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    So elequently put. The imagery you evoke is breath-taking.

  7. Tina Larkin July 20, 2017 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    This is why you write such great lyrics, Damh, because you are a true poet. Your blog is such joy to read. Thank you for your music and poetry.

  8. Andrew Townsend July 21, 2017 at 12:54 am - Reply

    The Long man of Wilmington brings back fond memories of lying on the grass below his extended feet and taking in the incredible view afforded. Then walking through the ripening crops of wheat to the inn nearby. The pull of this countryside surprised and delighted our family.

  9. Linda Davis July 21, 2017 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Beautiful. Blessings of the Season to you & yours.xx

  10. Sonia Smith July 21, 2017 at 11:01 am - Reply

    Yes, I agree. And how places can hold the magic of the different Sabbats! For me Lammas is always Wayland’s Smithy on the Wiltshire /Oxfordshire border.Right next to the long barrow is all golden fields and the bright red flowering poppies, a reminder of the blood of the sacrificed god, as they spill amongst the living corn.

    A number of beautiful Red Kites fly there, birds of the Lady of the Underworld. When I go there and do my rites I always kind of feel the Dark Lord’s excitement at having his lady back soon. I can feel Samhain coming somehow, despite that sometimes there is brilliant sunshine and golden fields. When the sun sets and the huge harvest moon appears it is the colour of autumn leaves. And sometimes gentle mists appear around the edges of the falling night.

    My heart always gladdens and I am ever grateful for nature’s bounty as I sip beer and eat the home baked Lammas bread. The wheel turns, and each season brings something new and beautiful to feast our senses on. The true being in love, is to me, being in love with Nature, and I am satisfied.

  11. cat gilliland July 30, 2017 at 8:27 am - Reply

    You are such an inspiration. The path you show us feels like I’m being gently reminded of something that I have always known. I feel the cycle of the year very clearly in your music and blog, and see reflections of our own cycle of death and rebirth in the wheel.

    It is definitely the height of summer in Texas. I’ve been in Austin and the temperature has been over 100F most days (up to 40.5C). I’m trying to embrace the natural cycle of the year, but I can’t take this much heat. I am looking forward to days growing cooler.

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