When is Lammas: August 1 or 2
Lammas pronunciation: LAH-mahs
Themes: first fruits, harvest, gratitude, benevolent sacrifice, utilizing skills and talents
Also known as: Lughnasadh, Lughnasa, August Eve, Feast of Bread, Harvest Home, Gŵyl Awst, First Harvest
Lammas is one of the four “Greater Sabbats,” making it one of the most important days on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. It is the cross-quarter day between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox, and it marks the beginning of the harvest season. Though it’s often the hottest part of the Summer, this is also the moment when the first hints of Autumn are perceptible—the first grains are ready to be harvested, the trees begin dropping their fruits, and the ever-shortening daylight becomes more apparent with each sunset. At this time we give thanks for the abundance of the past growing season and look forward to the remaining weeks of light and warmth as we continue reaping what we have sown.
Wiccan mythology holds that the God’s power begins to wane at this time, as the days grow shorter and the crops are ready to be cut down. In some traditions, the Sun God actually infuses the grain with his power, and so is sacrificed, in a sense, when the grain is harvested. This grain is then used to bake the first bread from the year’s crop, which in earlier times would then be taken to a church and laid on the altar to be blessed. This custom is a good example of how pagan religions and Christianity were able to coexist and even commingle for a time. The name “Lammas” actually comes from this tradition, taken from an old Anglo-Saxon phrase meaning “loaf mass.”
Lammas rituals are related to harvest and gratitude, and recognizing the manifestations of our intentions that have unfolded so far during the course of the year. Bread-making is a common way to mark the holiday, as it represents bringing the seeds of intention into full fruition. People also might make a corn dolly—a traditional poppet made from straw—for use in ritual and magic. Decorate your altar with the colors of summer and fall—yellow, orange, red, green and brown. Use harvest imagery like scythes and baskets and, of course, loaves of bread. A Lammas feast should definitely involve bread, as well as late-summer fruits and vegetables, corn, and other grain dishes. Spellwork related to securing abundance and a happy home is particularly powerful at this time.
Another name for Lammas is Lughnasa, after the ancient Celtic festival celebrated on this date. Lughnasa honors the god Lugh, who is associated with the Sun (his name translates roughly as “shining one”) as well as many skills and talents, including building, smithcraft, poetry and magic. Irish legend has it that the festival originated with Lugh himself, when he held a funeral feast and sporting competition to honor his foster mother, Tailtiu. She had died from exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland so the people could grow crops. Lugh was also a great warrior, and many Pagan groups celebrate this holiday with competitive games in addition to harvest-related festivities. Wiccans and other Pagans who follow Celtic traditions may focus their celebrations on giving thanks for their skills and talents as well as for the grain harvest, but the emphasis is on gratitude all the same.