- It’s the dog days of summer, the gardens are full of goodies, the fields are full of grain, and the harvest is approaching. Take a moment to relax in the heat, and reflect on the upcoming abundance of the fall months. At Lammas, sometimes called Lughnasadh, it’s time to begin reaping what we have sown throughout the past few months, and recognize that the bright summer days will soon come to an end.
Lammas History: Welcoming the Harvest
The Beginning of the Harvest:
At Lammas, also called Lughnasadh, the hot days of August are upon us, much of the earth is dry and parched, but we still know that the bright reds and yellows of the harvest season are just around the corner. Apples are beginning to ripen in the trees, our summer vegetables have been picked, corn is tall and green, waiting for us to come gather the bounty of the crop fields.
Now is the time to begin reaping what we have sown, and gathering up the first harvests of grain, wheat, oats, and more.
This holiday can be celebrated either as a way to honor the god Lugh, or as a celebration of the harvest.
Celebrating Grain in Ancient Cultures:
Grain has held a place of importance in civilization back nearly to the beginning of time. Grain became associated with the cycle of death and rebirth. The Sumerian god Tammuz was slain and his lover Ishtar grieved so heartily that nature stopped producing. Ishtar mourned Tammuz, and followed him to the Underworld to bring him back, similar to the story of Demeter and Persephone.
In Greek legend, the grain god was Adonis. Twogoddesses, Aphrodite and Persephone, battled for his love. To end the fighting, Zeus ordered Adonis to spend six months with Persephone in the Underworld, and the rest with Aphrodite.
A Feast of Bread:
In early Ireland, it was a bad idea to harvest your grain any time before Lammas — it meant that the previous year’s harvest had run out early, and that was a serious failing in agricultural communities.
However, on August 1, the first sheaves of grain were cut by the farmer, and by nightfall his wife had made the first loaves of bread of the season.
The word Lammas derives from the Old English phrase hlaf-maesse, which translates to loaf mass. In early Christian times, the first loaves of the season were blessed by the Church.
Honoring Lugh, the Skillful God:
In some Wiccan and modern Pagan traditions, Lammas is also a day of honoring Lugh, the Celtic craftsman god. He is a god of many skills, and was honored in various aspects by societies both in the British Isles and in Europe. Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-NAS-ah) is still celebrated in many parts of the world today. Lugh’s influence appears in the names of several European towns.
Honoring the Past:
In our modern world, it’s often easy to forget the trials and tribulations our ancestors had to endure. For us, if we need a loaf of bread, we simply drive over to the local grocery store and buy a few bags of prepackaged bread. If we run out, it’s no big deal, we just go and get more. When our ancestors lived, hundreds and thousands of years ago, the harvesting and processing of grain was crucial. If crops were left in the fields too long, or the bread not baked in time, families could starve. Taking care of one’s crops meant the difference between life and death.
By celebrating Lammas as a harvest holiday, we honor our ancestors and the hard work they must have had to do in order to survive. This is a good time to give thanks for the abundance we have in our lives, and to be grateful for the food on our tables. Lammas is a time of transformation, of rebirth and new beginnings.
Symbols of the Season
The Wheel of the Year has turned once more, and you may feel like decorating your house accordingly. While you probably can’t find too many items marked as “Lammas decor” in your local discount store, there are a number of items you can use as decoration for this harvest holiday.
Crafts, Song and Celebration
Because of its association with Lugh, the skilled god, Lammas (Lughnasadh) is also a time to celebrate talents and craftsmanship. It’s a traditional time of year for craft festivals, and for skilled artisans to peddle their wares. In medieval Europe, guilds would arrange for their members to set up booths around a village green, festooned with bright ribbons and fall colors. Perhaps this is why so many modern Renaissance Festivals begin around this time of year!
- Sickles and scythes, as well as other symbols of harvesting
- Grapes and vines
- Dried grains — sheafs of wheat, bowls of oats, etc.
- Corn dolls — you can make these easily using dried husks
- Early fall vegetables, such as squashes and pumpkins
- Late summer fruits, like apples, plums and peaches
Lugh is also known in some traditions as the patron of bards and magicians. Now is a great time of year to work on honing your own talents. Learn a new craft, or get better at an old one. Put on a play, write a story or poem, take up a musical instrument, or sing a song. Whatever you choose to do, this is the right season for rebirth and renewal, so set August 1 as the day to share your new skill with your friends and family.
By: Patti Wigington
Forging Your Own Path: My Journey
Author: Bear Stormcrowe
Ever since I was a wee lad, I knew that I had a special relationship with Mother Earth and the elements around me. I always had this magnetic attraction to all things mystical, offbeat, and natural. I remember quite well the times I used to ‘trick’ my parents into buying trees from the Arbor Day Foundation in order to plant them as an homage to Mother Gaia. I would sit outside and plant them, whispering softly to the planet; “Here you go. Thank you for giving us what you give us.”
When my family finally got the Internet, I remember sneaking onto my computer at night; silently hoping the dial-up connection sounds wouldn’t stir my family. It was there that my journey began. I searched earth-based religions high and low…and I came to the realization: I’m a Witch.
I had always been more mature than others of my age group, and since my epiphany I’ve referred to myself as a Natural Witch. I began seriously pursuing the Well-Worn Path soon after that epiphany and started my path as a solitary practitioner in full force. At the time, I was still green on the subject of Witchcraft, even though I was naturally inclined to it; So, I began researching books from the library and following their paths and their beliefs but something didn’t feel quite right. In any religion, a personal means of practicing helps you get that more personal connection with your deity. In my case, it was multiple deities but namely, Lugh and Danu. It was then I realized that I could forge my own path…my own solitary journey.
Since beginning my own personal journey, following the rules of the Wicca, and showing reverence to my amazing deities, I found my connection and my own personal practice. When it came to Sabbats I followed a loosely based outline but added my own flair in the mix, it all worked just the same if not better because all of my mind, body, and spirit were put into my craft. I came “out of the broom closet”, so to speak, to my friends in high school—then to my friends and professors in college.
After much networking and a twist of fate I owe all to the God and Goddess, I met a woman who is now my fiancée and a group of friends with whom I created a small active coven. They were all well seasoned in the Craft already but I found myself answering their questions with a knowledge I had no idea was hiding deep within me. The advice and techniques I offered proved a success and I realized that I had an even deeper calling: High Priestdom. After meeting and discussing the future of the coven, they all agreed unanimously that they felt I would take the high priest position and honor it well.
So, what’s the point of this story? You ask. In my personal experience I’ve found that crafting your own spells and following the path that your heart and soul vibrates well with yields better results. In my case, a closer connection to the deities I’ve aligned myself with.
How do you find your own path? The simplest way to do it is follow your heart. However, if you are unsure of what your heart is telling you here are some simple techniques that have helped me when the answers my heart had given didn’t really satisfy my spirit.
Meditation: Simple two-step meditation works wonders.
The First Step is to open sacred space. This is the brief equivalent of casting a circle. How I open sacred space is by grounding and centering me then I say:
“By the Grace and Power of the Great Ones, Within and Without, I allow love to enter this space, but keep evil and ill intent out.”
Your sacred space is now open. Feel free to change the invocation of positive energies to something of your liking.
The Second Step is to clear your mind of all things but your question at hand. This takes a lot of practice so do this on a day that has been relatively uneventful if at all possible. Clearing your mind and focusing on your own path and what fits just right for your individual Witchiness should yield some result the first few times you try it.
Scrying: Using a scrying mirror or bowl is another way to get some answers. Be prepared to look deep into the mirror/bowl for some time. As with most divination arts, symbols are left to the diviner to interpret so have a notebook and writing utensil (or computer for those tech-savvy Witches) to record the symbols for interpretation after the scrying session. It’s been my experience to wait until the end of the session to interpret symbols and messages because if you take your focus to one symbol, you may miss other important ones. Once you’ve finished scrying, interpret symbols, make connections, and have fun with it.
To end this article, I’d like to say that if you follow a set path founded by someone else and you feel at home in that path, then by all means continue on the path you are most comfortable with. You may get things from different paths in order to forge your own way. That is perfectly acceptable. It’s all what feels right to each individual witch.
I write this article in the light of Lugh and Danu and with love to all of my fellow Pagans and Earth-Children. May bright blessing and prosperity come your way and as always—Blessed Be.
-Adam Osborne (Sacred Magick)
Eclectic Pagan, High Priest, and Lightworker.
WOTC Extra – Ten Questions You Should Be Able to Answer After a Year and A Day
1.) How would you define Witchcraft?
How would you define Wicca?
What would you say if asked? Are you able to discuss the history of the Craft and how Wicca relates to Magick?
2.) Upon what premise does the moral foundation of the Wicca rest?
Do you consider yourself a practitioner of the dark arts or the white- (or light) magickal arts? Why do you think this?
03.) Explain what is meant by divination.
Explain what is meant by the following terms:
Have you found a favorite method of divination?
What is this method?
Have you become skilled at this, and how skilled?
Do you consider yourself a Master of the Art?
Are you practicing this form of divination for yourself and others on a regular basis, and if not, why not?
04.) Are you thoroughly familiar with some form of the healing arts?
What do you know about the following:
color or sound therapy,
Which of these have you studied enough to have become quite familiar with the healing art?
Are you a Master of the Art?
Do you intend to become a Master?
Have you begun your hand-written herbal or other log of your healing practice?
05.) Have you accumulated all your magickal tools?
How many of these tools have you made yourself?
What was given to you?
Why did this object become a part of your magickal collection?
Are these tools all consecrated?
Why are they consecrated?
Are you knowledgeable enough about the uses of all these tools to be able to explain their uses to another?
06.) If someone, a friend perhaps, comes to you for help in the following areas, can you help them?
The areas might be love, health, wealth, protection, uncrossing, legal aid, self-help or development.
Could you devise a spell to help him or her? Would you? Why? Why not?
Could you include all the proper correspondences, talismans, stones, crystals, candles?
Would you be able to cast the spell during the correct phase of the Moon, the most auspicious day of the week and hour of the day?
Have you kept accurate records of your magickal work in your Book of Shadows or hand-written Magickal Diary?
If not, why not?
07.) Are you able to explain the Sabbats and Esbats?
Can you perform an impromptu ritual for each?
Have you begun your personal hand-written Book of Shadows?
08.) Are you familiar enough with any of the Pentagram Rituals to explain them to others?
09.) Have you composed at least two complete Sabbat rituals and a full or new Moon ritual, incorporating all the proper correspondences;
proper god and goddess forms for the particular ritual,
the correct candles,
scents, invocations, etc?
10.) Can you explain why Wicca is important to you -and why you wish to become a Witch and Wiccan?
Bide within the Law ye should To keep unwelcome spirits out.
To bind the spell well every time
Let the spell be spake in rhyme.For tread the Circle thrice about In perfect love and perfect trust.
Live ye must and let to live
Fairly take and fairly give.
Light of eye, and soft of touch
Speak you little, listen much.
Honour the Old Ones in deed and name
Let love and light be our guides again.
Deosil go by the waxing moon
Chanting out the Wiccan Rune.
Widdershins go by the waning moon
Chanting out the Baneful Rune.
When the Lady’s moon is new
Kiss the hand to her times two.
When the moon ridesat Her peak
Then your heart’s desire seek.
Heed the Northwinds mighty gale
Lock the door and trim the sail.
When the wind blows form the East
Expect the new and set the feast.
When the wind comes from the South
Love will kiss you on the mouth.
When the wind whispers form the West
All hearts will find peace and rest.
Nine woods in the Cauldron go
Burn them fast and burn them slow.
Birch in the fire goes
To represent what the Lady knows.
Oak in the forest towers with might
In the fire it brings the God’s insight.
Rowan is a tree of power
Causing life and magick to flower.
Willows at the waterside stand
Ready to help us to the summerland.
Hawthorn is burned to puify
And to draw faerie to your eye.
Hazel – the tree of wisdom and learning –
Adds it’s strength to the bright fire burning.
White are the flowers of the Apple tree
That brings us fruits of fertility.
Grapes grow upon the vine
Giving us both joy and wine.
Fir does mark the evergreen
To represent immortality seen.
Elder is the Lady’s tree
Burn it not or cursed you’ll be.
Four times the Major Sabbats mark
In the light and in the dark.
As the old year starts to wane
The new begin; it’s now Samhain.
When the time for Imblolc shows
watch for flowers through the snows.
When the wheel begins to turn
Soon the Beltane fires will burn.
As the wheel turns to Lammas night
Power is brought to magick rite.
Four times the Minor Sabbats fall
Use the Sun to mark them all.
When the wheel has turned to Yule
Light the log The Horned One rule.
In the spring, when night equals day
Time for Ostara to come our way.
When the sun has reached it’s hight
Time for Oak and Holly fight.
Harvesting comes to one and all
When the Autumn Equinox does fall.
Heed the flower, bush and tree
By the lady Blessed you’ll be.
Where the rippling waters go
Cast a stone, the truth you’ll know.
When you have and hold a need
Harken not to others greed
With a fool no season spend
Or be counted as his friend.
Merry Meet and Merry Part
Bright the cheeks and warm the heart.
Mind the Three-fold Law you should
Three times bad and three times good.
When misfortune is enow
Wear the star upon your brow
Be true in love this you must do
Unless your love be false to you
Eight words the Rede fulfil
“An it harm none, do as ye will”
Setting Up Your Imbolc Altar
By Patti Wigington, About.com
It’s Imbolc, and that’s the Sabbat where many Wiccans and Pagans choose to honor the Celtic goddess Brighid, in her many aspects. However, other than having a giant statue of Brighid on your altar, there are a number of ways you can set up for the season. Depending on how much space you have, you can try some or even all of these ideas — obviously, someone using a bookshelf as an altar will have less flexibility than someone using a table, but use what calls to you most.
Traditionally, the colors of red and white are associated with Brighid. The white is the color of the blanket of snow, and the red symbolizes the rising sun. In some traditions, the red is connected with the blood of life. Brighid is also tied to the color green, both for the green mantle she wears and for the life growing beneath the earth. Decorate your altar with a white cloth, and drape a swath of red across it. Add green candles in candleholders.
The Beginnings of New Life
Altar decor should reflect the theme of the Sabbat. Because Imbolc is a harbinger of spring, any plants that symbolize the new growth are appropriate. Add potted bulbs — don’t worry if they’re blooming yet — and spring flowers such as forsythia, crocus, daffodils, and snowdrops. If you don’t have much luck planting bulbs, think about making a Brighid’s crown as a centerpiece — it combines flowers and candles together.
Brighid is, after all, a goddess of the Celtic peoples, so it’s always appropriate to add some sort of Celtic design to your altar. Consider adding a Brighid’s cross6 or any other item incoporating Celtic knotwork. If you happen to have a Celtic cross, don’t worry about the fact that it’s also a Christian symbol — if it feels right on your altar, go ahead and add it.
Other Symbols of Brighid
- Cauldrons or chalices — she’s often connected to sacred wells and springs
- A small anvil or hammer — Brighid is the goddess of smithcraft
- A Brighid corn doll and Priapic wand
- Sacred animals such as cows, sheep or swans
- A goddess statue
- A book of poetry, or a poem you’ve written — Brighid is the patroness of poets
- Faeries — in some traditions, Brighid is the sister of the Fae
- Healing herbs — she’s often connected to healing rites
- Lots of candles, or a cauldron with a small fire in it
So how does a Witch celebrate the Sabbats? Hmm, we always take for granted that each of automatically know what they are suppose to do on our Sabbats. Well, at least I did to recently. I was talking to a dear friend and I asked them how was your Yule. Did you do anything special? The reply was, well we did whatever Pagans are suppose to do, whatever that is! It didn’t dawn on me till a few days later. Perhaps we aren’t doing the job I thought we were doing. I decided to make a commitment to all of you. The commitment is before each Sabbat (over a few days) we will give your morning prayers, rituals, spells, activities, the correspondences and the Deities of that Sabbat. You will have the information to celebrate that Sabbat correctly.
I am very glad that my dear friend made this comment. I believe there are others that might be saying or thinking the same but have never told us. So now, we are going to provide you with everything you need. There will be no more wondering what Pagans/Witches do on the current Sabbats as the Wheel turns.
I hope you enjoy the information. If you ever have any questions or concerns about any issue, please contact us. Because if you don’t contact us, we won’t never know where we are lacking in our service to you.
Lady A & The WOTC
Symbolism of Imbolc
Imbolc can be symbolically represented by a dish of snow, evergreens and/or candles. Ritually, you may choose to light and hold candles (symbol of light) within the Circle. You may also want to place a wheel symbol upon the Altar. It is traditional upon Imbolc, at sunset or just after ritual, to light every lamp in the house — if only for a few moments. Or, light candles in each room in honor of the Sun’s rebirth. Alternately, light a kerosene lamp with a red chimney and place in a prominent part of the home or in a window. If snow lies on the ground, walk in it for a moment, recalling the warmth of Summer. With your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow. Other Pagan activities may include the gathering of stones and the searching for signs of Spring. It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants at this time.
Imbolc…or As The Wheel Turns
As the wheel turns…
Sorry, that was a, now obscure, reference to an old soap opera. Imbolc is tomorrow! The meaning of the word it’s self is “in the milk” or something close to that. The real meaning of Imbolc is that we are beginning to see the changes in the days and that spring will eventually be here!
The promise that we will be able to survive another year and thrive is starting to materialize. When Imbolc was Christianized, it became Candlemas, and is a celebration of light. We have just moved through the darkest part of the year and we are headed for the light.
So, beyond the textbook stuff, let’s look at what this Sabbat means to 21st century people. Since we get our milk and meat from the grocery store and no longer have to plan out how and what we will be eating for more than 24 hours, agrarian celebrations no longer resonate with a clear message or meaning for most of us.
We get up in the morning, go to work, grab lunch…. you know the routine. How or even why do we care if ewes are starting to produce milk? We don’t and it is that simple. But if you think about what the last few months have been like, dark, wet dreary, you can identify with the longing for bright blue skies and nice warm weather. Imbolc reminds us that, in a chaotic world, there are many things we can still predict. Stability is important to us.
This Sabbat is also an opportunity for us to bring ourselves, spiritually, into the light. The “Dark night of our soul” is almost over and we have a chance to reflect about the lessons we’ve learned through the tough times and integrate them into our personal wisdom and offer them to others’ through collective wisdom.
I encourage everyone to recognize that what we’ve gone through is over and we never have to visit those same dark days again. Remember the difficulties, glean the lessons learned and then let go of the pain and fear. There is no way to move forward into perfect love and perfect trust if you are clinging onto fear or emotional pain. Imbolc presents an occasion to learn and let go!
Humans are obsessed with marking time. Months, years, decades, centuries, are important mental markers. They Mayan people were so obsessed with time keeping that they wrote a calendar for the past as well as the future. I think our obsession is, in part, a need to compare our personal growth. We need mental cairn to see “from whence we came’.
So, where was I 10 years ago? Living in Pony, MT!
I was secretly wishing that the world would go to hell in a hand basket because of Y2K but I knew it wouldn’t because some pretty smart people who caused that little glitch, were still around to fix that little glitch. I was dealing w/that lovely inner ear/vertigo issue that I have called Meniers’ disease for the first time! I was scared because I had no spirituality and I was on the run from a stalker (hence, why I was in Pony (middle of no where) Montana) .
Where am I now? In Killeen, TX!
The world did go to hell in a hand basket but it had nothing to do with a computer glitch.
I still have the Meniers disease but it’s under control with medication. I have a spiritual system that works especially well for me so I am no longer afraid. And I have taken a stand against the stalker (yes…. 10 years later. He is still at it) .
Imbolc 2010 has presented me with an inner reflection opportunity. Having just attended the Army’s “Spiritual Fitness Summit” with some really smart, spiritual and powerful chaplains, I discovered what has kept most of us from being open to acceptance of other religious systems is fear.
Once I started talking while we were working in our small groups to set the U.S. Army’s definition of spirituality, everyone began to relax. I am guessing that they figured out that I wasn’t going to sacrifice anything in the middle of the room!!! Then this group of men did something I did not expect them to do…they listened to me! Balance will now be included in the definition of healthy spirituality as well as the recognition of nontraditional religions, either formal or informal!
What should be addressed here isn’t “wow, look at the good stuff I’ve done. Yay me!”
I want to look at the road that it took to get to where I am. I want to remember the lessons that I learned on that road (which was full of pot holes and always a construction zone) and i want to, somehow, help others to see that life is a good place to be when you are living in the moment!
I have always felt a call to serve others. Even when I was much younger and being self-centered, spoiled and without a clue what Personal Responsibility, Compassion and Unconditional love meant. I thought that I was too fat for the military so serving there was not going to work and I needed to be doing something that earned money. I wanted to raise children, so the convent was out! Besides….I like sex way too much to give that up for the god of Abraham! What to do? I was stuck at 20…then, along came my eldest child and, thankfully, my (still) best friend, Tara.
Yes, I know…I went back MUCH further than 10 years, stay with me here.
Because of my choice to become a mother, I learned responsibility and because of my oldest daughters’ network of friends (thanks Mark…I owe you one for this lesson) I learned personal responsibility and compassion.
Tara stood by me through all of my thoughtlessness, insults, screw-ups and selfishness. Tara was there for all times, the good and the horrible. Tara taught me that you could love the person but not their actions. She taught me that you love without conditions and you love freely without expectations of being loved back. Because of Tara, I learned unconditional love.
So, what am I doing with all of these lessons? I am making an attempt to teach them to others in a gentler manner than I learned them. I am leading, as best I can, by example. I have been smart enough to form friendships with deep connections with people who will call me on my bullsh*t so that I can do it while not giving all of myself while serving others…or so that I can do it and not be a hypocrite by doing it for my ego.
November 5th is the day my father died when i was 15. November 5th two thousand and nine is the day that I found my feet. It is the day that I honestly answered that call to serve others. THAT is another article for a later time.
Blessed Imbolc, be fearless and loving!
Brighid’s Crossroads Divination
By Patti Wigington, About.com
Imbolc is a time when the Wheel of the Year has reached a crossroads between light and dark. The earth is about to quicken, and yet no one knows exactly what lies ahead of us. There are twists and turns on the path to come, although where it leads is anyone’s guess.
Among her many aspects, Brighid is considered a goddess of the crossroads. She is said to be able to see where we’ve been, and where each road might take us, should we choose to follow it. A Brighid’s Cross unites the four elements, and creates paths which travel in the four directions. Because of this, Imbolc is an ideal time for divination. Not sure where your headed this year, or what choices lie before you? Let Brighid help guide you as you weave a crossroads of your own in her honor. As you create a Brighid’s Cross as part of this divination, ask her to inspire you, and guide you towards the right path in the coming months.
For this divination, you’ll want to find a place where you can be alone and undisturbed. If it’s warm enough, try to get outside, perhaps out in the woods where two paths intersect. Before you begin, read the instructions here on how to Make a Brighid’s Cross. Have all your supplies on hand prior to beginning your divination ritual.
Begin by closing your eyes, and thinking about where you’ve been in the past year, spiritually, emotionally, even physically. What things have you done that bring your regret? What things have brought you joy? Is there anything you wanted to do, but didn’t get a chance to? Picture yourself wandering along a path, out of the past and into the present. Let your mind roam freely, and visualize yourself approaching a crossroads. Perhaps it’s a place in a forest, where a pair of deer trails run together. Maybe it’s in the mountains, where streams intersect. Or maybe you picture yourself out in a wide open space, with roads connected in the middle of nowhere.
Regardless, see yourself at that crossroads. You are at the center, and branching out from where you stand are many paths. Each leads in a different direction. Each path will take you to something new. Begin creating your Make a Brighid’s Cross, and as you weave the straws together, think about what may lie in each direction. As you look out over your choices, thinking about which way to travel, Brighid herself is standing beside you. Continue weaving your cross, and watch her. She points out one of the roads.
When you’ve finished your cross, close your eyes once more, and meditate on the path which Brighid indicated for you. What lies in that direction? Is it something familiar and comforting? Something new and unknown? Focus on the cross you’ve made, and let this newly chosen path inspire you. Know that it will ultimately bring you to something good and positive and strong.
When you’ve finished, you may wish to make an offering to Brighid as a gesture of thanks for her guidance.