On August 1st, we celebrate Lammas; the first of the three great annual harvest festivals. The word Lammas originates from two Old English words “hlaf-maesse” which translates literally as “loaf fest”. What it represents is a commemoration of the first loaves of bread which were baked using the first grains harvested from that crop year. Nowadays, bread making and grain harvesting seem distant to many people since very few Americans rely on farming for their existence. However we must look back into time and put ourselves in the shoes of our ancestors to get a true understanding of the importance of this celebration. To a time when harvesting and processing those precious grains could mean the difference between life and death. Not only would this first harvest produce grain to make bread and the first beer of the season, but it would also provide seed. Without quality seed to plant, there would be no crop the following season.
Those who follow a Celtic path also celebrate the God of Light, Lugh, on this same night. This is where the other common name for the holiday, Lughnasadh, comes from. The story of Lugh is one of great sacrifice. The God, having just peaked at Litha/Midsummer, prepares to transfer his waning energy into the grain to ensure his people would survive another year. As the grain is cut, it’s seen as the time of sacrifice and the very first seasonal cuttings are done with great reverence and honor. It’s a unique celebration as it focuses on abundance and life, but also on sacrifice and death of a higher order; a compete vision of the great circle known as life.
This ritual is designed for a group and is best performed outside around a generous bonfire (bonfires just seem to make everything better)
What items you’ll need to collect for this ritual (as written)
Four quarter candles – yellow (east), red (south), green (north), blue (west)
Yellow Altar Cloth
Sachet of Summertime Herbs
Two Bowls – one with seed/grain and one with bread broken into pieces (enough for everyone)
Small sickle or scythe
Small sheaf of grain (fresh)
Small sheaf of grain from last season (optional)
Seasonal Beer and Ale to share
Goddess Candle (White)
God Candle (Tall Gold candle)
Loaf of Harvest Bread
Any portion of the ritual that is bracketed by <> symbols should be understood as instructional notes and not to be spoken aloud.
<Opening Statement – A call to action for the participants to stop talking, gather, and prepare to begin the ritual>
<The ritual leader should walk the perimeter of the circle three times while reciting the invocation below>
“I cast this circle thrice around, from the earth to the sky, and from the sky to the ground. Below and above this sacred space, outside of time, outside of place; the circle is cast, we are in-between the worlds.”
<Hold the ritual loaf above your head and recite the statement below>
Tonight is the first of the three great harvests. On this night, we honor the grain, the first beer of the season, and most importantly the first loaf. Our ancestors used to break the first loaf apart into four pieces and place one in each corner of their grain storage as protection against disease or infestation – we symbolize this important rite of passage by placing one section in each of the cardinal directions during this ritual.
“We give this, the first loaf, back to the Gods and Goddesses to show our thanks, our respect, and our eternal love for guidance, comfort, and all the blessings they provide. Blessed be!”
<Break the bread into 4 pieces and place one near each quarter candle>
Calling the Quarters
I call upon the Guardians of the East, the direction from which the power of air originates. Invisible, yet able to support great change; it finds itself in good company. So, like the invisible power of the mind, the intellect, inspiration, and the power of imagination, we need not see them to respect them. AIR, we humbly ask for your presence; inspire all who gather in this circle with light summer breezes carrying the sounds of laughing children and the smell of lavender in bloom. <light yellow candle>
I call upon the Guardians of the south and the distant lands where the power of fire was first born. The flame is the giver of light, pure and comforting, and of heat, raw and untamed. It is the universal symbol of cleansing, of death, and of rebirth from the ashes. FIRE, we humbly ask for your presences to enlighten us with your knowledge, bathe us in warm summer sunlight until the day yields to the starry skies overhead. <light red candle>
I call upon the Guardians of the west, where the land gives way to the mighty seas. Deep beneath the waves, the power of water came to be. Great and powerful keeper of spiritual regeneration and the beginning of all things, we call upon you this night. WATER, we humbly ask for your presence in our circle to guide us and cleanse us as we proceed through the phases of the great circle of life. Cool us when we tire, slake out thirst, and be our eternal companion. Bless us with your cool waves and light summer rains. <light blue candle>
I call upon the Guardians of the north, the power of earth, the great foundation on which all life exists, the center, the mother, and the giver of nourishment and prosperity. EARTH, we humbly request your presence in this sacred circle tonight. Allow us to experience your wisdom, embrace your knowledge, and share in the bounty of your harvest. Shower us with the abundant energy of the growing land around us and the landscape above us. <light green candle>
<Ritual Leader should raise their arms overhead>
Great God, Lugh, Warrior, Savior, Lord of both Fire and Light. Begotten Son of the Sun above; join us in our celebration this night! <light God Candle>
Great Goddess, you who are known in every land, in every village, and in every heart; you are called Isis, and Inna, and Selu and Demeter and Ceres and Grain Mother and Corn Woman, and mistress of all things earthly or yet to be discovered. It is you who makes the fields grow and the flowers bloom, and we humbly request your presence in this circle tonight! <light Goddess Candle>
Hail and Welcome to All!
Welcome Everyone, Thank You and Blessed Be. Tonight we have gathered to celebrate Lammas. It’s high summer and the union between the God and the Goddess has once again produced the first harvest of the season.
Before we begin, we’d like to take a moment to listen to a wonderful song from Lisa Thiel, entitled Lammas Song.
Each year we cycle through the three great harvests. The first is the grain harvest, which comes when summer is at its height and the world is full of energy and abundance. The second harvest will be at Mabon, where we’ll harvest the fruits, and finally the last harvest before the great darkness of winter will be at Samhain, when we’ll harvest the nuts and berries.
We must humbly rejoice in this, the first reaping and also understand that even though the sun shines high in the sky each day, autumn will soon be upon us. I implore each of you to take time to celebrate the bounty both on our tables and in our lives, but also to give thanks for the personal harvests each of us shall reap from our individual magickal and mundane work this year. Make hay while the some still shines – take time to think forward and prepare. We hope to harvest all that we have sown, yet to harvest means we must cut down those plants which we have carefully tended and nurtured from their humble beginnings as seed. It was we, who have provided our energies in the form of labor and toil throughout the growing season, and now in return, the same grain will complete the great circle of life by providing us with energy and nutrition. What we have sown, we shall now reap!
Our Lammas Celebration of the Grain
Cutting of the Grain – Hold up the sheaf
Our ancestors would gather to cut the first sheaf of grain at dawn on Lammas – they would winnow and grind this first cutting to make the first breads and ales of the year. It was a community event and tonight we symbolize it by cutting from this sheaf
<hold the sheaf up and cut a small piece using the scythe – offer the tool and grain to the group and for each participant to make a small cutting (be careful)>
The Wheel of the Year has turned once more, and the harvest will soon be upon us. The gifts we receive are plenty. We have food for our tables; bread to feed our physical bodies, and hope to feed our souls. Nature’s bounty, our gift from Mother Earth, gives us many reasons to be thankful.
Honoring the Seed – Hold up the bowl of loose grain
The power of the Harvest is within each one of us. As the seed falls to the earth and is reborn each year, we too grow as the seasons change. As the grain takes root in the rich fertile soil, we too will find new roots and new developments. As the grain is harvested and saved for winter, we too shall set aside a portion of this great abundance for the months ahead when the ground is frozen and the fields bare.
<take a few kernels from the bowl and sprinkle them on the earth – then pass the bowl to everyone in the group to do the same>
Honoring the Bread & Beer – Hold up the Bread
Behold, this bread symbolizes the first bread made with the grain of the first harvest. From seed to stalk, harvesting and winnowing, to the gristmill, and finally to bake the bread – we have been provided for. It is through the sharing of energies that we are in such a grand position. Each man, woman, and child has provided energy in the fields, the kitchens, and the grinding mills. The God and Goddess have provided additional energies far beyond our comprehension. The elements of water, earth, fire, and air, too have blessed the grain. This bread represents a collection of all those energies and we shall share in them as a group.
<Take a piece and pass the bowl until everyone has some.>
Group Prayer <pass out copies beforehand>
“We give thanks to the land for providing us with fertile soil, the skies above for both sunlight and rain, and the air all-around us for cool breezes, and a component of life itself. This bread symbolizes all that we have received, from the elements, the soil, and the Gods and Goddesses.”
Honoring the Bread & Beer – Hold up the Beer
As the first sheaves of grain were ground to make the bread and celebrate, the next were malted and fermented to make the first beers and ales of the season. These libations were an important part of our ancestor’s diets in addition to their “celebratory” uses.
<pass out beer/ale or pass a large mug/chalice for each person to taste>
Group Prayer <pass out copies beforehand>
“With the partaking of these libations, we take into our bodies the essence of the God of the Sun, the essence of the light and the heart of the grain. We align our spirits with the physical well-being of our minds, our bodies, and our souls. We praise the Goddess, for it is she who shows us the way to build bridges between the earthly and spiritual worlds.”
The customs around cutting the grain are unique to each civilization, however the significance of the first cutting and the final sheave are not lost on any. We’ve learned that the first bread and the first ales came from the initial harvest and we’ve shared in those gifts. The last sheaf however, also had significance. It would be kept in the home throughout the year, often being decorated with colorful ribbons or charms, until the springtime planting, where it would be burned and ashes scattered over the first fields, or buried to provide a spark of life to the upcoming crop.
<If you have a saved sheaf from last season, now it the time to burn it in your bonfire>
Grain Mother, we give thanks for the blessings of the harvest. For the abundance of grain, the seed, and means to survive through the dark half of the year, we offer our eternal thanks.
We have gathered here to celebrate this gift of abundance, and to ask for guidance throughout the coming year. We trust in the grain and its life-giving power. We trust in the seed, to bring forth new life in the days ahead, and we trust in one another; sharing our energies, our sacred spaces, our knowledge, and our path. Praise to the Goddess!
Closing the Circle
Great God, no words can begin to thank you for your great sacrifice, for your sharing of energy and for the strength you’ve left us with on this night, in this sacred space. <extinguish God candle>
Great Goddess, you who are the center of our universe, we thank you for your abundance, your wisdom and the unconditional love shared with us this night in our sacred space. <extinguish Goddess candle>
We turn our eyes to the unending power of the North, the stone, and soil, and all living things on Earth; the great circle of life unfolds each and every day. Thank you for your presence in this circle and the protections you provide for us all. <extinguish Green candle>
Our sight shifts to the setting sun in the West; where the cleansing waters wash away the unwanted feelings and negative energies of our daily lives. We humbly thank you for joining us this evening. <extinguish Blue candle>
Look now to the South; where the flames burning high on the hilltops serve as guiding beacons of light in the darkest of nights. Our eternal gratitude for your warmth and comfort, and for joining us this eve <extinguish Red candle>
And to the East we give our final sight; where the swirling winds whisper the secrets of the ancients, but only to those who choose to listen. Our appreciation is genuine and our thanks everlasting for your presence this night. <extinguish yellow candle>
The circle is open but never broken!
<Three chimes from the bell>