From the Latin word essentia, meaning essence, every human, creature, stone, plant, grain of wheat, possesses an intrinsic nature which is essential to the whole of life. It is with this knowledge that we honor and celebrate Lammas.

Lammas is the first harvest of the season. Largely observed on August 1st or 2nd, the word lammas has its origins in the Old English word hlāfmæsse, meaning loaf mass. Hence the ritual of bread baking to honor the wheat harvest at this time of year.

While not one of the year’s most boisterous celebrations, its existence dates back many centuries, marking the approximate halfway point between the summer solstice and autumnal equinox. Though some of its first rituals are recorded in very early Anglo-Saxon texts outlining instructions for prayers of protection over newly harvested corn, specifically to keep the mice at bay.

Ancient Celtic observance of this day signified the union of the Earth goddess with the Sun god, uniquely called Lughnasaid. This name for the day is not interchangeable with the title of Lammas, as some might believe. And there exist very different histories of celebrations for Lammas in England and Ireland, which have their roots in Christian customs. Some Scottish weddings in older times, which occurred on Lammas, could be broken off after a year without penalty or religious questions. Thus, the day of Lammas is not solely a pagan observance, but spans a multitude of beliefs.

Lammas is a time to honor and observe the fruits of your labor—literally and figuratively. Perhaps this was the first time you planted a garden. Or maybe you’ve labored in other ways to sustain yourself or your family. Whatever transitions which may have occurred during the first part of your year, this is a moment for reflecting upon the successes.

Harvests of all kinds occur about this time, so it’s easy to find local crops to fulfill your celebration’s needs: bake bread using local grains; gather herbs to dry for use during the rest of the year; pick or buy local fruits to freeze or make preserves; or collect seeds to dry and plant next year.

Lammas is also a time to honor others for the sacrifices they have made on our behalf. A first harvest of the season is the perfect time to share the abundance of what you have through baking and gifting, hosting a small feast, or lavishly preparing something for your beloved or someone you don’t even know, simply for the pleasure of sharing.

Consider setting up a space outdoors, if possible, including any items representative of the harvest. Wherever you set it, an altar is an intimate expression of your experience with this celebration. There are no rules, only suggestions based on those who have come before us:

• A richly colored cloth which reminds you of ripe fruit or golden fields.
• Items to represent all the elements—earth, air, fire, water. Some soil, a feather, your candle, and a small bowl of water are simple selections.
• Herbs ready for drying. Think sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, or parsley.
• Stalks of wheat or corn, perhaps tied with a ribbon of an earthy shade.
• Fresh raspberries, blackberries or blueberries.
• Stones of topaz, slate, quartz, jasper, or lodestone.
• Personal spiritual items such as deities, amulets, talismans, or images.
• Something to represent both the feminine and masculine.

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