Warm weather makes for pleasant stargazing, and the universe this year has already given us Comet Neowise (which is still barely visible but now has dropped to dimmer than 4th magnitude). Also, this year will give us the best Perseid show for the past few years coming right up on August 12th (more on that soon)! In the Northern Hemisphere, the Autumn cross-quarter or Summer Thermstice is celebrated on August 1 as Lughnasadh/Lammas/Lunasa. How will you be celebrating it? Astronomically, the event occurs on August 6th for those in the United States, but at that moment it will already be August 7th UTC.
Due to the seasonal lag, this is the hottest time of the year in many places in the Northern Hemisphere. Lammas thus celebrates the heat of the summer, and with it, productivity and the early harvest – as well as the returning darkness. Those in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate Imbolc at this time.
As we saw with the Summer Solstice & Beltane, the pandemic has given us online opportunities that we often far flung Pagans (and even more so for Naturalistic Pagans) didn’t have before. Your local Pagan groups may have online presences now, and in any case, Circle Sanctuary has a full day of online Lunasa activities planned for Saturday, August 1 (the ritual is at 3:30 CDT), and additional events such as the Lammastide Full Moon Circle Monday August 3rd (advance registration is suggested for either).
“This is the season of the waxing dark. The seed of darkness that was born at the Summer Solstice now grows … the dark part of the days grows visibly longer. Earth’s tilt is taking us back away from the Sun. This is the time when we celebrate dissolution, expansion into Deep Self, the time when each unique self lets go, to the Darkness. It is the time for celebrating ending, when the grain, the fruit, is harvested. We meet to remember the Dark Sentience, the All-Nourishing Abyss, She from whom we arise, in whom we are immersed and to whom we return. This is the time of the Crone, the Wise Dark One, who accepts and receives our harvest, who grinds the grain, who dismantles what has gone before.”
Glenys invites ritual participants to contemplate their hopes for the harvest.
I think it is time, here in the brightness of the Sun, once again to remember that we are connected to Nature, that we are in a cycle of waxing and waning Sunshine: to take up a wand or a knife, a chalice of beer or barleywine or mead, a loaf of fresh bread, a smouldering censer and to give thanks, to say to soil and sky and trees and creatures and fellow humans that we mark this moment in the passage of Planet Earth around the life-giving Sun.
Beyond this, in my view this full-sun, bright and luminous holiday is a time for art and craft: for celebration of technology and artistic skill: the brewing and smithcraft and toolmaking and engineering and coding and chemistry and metallurgy that have enabled us as humans to achieve so much.
Traditional Paganism largely ignores these modern aspects of our evolution. Its romantic focus on Ye Olden Times has led it to choose blindness to the aspects of human development which have facilitated and supported the advent of modernity…which, for all its faults, has also advanced the ideas of individual value and liberty, of the equality of all people, and the modern environmental movement.
Yes, we have done much harm. But we have achieved marvels, and to deny this is also to miss a key part of the story….
I write to you here on a miracle of technology, born of the innovations and genius of many women and men, past and present. Daily, in both work and play, I use tools whose origins extend back into antiquity. Summer’s End gives me a moment to appreciate all those innovators, all that genius, from the homo habilis who flaked an Acheulian handaxe from a quartzite core to the women and men who put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon.
We are tool-using apes with language and sentience. This is an extraordinary thing. At Summer’s End, I reflect on this as I enjoy the fruits of our innovation, from beer to bread to broadband Internet and antidepressants.
“We usually make corn dollies, though the materials have changed over the years. I have taken to fashioning them out of the subtropical ferns which grow in our backyard. We have a bonfire to which we commit the Brigid’s crosses which we made at Candlemas. This is a way of connecting across the year, and also of simulating the agrarian cycle on which we still depend, despite the illusions of the global marketplace. Most importantly, for Lammas, we bake bread.
“There are many mysteries wrapped up in a loaf of bread. The process of baking from scratch can connect us to history, science, culture, agriculture, and nature. The bread can be a symbol of all these connections, of our relation with the Earth and with humanity. Best of all, it’s a delicious and healthy food, which has become a mainstay of my family’s diet.”
“We celebrate Lunasa by some kind of early harvesting, such as visiting a pick-your-own blueberry farm, wild raspberry picking, or such. To see the abundance of the earth, we’ll sometime spend time wandering (or even trying to run) in a mature cornfield. It’s one thing to say “Oh, yeah, the earth is producing a lot of growth”, but quite another indeed to be surrounded by it, blinding your sight and slowing your movement – that really shows the power of this Sabbat. We usually bake bread, perhaps in a woven Celtic knot, enjoying some of it during our ritual. The ritual is held during the afternoon’s heat, not at night.”
“As I stand here on this celebration of Lammas, the sacred wheel of the year continues to turn. As my ancestors did in times before and my descendants may do in times to come, I honour the old ways. The seeds have been sown and the crops have grown, now is the time of harvest. Today is the feast of first fruits and I celebrate the ripening of the grains. The sun has begun to wane but I enjoy still the long hot days of early autumn. I give thanks for the abundant gifts of the Earth Mother.
“This is the time we celebrate the love of the God and the Goddess. The heat of the sun is the reflection of the passion of the God and Goddess. This is the day when the heat of their passion grows so hot that the God is actually consumed by its flames. Since this is the middle of summer this is also the beginning of the end of summer. This is the moment when the flower of summer is blossoming at its fullest, and tomorrow it will begin to wilt. Mid-Summer is like fruit when has ripened to the point where it is its juiciest and tastiest, but on the next day it will begin to rot. The meaning of this day is that pleasure is fleeting. We must enjoy life while we can, knowing that it cannot last forever. When we see the beautiful flower blossom, we must either leave it, knowing we may never see it again, or pick it, knowing that in doing so we also kill it.”
They then feast on ripe seasonal fruit and decorate grapevine wreaths with cut flowers to be offered to the fire later.
“Most regions around the world experience this Solterra event as the hottest time of year and when fruit, especially berries, are ripe for the picking. For some Saegoahs this is also a time for celebrating our craft skills, athletics, courting, bonding ceremonies (weddings), grain and first fruit harvest – ideally this would culminate as a fair. But for personal or family level celebration there is one thing that we can all do – make pastries! Preferably going out and picking the ripe succulent fruit yourself and having all the ingredients be local.”
For those of us who map our Deep Time History onto the Wheel of the Year, Lunasa may remind you of the awesome sizes and incredible shapes of the dinosaurs. To think that evolution can craft all of that from a lizard! Like the long and hazy summer, the dinosaurs basked in glory for over 100 million years, unaware of the asteroid on a collision course with Earth. (Time = from 200 million to 65 million years ago). This is the correspondence I use, though it is non-linear most of the time (the scale of Deep Time to days of the year changes throughout my year). I also include technology as Mark Green mentions above (another technological anniversary is the first nuclear explosion on July 16th, 1945). I do this because as events have seemingly accelerated, a linear scale crams many events in the very end of the year. This is also why I use a linear scale to celebrate on New Year’s Eve.
For those who use a linear scaling for the whole year, the most common time scales to use are mapping our 13.8 billion year history onto the year, or to map our 4.6 billion year history of Earth onto the year. Mapping just our 4.6 billion years of Earth to 1 year puts the emergence of eukaryotes at Lughnasadh. As Robin Clancy writes – up to this point, all of the life that could be found on earth were prokaryotes. Their DNA floated around freely within the membrane of the cell. But about 2.1 billion years ago (7/18 at 8:52 am on the Earth Calendar) a new type of organism appeared: the Eukaryote. In addition to a nucleus that houses their DNA, this new type of organism also distinguishes themselves by having cell structures dedicated to specific tasks, like the chloroplasts we find in plants and the mitochondria we find in our own cells. The story of how this happened is pretty fascinating,but a little difficult to explain. Check out the video to learn more.
For those on the Southern side of our Earth, preparations for Imbolc/The Winter Thermstice are likely underway…….
This is an updated version of the yearly Summer Thermstice post