Lessons of Lammas: Discernment and Adaptation

If there is one pagan festival that gets less attention in the Southeastern United States, I’d say it’s Lammas or Lughnasadh. Falling as it does during the hottest time of the year, most of us don’t want to be outside sweating in temperatures that exceed 90º Fahrenheit. We love our spiritual practice, but we’d rather not die of heatstroke. Given the cost of cooling down a house this time of year, we’re not so keen on firing up the oven to bake bread, either—and that was true even before the warnings about climate change.   

When we think of harvesting grain, it’s usually corn (that yellow stuff with the husk) that comes to mind in this region, rather than wheat, rye, or barley. Cornbread is both a staple and a symbol of Southern life, and if we’re being true to this land and our heritage, it’s our most logical choice for Lammas (that is, if we care to get out the iron skillet and heat up the kitchen).   

The corn harvest starts in mid-July, though it’s late October through November before we get stoked about corn mazes, kettle corn, caramel corn, roasted corn, etc.  We need some crispness in the air first, and right now, the air is more like a sauna. Of course, we can celebrate Lammas in an air-conditioned space, but indoor ceremonies always feel a bit subdued to me.     

Weather challenges aside, I believe the aspect of cutting down or cutting away also makes this festival harder to embrace for some. A harvest yields abundance, but it also requires selection. There is a necessary winnowing of what may be overripe, undeveloped, damaged, useless, or unsuitable in some way. On a psychological level, we follow the same process in our inner lives, whether we are conscious of its connection to the turning of the Wheel of the Year or not. There is something unseen but keenly felt, that prompts the need to pick only the best berries or the best habits or the best use of one’s time. And whatever is not chosen must be left to its own natural decomposition.   

Sometimes, however, we don’t choose. A drastic, unforeseen event will prompt a major change that has the potential to elevate and free the soul, though it may not feel liberating at first. The Wildwood Tarot illustrates this perfectly with the The Blasted Oak card, which combines elements of The Hanged Man and The Tower.

Here, the lightning has struck the oak and burned through the bonds of this figure who is now falling to earth. The scene looks dire. We don’t know how this figure will land or what might unfold. But we can infer that the ropes had most likely started to chafe and that the view from the tree limb wasn’t quite as lovely as it used to be. Lightning becomes the catalyst, its bright flash illuminating a situation that had grown stagnant and limiting. This, too, is part of the energy that Lammas holds—the storm that leaves everything shattered and overturned so that we see through the illusions that have kept us bound.   

This excerpt from Seamus Heaney’s poem “Anything Can Happen” captures the concept well: 

Anything can happen. You know how Jupiter
Will mostly wait for clouds to gather head
Before he hurls the lightning? Well, just now
He galloped his thunder cart and his horses
Across a clear blue sky.  

The other crucial lesson of Lammas is that of adaptation. When Jupiter gives no warning prior to the lightning bolt, how do we handle the aftermath? The Tarot shows us the answer in the calm resoluteness of the Strength card. It is the ability to look into the dark abyss of the lion’s mouth with trust and self-assurance. It’s knowing that all of our prior experiences and the wisdom of our ancestors have prepared us, and we need not fear. 

As we enter the first harvest, here are some prompts for journaling or divination:     

  • What can I harvest now?
  • What will I leave behind? 
  • How am I adapting to unforeseen circumstances? 
  • What inner strengths and ancestral wisdom can I draw upon? 
Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen Miller is an inspirational writer, sacred circle facilitator, and ovate-grade member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Her passion is inspiring others to reconnect with their own power, magic, and creativity. Jen explores themes of earth-centered spirituality, women’s empowerment, transformation, nature, and healing in her poetry and prose. Her work has appeared in Rebelle Society, SageWoman, The Tor Stone, and others. She posts regularly on Facebook and Instagram @quillofthegoddess.

2 thoughts on “Lessons of Lammas: Discernment and Adaptation”

  1. Pauline Wilder

    As I bring in the motherwort, yarrow, borage, and mullein leaf to dry for a warm winter tea, I love to leaving lots behind by chopping them back into the soil so that mother has plenty for tea also. Chop and drop; take a bit and leave more. Thank you for these thoughts on Lammas.

    1. Motherwort tincture is my best friend right now. I take it daily, and it has eliminated almost all of my perimenopausal symptoms. I love “chop and drop”! Great way to remember to give back.

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