Recently I have decided that our families Wheel of the Year will focus mainly on the Scottish, Pectish, PectiWita, versions of the old nature-based, seasonal, holidays. This narrows it down a bit, keeps it a little simpler ...
...I'm known for overdoing things! LOL
And also it celebrates our family's heritage (as both my husband and I have Scottish roots) as well as being the fist version of the Old Ways I read about as a young girl.
From time to time I will throw in some American folk magick ;-) Especially as it pertains to Mormonism (and boy does it ever pertain!)
So, we are just days away from Lammastide. Also known as Loaf-mass day, Lughnasadh or Lambress.
Celebrated on August 1st in the North or Europe, this holiday marks the beginning of the harvest (the festival of Samhuiin marking the end of the harvest in preparation for winter.) It also marks the midway point between summer solstice and Fall Equinox.
This is the beginning of the season of hope. The seeds, ideas and intentions we planted in the spring are just now beginning to ripen but we have a lot of hard work ahead of us as we collect and store our food for the winter.
"Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest."
Lammas has always been a personal favorite of mine. No season is better than fall and Lammas marks the beginning of the end of summer, my least favorite season.
I grew up in the hot deserts of the American Southwest. Summers were harsh and unrelenting, fall marked the beginning of the break from the heat that was the late fall-winter-early spring trinity.
But I digress.... back to Lammas.
Baking of bread from the newly harvested grain was customary and is where the holiday draws it's name. As Christianity came to Europe people practiced the tradition of bringing their Lammas loaf to church. In the Old Religion the grain of the earth was sacred and was the body of God. When it was harvested for the winter it was as though God had died and they honored this prized grain, knowing their God would be reborn next year.
Lammas can be a good time to reflect on the sacrifice, death and rebirth of our Savior Jesus the Christ. The death, and rebirth of the grain is nature's way of retelling this story to us. Just as the grain nourishes our bodies the atonement nourishes our souls.
But it wasn't all about bread. The holiday was also the time when new fruits were blessed as they ripened as well. Big bowls of fruits are customary on this day and make a delightful addition to the Lammas loaf.
"Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: "
Lev. 23: 10
I would love to pause here and draw upon the Word of Wisdom for a moment.
"Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving."
I think that verse would make an excellent blessing over the first fruits!
"All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—"
Of course in our modern day and age our grain has been so corrupted by Big Agriculture that it is more like grain-Frankenstein's monster then it is the grain that God once gave to man as the staff of life.
For those concerned about grain there are a few alternatives.
First, for me, and alternative way to look at the Word of Wisdom is this; a staff is a walking stick that aides one in hiking or long travels.The staff of life could therefore be seen as something you use when you cannot make the journey on your own two feet. So grain can be seen as something you might want to put in your food storage or something to eat when there is nothing else available, but not something you would want to eat every day.
If you do choose to eat grains you can soak and ferment them according to the Nourishing Traditions diet which would have been how the early Mormon's would have prepared their bread in the traditional fashion.
You can also prepare a grain-free loaf of bread for Lammas which is made of coconut flour or nut flour (see my links below).
As with many holidays of the Old Religion, Lammas was adapted into the Christian tradition. The holiday is celebrated in conjunction with the feast day of St. Peter in Chains also known as the Liberation of St. Peter. This part of the holiday celebrates the apostle Peter's release from prison. Peter was imprisoned by King Herod but an angel appeared to him and miraculously granted his release.
Being a late summer holiday Lammas made the perfect gathering time for people (think our modern day BBQs, picnics, fairs, etc. held in summer time) Traditionally games of strength and agility were held at this time. Local tribes and villages would get together and hold games and competitions. It's not a stretch to imagine that this may be where our modern practice of county fairs comes from, where people complete in all sorts of games, sports, arts and crafts.
Ideas for Celebration:
- Bake bread of course! This is almost a must for Lammastide. As promised, for those grain intolerant, here are some links to grain free bread. This one looks yummy, and I'm dying to try this one this Lammas.
- OK, now you have your bread so take it to Church! Our Church holds semi regular pot lucks after third hour but if yours doesn't you can always take your bread with you to share in Primary, Young Women's or Relief Society.
- Bake a double portion and bring some to a nearby neighbor.
- Play games as a family, neighborhood or with church families. Some great games that are easy include, kick ball, Frisbee, tag, hide and seek, a sack race, a three legged race and charades.
- If you have a garden, local farm or wild bushes from which to harvest, do so. This is a great way to teach everyone in the family to work by the sweat of their brow to earn their food.
- First fruits are now cheap in the store, buy in bulk and set to canning natures miracle’s for the winter. Peaches, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and even watermelon rind are all easily preserved. If you’ve never canned here are some websites to help you get started: www.wikihow.com/Can-Food and www.pickyourown.org/allaboutcanning.htm
- Gather grains, fruits or wild grasses to decorate your nature table.
- Glean from wild edibles in your area. Blackberry bushes, plum trees, grapes, peaches - whatever you have. I know our summer season has been set back this year by late spring rains so our gleaning will have to wait.
- Host a thanksgiving style supper of local foods, say a blessing of thanks over them.
- Gather wild herbs or flowers.
- If you don't go regularly, get out to your local Farmer's Market.
- Make a list as a family of what you are grateful for; give thanks to the Lord for your blessings!
- Bake gingerbread men the perfect representation of the sacrifice of the grain.
- If you have a local farm to visit, do! See the corn stretching high, the berries ripe on the vine.
- Read stories about the Apostle Peter.
- Read about the Atonement.
This Lammas my family is celebrating by going up to my father-in-laws garden and having a picnic of Lammas bread and first fruits by the pond. We will be reflecting on what we are thankful for this season and what preparations we will be making for the coming fall and winter.
It seems to me not a coincidence that Pioneer Day falls shortly (just days) before Lammas. Utah Mormon pioneers knew of the hard work required for a bountiful harvest. They named one of their early towns Bountiful, UT where they kept communal grain storage bins.
In the book of Mormon we find reference to the harvest in Alma 17:13 "..that they seperated themselves and departed one from another, trusting in the Lord that they should meet again at the close of their harvest; for they supposed that great was the work which they had undertaken."
What work have we undertaken this year? What awaits us at harvest time and have we put our faith in the Lord that we shall reap what we have sewn?
We see reference to the Lord of the harvest in Alma 26:5; "Behold the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with you might, yea, all the day long did ye labor: and behold the number of your sheaves!"
Alma 26 goes on to say in verse 7; "But behold, they are in the hands of the Lord of the harvest, and they are his; and he will raise them up at the last day."
What are you doing this Lammas? What do you think about this ancient holiday? How does celebrating the seasons effect you and your family?
Cross posted at my personal blog; A Wise and Glorious Purpose.