Feast of the First Harvest


The eight Sabbats on the Wheel of the Year come to us, in a sort of higgledy-piggledy-finding-your-great-Aunt-Stella’s-wedding-ring-in-a-thrift-shop-kind-of-way, from the Celts, who are ancestors in spirit, even if not in actual fact, to many modern Pagans. It may be (and I’d like to believe that it is) true that the Celts worked their lives around the Sabbats, pausing in their agrarian grind to stop and celebrate, for example, the Summer Solstice on, for example, the actual Summer Solstice. (Like Maggie Smith’s character in Downton Abbey, one imagines our great-great-great-great-many-times-great grandmothers asking, “What is a week-end?)

That’s not how it works in my life, nor, from my own, unscientific observation, in the lives of most modern Pagans. Lughnasadh, August 1st, falls on a Wednesday this year, and I’ll be in court that day. I’m lucky to have a job that, except for scheduled court dates, briefs filings, and client meetings, allows me to arrange my own schedule. (When I was a teacher, that was definitely not the case.) So I’ll be able to head home early, once the court business and the inevitable post-mortem are through, and to spend, perhaps from about 3:00 or 4:00 o’clock or so, on my personal rituals. I won’t get together with my small circle until the (pace, Dowager Countess) week-end, and even that will be slipped in between catching up on chores and grabbing some time with G/Son, whose Summer is jam-packed with trips and camps.

And yet, that’s OK. I felt the Wheel of the Year slip its cog a few days ago, and I’ve been harvesting herbs and seeds (I’ll have lots to share at next year’s seed swap) ever since, making bundles of sage, rosemary, and thyme for drying, tying sage up into tight little smudge sticks, sticking lavender into tiny little sachet bags, chopping up tarragon and making tarragon butter and rolling out pretty logs of sage butter, some for me and some to give away, tucking dill flowers into flasks of vinegar, steeping mint in vodka, and making and freezing G/Son’s favorite “green noodle sauce,” aka known as pesto. I do it on Sunday evening when I finally put down the transcripts I’ve been reading and make a quick harvest. I do it on weeknights when I come home before dusk and bundle up the sage, six smudge sticks at a time. I do it early in the morning when I turn on the sprinkler, pick dill seeds, and lay them out to dry.

Even in my “fit-it-in” practice, I do stop, thank the plants that I am about to harvest, thank the warm, sandy soil in my herb bed, thank the Sun that the plants have been eating since Spring, and thank the Potomac rivershed for the rain that has fallen, even as we’ve slipped in and out of drought. I do cast a quick circle and I do say a quick prayer of thanks to Ceres/Demeter:

Now sing the company of goddesses, sweet-voiced Muses of Olympus, daughter of Zeus who holds the aegis, — even those deathless one who lay with mortal men and bare children like unto gods.

Demeter, bright goddess, was joined in sweet love with the hero Iasion in a thrice-ploughed fallow in the rich land of Crete, and bare Plutus, a kindly god who goes everywhere over land and the sea’s wide back, and him who finds him and into whose hands he comes he makes rich, bestowing great wealth upon him.

and to Hecate:

Ne’er mid the immortal gods an idle threat
Or unaccomplish’d doom to seers inspired
Spake Hecate; but from the almighty mind
Of Zeus descends in brightest truth array’d
Lo!by my side walks Wisdom with firm step,
Leaning on oralcles that ne’er can fail.
In bonds secure me: for my power divine
Can give a soul to worlds beyond the sky. (Praeparatio Evangelica, Eusebius, early C4th CE, quoted in Hekate Liminal Rights — A historical Study of the Rituals, Magic, and Symbols of the Torch-Bearing Triple Goddess of the Crossroads by Sortia d’Este & David Rankine).

and to Columbia:

Mother and Grandmother of free nations, Patroness of the brave,
Bountiful Goddess of America, soul of our land,
Hear us across Your fruited plains, majestic mountains, painted deserts!
We stand as one, illumined by Freedom’s Holy Light!
We accept as brothers and sisters all people who come honorably to your shores.
We accept as your worship the alien ways of our newest siblings beside the traditional ways of our American ancestors and neighbors.

Though we may oppose one another, as freemen we stand together against our common foes, who also are your foes, for you are the Mother who has poured your horn of plenty upon our homeland, who has sent the Eagle to teach us Vigilance in all matters, and the Rattlesnake to teach us to withhold our strike until no other course remains.

We ask no more from you, for you have already given us so much, but humbly ask you to guide us in service to you and to your people; For Thou art Goddess, made beautiful and strong by the diversity of Your people.

~ Alan Leddon

And, by then, the work is done.

It’s important to me, important to my spiritual practice, to have some actual herbs to harvest. It connects me, on an almost-RNA-cellular kind of level, to my great-great-many-times-great ancestresses. “Look mothers! I have not forgotten what you knew. I plant the seeds in the Spring. I water and weed through the Summer Solstice, and I begin to harvest now for the coming Winter. I will have pesto to feed the young one in the dark days of December and rosemary to roast with potatoes when Imbolc cold blows across the land.” There are other harvests that I’ve had this year and I bale them up on the fields of my heart and offer them, too, to Ceres and to my Norse and Celtic foremothers. I’ve moved, with a little help from my friends, out of my comfort zone to work on my Word of the Year. I’ve had legal victories and seen my pro bono work bear fruit. I’ve spent precious time outdoors with G/Son and I’ve continued to write my own truth.

How do you celebrate this first harvest? What are you proud to have reaped this year?

2 responses to “Feast of the First Harvest

  1. In like manner, I have felt the Spring appear on the horizon, just a few days away.
    Love,
    Terri in Joburg

  2. I will harvest the only last poor bits of my drought-hit herbs … rosemary grows all year year here at Rosemary Cottage! Other herbs include sage, thyme, basil, flat-leaf parsley as well as St. John’s Wort. There’s a mere bit of lavender … although the artemisa (that lovely soft gray-green leaf) will be cut back once again ….

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