Many of us celebrate Lughnasadh with Robert Burns’ ballad that declares that John Barleycorn must die. It’s about how barley is planted, grows strong, begins to die, and is harvested, winnowed, and made into whiskey. (And it may be about reincarnation, as well, but that’s a tale for another day.) And it’s a perfect song for this harvest festival when we bring in the fruits of our labor, whether we’re discussing a physical harvest of fruits and vegetables or the other fruits of our labor: projects completed, goals achieved, objectives met. Often, in order for us to harvest, something has to die. It’s easy to skip over that part of the harvest festival. It’s more fun to focus on the horn of plenty, the feeling of accomplishment, the feast with our family and friends. But something has to die. There’s usually a trade, a price demanded, a cost. As we learn from fairy tales, before you can marry the prince, you have to slay the dragon, or spin the straw into gold, or do a favor for the strange old man you meet in the forest. We should celebrate and remember that which has died, as much as we celebrate the gifts we’ve earned.
Cari Ferraro has a lovely post about loss, and death, and the turn towards darkness. You should gift yourself by reading the whole thing. Here’s a little taste:
So this Lunasa, season of seed and harvest, I remember my love. And I remember the Wheel. It turns, and it is implacable. Great Nature is indifferent to our mortal dramas and heartaches. She gives and She takes, in Her own time. All of us return to the earth; no one gets out alive. Wisdom offered to me in my deepest mourning said, death is magic. Without death life would have no meaning. Love would have no meaning. So I sit with this, at the ripening summer which at its fullest joy is shadowed by sorrow. It was always thus, and will always be thus. It is not uncommon when grieving to rail against what we believe in, whether it be a god or a philosophy, a religion or a way, and I am no exception. But there is nothing and no one to blame, not even myself. I did the best I could, I loved the best and deepest I could, and any missteps on the path were only that, the mistakes of living, without which life would be sterile perfection. I love the world and its magic. Because of course magic is hard and brutal too. Why should it be only light and love?
And, Byron Ballard has some thoughts — and a lovely circle casting — for this harvest holiday.
How do you celebrate Lughnasadh?
Picture found here.