Tag Archives: Lughnasadah

John Barleycorn Must Die — Music for Lughnasadah

Fields of Gold

I spent time with some meadows today. I highly recommend it.

A Song for Lughnasadah

Lughnasadah’s Coming

Winter’s Coming

It may be the family motto of a particularly ill-fated clan in a popular miniseries, but it’s also true. Here’s a poem to remind us of one of Lughnasadah’s deep meanings:

Praise life-Praise life-
Before the fall
Of winter’s knife,
They stand and call,
O man, praise life.

The bee who goes
To the aster knows
December’s fear;

The butterfly
On a daisy’s eye,
That death is near;

Flies in the sun,
That summer’s done;

Ripe berries wait
Their certain Fate.

In red and gold
The lesson’s told;

In ecstasy
The end foresee.

A final cry
From earth to sky,
Tree, fruit, and flower,
Before the hour
Of sacrifice:

Praise life, O man,
While yet you can.

-Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Picture found here.

May You Harvest All that Your Arms Can Hold — And a Little Bit More


Tomorrow’s Lughnasadah, one of the eight high holy days of my religion. I’ll be at work at least part of the day, getting out the draft of a brief, but I’m hoping to slip out a bit early. Come what may, I went outside tonight and sat in the warm Summer rain, talked to my Bit of Earth, and did what I may to turn the Wheel here in Columbia’s district. May it be so for you on your own landbase.

On Sunday, I’ll celebrate with my Circle and we’ll harvest, store up, sing, and feast. I can’t find a recording of it, but my favorite song for Lughnasadah is:

Our hands will work for peace and justice.
Our hands will work to heal the land.
Gather round the harvest table.
Let us feast and bless the land.

It’s traditional on this Sabbat to sing “Corn Rigs Are Bonny”:

Here are the words to Robert Burns‘ poem:

It was upon a Lammas night,
When corn rigs are bonie,
Beneath the moon’s unclouded light,
I held awa to Annie;
The time flew by, wi’ tentless heed,
Till, ‘tween the late and early,
Wi’ sma’ persuasion she agreed
To see me thro’ the barley.

Corn rigs, an’ barley rigs,
An’ corn rigs are bonie:
I’ll ne’er forget that happy night,
Amang the rigs wi’ Annie.

The sky was blue, the wind was still,
The moon was shining clearly;
I set her down, wi’ right good will,
Amang the rigs o’ barley:
I ken’t her heart was a’ my ain;
I lov’d her most sincerely;

I kiss’d her owre and owre again,
Amang the rigs o’ barley.
Corn rigs, an’ barley rigs, &c.

I lock’d her in my fond embrace;
Her heart was beating rarely:
My blessings on that happy place,
Amang the rigs o’ barley!
But by the moon and stars so bright,
That shone that hour so clearly!
She aye shall bless that happy night
Amang the rigs o’ barley.
Corn rigs, an’ barley rigs, &c.

I hae been blythe wi’ comrades dear;
I hae been merry drinking;
I hae been joyfu’ gath’rin gear;
I hae been happy thinking:
But a’ the pleasures e’er I saw,
Tho’ three times doubl’d fairly,
That happy night was worth them a’,
Amang the rigs o’ barley.
Corn rigs, an’ barley rigs, &c.

I’ve always liked it as a good bookend to the tradition of sympathetic magic that calls for the Great Rite in the woods and fields on Beltane.

Here in the magical MidAtlantic, it’s high season for tomatoes, peaches, and, oh yes! corn. One of my very favorite Lughnasadah poems is Mary Oliver’s Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith:

Every summer
        I listen and look
                 under the sun’s brass and even
                         in the moonlight, but I can’t hear

anything, I can’t see anything—
        not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
                 nor the leaves
                         deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
        nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
                 And still,
                         every day,

the leafy fields
        grow taller and thicker—
                 green gowns lifting up in the night,
                         showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
        I fail as a witness, seeing nothing—
                 I am deaf too
                         to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet—
        all of it
                         beyond all seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
        Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
                 Let the wind turn in the trees,
                         and the mystery hidden in dirt

swing through the air.
        How could I look at anything in this world
                 and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
                         What should I fear?

One morning
        in the leafy green ocean
                 the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
                         is sure to be there.

Picture found here.

I Want to Buy School Supplies on Diagon Alley, but the Local Drug Store Will Do


With Lughnasadah only hours away, I can feel the shift, sense the Wheel turning. If you stop, ground, breathe, and listen, so can you.

I was one of those kids who loved school and I grew up to spend seventeen years as a teacher. I never turn the calendar page to August without having that “It’s Time to Get Ready for a New School Year” feeling, even though I’ve been a lawyer now for nigh on two decades. Stores will start selling clean new notebooks and unsharpened pencils and I’ll have an itch to buy enough looseleaf dividers to get myself REALLY organized, this time. (One thing that makes me sad about G/Son’s school is that they have this actually ingenious system where there’s a box on each student’s desk on the 1st day with exactly the supplies the teacher wants hir class to have. It’s smart and less expensive (since they buy the supplies in bulk) but not at all fun for me, because I would love to take G/Son school shopping. You know that scene in Harry Potter where he goes shopping for a wand? Like that.)

The wonderful thing about the internet, though, is that you can sign up for a course this Fall and continue to learn.

Max Dashu, for example, is offering Secret History of the Witches III: Women, Goddesses, Patriarchy, and Christianity. The online course will:

start with a visual webcast on the syncretic Great Goddess culture around the Mediterranean* (Isis of 10,000 Names, Black Diana, Kybele, Tyche, among others). We touch on Judaic Wisdom traditions and concepts of witchcraft — then plunge into the evolution of a new religion (some dub it Paulianity) that hybridized the teachings of a Jewish sage with Hellenistic mystery religions and, eventually, imperial Roman authoritarianism. What were the consequences for women and for their ethnic cultural heritages, as well as for the international Magna Mater traditions?

Cherry Hill Seminary will often let you take just a course or two. Fall 2013 offerings include:

Insights (four-week courses)
Transpersonal Genealogy I, Fall 1
Why Magickal Thinking Isn’t Crazy, Fall 1
Transpersonal Genealogy II, Fall 2
The Space Between the Columns: Classical Greek Religion for Today, Fall 2
Sacred Time and a Calendar of Days, Fall 2
Transpersonal Genealogy III, Fall 3
Magical Language, Fall 3
*Fall Insights 1: Sep 9 – Oct 6; Fall Insights 2: Oct 7 – Nov 3; Fall Insights 3: Nov 4 – Dec 1
Certificate-Level Courses (14-week semester)
Leadership II – Conscious Leadership for Turbulent Times
Introduction to Advocacy
Master’s-Level Courses (14-week semester)
Boundaries and Ethics
Research and Writing for Pagan Scholarship
Cross-Cultural Rites
Practical Chaplaincy: Three Concentric Circles of Ministry
Counseling Skills and Therapeutic Interventions
Introduction to Advocacy
Leadership II – Conscious Leadership for Turbulent Times

Starhawk is offering Earth Activist Training, but does require physical attendance:

Sept 7-21: EAT course at Prospect Rock permaculture farm in Johnson, Vermont.
Sept 25-Oct 9: Permaculture Design Course at Marda Permaculture Farm in the West Bank, Palestine.
Jan 5-19, 2014: EAT course at Black Mountain Preserve, Cazadero, California.

Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Soul’s Seasonal Practices ecourse is open all year long. The current lesson:

helps you make room in your daily life for mindful creative expression. You’ll align yourself with the rhythms of nature as you watch the Perseid meteor showers, make blackberry cordial, and weave wheat dollies — while contemplating the bittersweet mysteries of sacrifice and harvest.

Please leave information in comments on other courses that you may know or be offering.

And while we’re on the topic of education, this gives me hope:


There should be a version for adults. (Hat tip: Jan)

Picture found here.

Garden Musings as We Head for Lughnasadah

The Voodoo Lilies Have Bloomed, Died, and Made Seeds

The Voodoo Lilies Have Bloomed, Died, and Made Seeds

The Gardenias Have Perfumed the Garden and Are Resting

The Gardenias Have Perfumed the Garden and Are Resting

The Wisteria Blooms Are a Memory

The Wisteria Blooms Are a Memory

Close Up, Each Bloom Is a Universe

Close Up, Each Bloom Is a Universe

How did this happen? Here we are, just a few days from Lughnasadah.

The Bella Lugosi Day Lilies Were the First to Bloom this Year, but are Now Done

The Bella Lugosi Day Lilies Were the First to Bloom this Year, but are Now Done

The Sir Mordreds Are Just Finishing their Blooming Season

The Sir Mordreds Are Just Finishing their Blooming Season

And the Adios Nonios Are Almost Done, As Well.

And the Adios Nonios Are Almost Done, As Well.

Every year, in the deep Mid-Winter, I put Summer’s olive oil and my own old fuzzy socks on my feet; I drink hot broth; I grok the dark; I burrow down beneath my sheets, cotton blankets, comforters, and bedspreads, and I dream myself into this time of year: late Mid-Summer.

Now, the Daisies Are Everywhere

Now, the Daisies Are Everywhere

Along with Queen Anne's Lace

Along with Queen Anne’s Lace

I dream myself into this time of year when the trees dance freely with the wind; this time of year when the birds attend my breakfast on the porch; this time of year when I can hardly keep up with the lettuce, basil, mint, tarragon, rosemary, sage, thyme, and lavender, no matter how many salads I make, no matter how much pesto I make, no matter how many herbed butters I make, no matter how many baths I take full of rosemary and mint, no matter how many foot soaks I make with lemon balm and rosemary, or with bergamot and lavender, or with sage and thyme.

I Can Hardly Harvest the Basil Quickly Enough

I Can Hardly Harvest the Basil Quickly Enough

I Make it into Pesto, Freeze Some, and Eat Some Right Away

I Make it into Pesto, Freeze Some, and Eat Some Right Away

I dream myself into this time of year when I drive to work engaged in acts of love and pleasure with urban traffic islands of grass and chickory, when rosemary is the major flavor of lemon aide, when G/Son only wakes up early to go to science fairs. I dream myself into this time of year when I can go outside in flip-flops and shorts and my “What Would Durga Do” tank; when I can go into my garden and press my skin against the ground while I pull weeds.

Sunshine Tomatoes and Basil -- No Need to Turn on the Stove

Sunshine Tomatoes and Basil — No Need to Turn on the Stove

Rima has been writing about this time of year and how “Something has happened this year. The plants have started calling louder than ever before.” She says:

Those of us who have loved the plants since childhood and dreamed of a cronehood stalking the fields with a basket, kitchen windowsill a stained glass apothecary of sunlight falling through bottles of herb-infused oils and tinctures – a Church of Weeds – have heard the hedgerows calling clearer and more insistent this year than ever before. I wonder for how many of you the seasons’ turning this year moved something in you that had perhaps learnt over the years a handful of plant names and their uses and maybe collected many books on plant lore and craft, but not before with this new purpose and dedication wanted to know the whole great encyclopedia of leaves?

Others say so, too.

The Astilbe Makes the Shade Garden Seem Even Cooler and More Refreshing

The Astilbe Makes the Shade Garden Seem Even Cooler and More Refreshing

Grounding is a major part of my daily practice and of every act of magic that I do. And when I ground, I run my etheric roots into my red Virginia clay and I invite the mycellium in the dirt to communicate with me. I envision my roots inviting the mycellium that connect all thirteen trees in my back garden to connect with me. I see my roots inviting connection with the mycellium that connect the roots of all of the local trees. I do magic to make this happen. And, so, I am not surprised when, like Rima, I find that the plants are calling to me, louder than ever.

And, then, when it comes, when late mid-Summer comes, I put myself to bed every night dreaming of dark, and cold, and seeds buried beneath the frost of my compost, and introspection, and a roof to keep the snow and frost off of my increasingly grey head.

They say that a “Witch’s job is to turn the Wheel, and round and round the Wheel must turn.” But, more and more, I am meditating upon the fact that the Wheel will soon turn without me. The Wheel will turn — will we or nil we — and perhaps all that we Witches can do is stand back and admire. More and more, that’s my job as G/Son’s Nonna: meditating and doing deep magic for the Wheel that will turn when I’m gone and he’s still here.

Last night, restaurants in DC were celebrating Eat Local Night, and G/Son, and his rents, and I had dinner at my v. favorite restaurant, Nora. I told G/Son about the Alaskan salmon jumping waterfalls in between bear claws as he ate every bite of his salmon dish. He told me, over and over, about Pokemon cards and how they create an entire world. I’m pulling him into the important past; he’s pulling me into the important future. And, so, will we or nil we, I’m Lughnasadah and he’s Eostara. Or is it the other way around?

Garden Guardian

Garden Guardian

All photos by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.

Framing on the Eve of Lughnasadah

Literata is asking some good questions. Discussing some of the nefarious myths that circulate about Pagans, Literata says:

On a broader level, it means things like pushing back against the “demonic possession narrative” as Jason points out. It may mean pushing back against misperceptions about divination, about symbols, about wearing black and going to the woods at night.

But I don’t know very much about how to do that well. This is a place where I would really like to get more advice from people who have experience countering this kind of defamation.

What I do know is that if you pay attention to Hecate’s rules on framing, this is the one time you should talk about what Pagans are not. But it still means you shouldn’t pile on other examples in an attempt to debunk as much as possible at one time; Pagans get so little media exposure that we need to counter the specific problem at hand and make a positive statement. In speaking to the public, the point is to challenge the frame and try to reframe, rather than accepting the frame and debating around it.

This is where I think the Bad Jackie [aka, the person who won’t believe evidence when it conflicts with their prejudices] idea comes in. When you work to counter the frame, you should put it in terms that highlight exactly how ridiculous and contrived the libel or defamation is. “You believe what?” Make it dismissible: how can you believe that in the face of an official FBI debunking? In the face of common sense? In the face of reality?

If you can’t change the minds of the Bad Jackies, at least make it obvious that they’re the ones who are out of touch with reality and who, at some level, choose to stay there.

What do you think? Is that a helpful way to think about this? Is it a good place to start? And how else should we do anti-defamation work well?

Framing isn’t easy, but Pagans still need to learn it. Framing to win depends heavily upon the context of each situation and varies depending upon the tactics employed by the opposition.

One hard and fast rule for successful framing is that you need to understand your own objectives and you need to frame your message in a way that is congruent with your own objectives. Pagans too often, IMHO, fail to do this. We accept our opponents’ framing and try to work from there.

However, you generally want to avoid framing your message in a manner that adopts your opponent’s framing. Because, as George Lakoff has explained, when you attempt to refute your opponents’ framing, you reinforce their message.

Consequently, when Pagans are framing their messages for Pagan Pride Day, I get down on my knees, grovel, and beg, beg, beg them not to say, for example, “We’re sponsoring Pagan Pride Day so that people will understand that we don’t eat babies.” Because that adopts our opponents’ framing. Instead, I plead with Pagans to say, for example, “We’re sponsoring Pagan Pride Day because we want our community to know how proud we are of Pagans who invented democracy, theatre, poetry, music, architecture, and farming. We want our community to know that local Pagans are business owners, parents, fire-fighters, lawyers, teachers, computer programmers, consultants, and farmers.”

But Literata isn’t asking about how you frame your notice of Pagan Pride Day. She’s asking how you frame your message when some nutjob says, for example, that the shooting in Aurora is due not to a lack of gun regulation, but to the fact that our society suffers a Witch to live.

There’s, not surprisingly, a field of law devoted to that sort of “containment,” the people who get paid a lot of money to consult with companies and personalities who have to refute disparaging rumors. These lawyers break their job down into two broad categories: (1) the rumors are true or have, at least, a large element of truth, and (2) the rumors are completely untrue.

So, for example, let’s imagine that you represent Mitt Romney and it’s true (and this is simple speculation on my part, heh) that he not only didn’t pay any taxes in some years but actually got tax returns. The best practice in that case (i.e, the rumor is true) is generally full disclosure. Release the tax returns. Get it over with; move on to a point where you can frame the message. Admit the truth, explain why it was adopted, and then, for the love of the Goddess, begin to redirect attention. “While Mr. Romney may not have paid taxes in prior years, our campaign focuses on job creation in this century. And Mr. Romeny has a four-point plan to create jobs by . . . .”

But what if the rumor isn’t true? You can deny it, prove the truth, and hope to move on. Ridicule can be effective in some cases, as Literata suggests. But what do you do about the “bad Jackies,” the people who will persist in their belief no matter what you say. So you invite them into your rituals, show them your Book of Shadows, give them interview with members of your group who completely disavow eating babies (show them all of your tax returns if you’re Mitt Romney), prove to them that even their own scientists believe that humans cause global climate change, etc. And that has no effect. They just find other reasons to disbelieve you.

Here’s the hard thing that lawyers who do this kind of damage control understand and that lots of Pagans don’t want to acknowledge: you’re not going to reach some people. Their own shadows, their own fears, their own need to “other” you will allow them to deny all of your evidence. Sure, your members deny eating babies, sure your Book of Shadows has nothing in it about eating babies, sure you say that you’re just about worshipping the trees and the brooks. And they say:

That’s what Satan would TEACH you to say, and it’s all lies.

OK, listen carefully to me. No matter what you do, you’re unlikely to reach those people. Even when you clean up the mess in New Orleans, do reiki on injured children, raise money for local veterans, and feed abandoned kittens, they are going to say that you’re evil.

Here’s what Pagans need to get and it’s what the lawyers who do damage control on these issues get: That’s life. Shrug. Move on. At some point, and any lawyer who’s ever written a brief knows this, refutation stops working. And then it’s time to being pounding your own drum. Start to, once again, get out YOUR message. Eventually, your positive message will more or less drown out their negative one. You know:

We are the intellectual heirs of the ancient Greek philosophers who invented democracy, poetry, philosophy, the Olympics, etc. We’re going to be holding a Pagan Pride event on Sept. 23rd to emphasize how local Pagans contribute to our local economy by farming, creating jobs in local businesses, supporting our local schools by donating books to school libraries and . . . .

Stop letting your opponents define your message.

Picture found here.

High Summer

Lughnasadah’s coming; can you feel it?