Tag Archives: Lughnasadh

Sacrifice, Politics, and Gift Economies


You can read my latest musings on Pagan politics over at the Pagan Square.

Picture found here.

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?

Sister Moon

Blessed Lughnasadh

Robbie Burns

What’s the most magnificent harvest you’ve ever reaped?

Lughnasadh Poetry Blogging

Harvest Gathering
~ Phoebe Cary

The last days of the summer: bright and clear
Shines the warm sun down on the quiet land,
Where corn-fields, thick and heavy in the ear,
Are slowly ripening for the laborer’s hand;
Seed-time and harvest — since the bow was set,
Not vainly has man hoped your coming yet!

To the quick rush of sickles, joyously
The reapers in the yellow wheat-fields sung,
And bound the pale sheaves of the ripened rye,
When the first tassels of the maize were hung;
That precious seed into the furrow cast
Earliest in spring-time, crowns the harvest last.

Ever, when summer’s sun burns faint and dim,
And rare and few the pleasant days are given,
When the sweet praise of our thankgiving hymn
Makes beautiful music in the ear of Heaven,
I think of other harvests whence the sound
Of singing comes not as the sheaves are bound.

Not where the rice-fields whiten in the sun,
And the warm South casts down her yellow fruit,
Shout they the labors of the autumn done —
For there Oppression casts her deadly root,
And they, who sow and gather in that clime
Share not the treasures of the harvest-time.

God of the seasons! thou who didst ordain
Bread for the eater who shall plant the soil,
How have they heard thee, who have forged the chain
And built the dungeon for the sons of toil?
Burdening their hearts, not with the voice of prayer,
But the dull cries of almost dumb despair.

They who would see that growth of wickedness
Planted where now the peaceful prairie waves,
And make the green paths of our wilderness
Red with the torn and bleeding feet of slaves —
Forbid it, Heaven! and let the sharp axe be
Laid at the root of that most poison tree!

Let us behold its deadly leaves begin
A fainter shadow o’er the world to cast,
And the long day that nursed its growth of sin
Wane to a sunset that shall be its last;
So that the day-star, rising from the sea,
Shall light a land whose children will be free!


May we all harvest increasing freedom from tyranny. Blessed Lughnasadh.

Picture found here.

Blessed Lughnasadh