Lammas, similar to Imbolc, is one of the points of the year that has taken some time to understand what this observance means to me. I’ve been reflecting on this for the last few days. A coworker is taking time off next week, to travel to one our most northern counties to attend the first fair of the season. She goes there every year, and she commented to me that this fair means to her that fall is just around the corner.
She’s right. There is still lots of summer business in my life: the yard work, tending the garden, dog events to attend and compete in, hiking, walks on the beach, another anticipated family gathering…. But at the same time many of our roadsides are now lined with golden rod and Queen Anne’s Lace in full bloom, and unmown grasses are tawny yellow. I’m still picking peas and radishes, while I wait for other veggies to ripen, but the earliest pea vines (I planted several rows in staggered stages) are drying down. So. The wheel turns once more.
Teo Bishop wrote a thought provoking piece about Lughnasad (as this day is also known). This is the festival of the first harvest, but he questions whether Neopagans are “enacting the rituals of an earth tradition without being fully engaged as an Earth Tradition.” His point being, if you are not involved in the harvest of your own food, how should we connect to the meaning of this festival? What is its symbolic value? What is a useful metaphor for connecting to the spirit of this festival?
I like this. As I look back over the past seven months, there are some places in my life that I definitely feel I’ve made forward progress, and I’m in a better place than where I was. There are other areas, that I’m not as happy with. But. I still have a few months left of warmth and light, I still have the opportunity to work on those things, there is still the chance of bearing fruit in the final harvest.
However, Teo goes on to point out that while this is a time of celebrating the first fruits of the harvest, it is also a time that we should begin to “prepare — both psychologically and physically, if necessary — for a slowing down of things. The days will get shorter and colder before long, and we must prepare ourselves by setting some things aside, yes?”
He asks, how do we metaphorically prepare for winter? In a more spiritual sense, what do we set aside? “Is there a pantry in our heart or mind where we can store jars of canned goodies, and if so, what do we keep in those jars?”
It’s an open ended question, to which he invites our answer. Here is mine.
First, I want to go back to the phrase “without being fully engaged as an Earth Tradition”. I know that I am very lucky having a home where I can have a little garden space, and so am able to put my hands into that good Earth every spring, summer, fall. There is no denying that this does foster a direct connection with the Earth and the goodness she provides.
But, this is not the only means of connection. I’ve been blessed with this sense since my early years, long before I owned a home, long before I put a single seed into the ground. As a tomboy in the woods, I learned the seasons, when and where the birds nested, protected the fledgling robins from the neighborhood cats, watched the caterpillars turn into cocoons and chrysallises, observed the birds starting their migrations south. So many cycles, all connected into one larger one.
Yes, I’ve been blessed in living in proximity to natural spaces. But even in an urban environment, there are the cycles of the sun and the moon; sunrise, sunset, moon waxing, moon waning. Attention can be paid to these things, where ever you live; one can learn to attune to these energies regardless of your immediate environment.
The most valuable thing to put into our metaphorical pantry, the important things to seek for right now, to either harvest, or forage for and gather, are these: what are the simple things, the daily experiences, that are available where ever you are, that allow you to feel connected to the natural cycles? To Earth? To the goodness the Goddess provides?
Is it walking the dog in the park? Is it simply knowing the phase of the moon and its associated energy? Is it observing whatever bird or animal life that is around you, even if all you see are pigeons and squirrels? What are the avenues of connection that you can find, harvest, and store between this first harvest and the final harvest?
If you prepare now, you can find those connections, and continue to follow them, or at least, remember then. Then you will be able to draw upon the sustenance of the Earth, even in the deepest of winter. One of my most mystical and beautiful moments was in the dead of winter. But perhaps that’s a seed for a future post.