Thursday, 30 July 2020

Celebrating Lammas During the Pandemic

Although restrictions have eased since I wrote about celebrating Beltane and Summer Solstice in lockdown - and most places in the UK are not actually in lockdown any more - the ongoing pandemic means full scale gatherings for  Lammas rituals and celebrations aren't possible. Up to date guidelines for your area may be found on this Government website - please check and ensure you are adhering to the rules.

Nevertheless, as with the previous two festivals with a bit of imagination it's possible to celebrate Lammas in memorable style. As before I have suggestions for a variety of situations - even though many of us are now able to resume a kind of normality in our lives, there are still people who need to protect themselves by shielding, so there are suggestions for those who are able to get out and those who are not.

Ideas for celebrating Lammas in the countryside or at the beach/park
  • If the weather is fine, this would be a great opportunity to visit a local sacred site, stone circle, megalith or holy well. The big famous sites will probably be awash with visitors, but smaller more obscure sites need love too, and the lack of crowds often makes them far more atmospheric, and allows the space and time to really connect on a deeper level. Take a small posy of flowers from your garden as an offering (not cellophane wrapped ones from the local supermarket or garage!) for the genius loci.
  • If you are able to visit a beach, trace a spiral large enough to walk in and out of in the sand. Walk it slowly and mindfully. On the inward journey concentrate on all the plans and projects you have put energy into in the last year. What seeds have you sown and how have they grown? When you reach the centre pause and survey your harvest. What has come to fruition? What still needs more work? Give thanks for all that you have achieved. As you slowly walk back out of the spiral, concentrate on where you will concentrate your energy for the next year. What will you hope to be harvesting by this time next year? 
  • If you enjoy foraging for wild foods, take a walk and gather some ingredients for a Lammas feast. Wild plants to look for at this time of year include bilberries, the first blackberries, wild strawberries, chickweed, fat hen, mallow, rowan berries and sea beet.
  • If you are visiting a beach with your family, why not have a beach-art competition? You can sculpt sand, pile rocks, and beach-comb for shells, driftwood, seaweed and other shoreline treasures to use in your creation. Here's some inspiration for you...

Ideas for celebrating in your garden
  • If you've been growing your own fruit and veggies, Lammas is the perfect time to celebrate with a harvest feast, preferably al fresco.
  • Lammas is traditionally a time to get together with your community and share the harvest. That's not so easy at the moment - and really, I'm of the mind that it's better to be cautious and limit social contact in order to stay safe and beat back the virus. But with a bit of common sense and appropriate hygiene/social distancing measures it should still be possible to share any excess home-grown fruit, veggies and herbs with your neighbours. If you don't grow vegetables you could gift them with a bunch of flowers. Or how about baking a batch of cupcakes, brownies or muffins and leaving little anonymous gift-wrapped parcels of yumminess on your neighbours' doorsteps?
  • Traditionally corn dollies were made at this time of year. The spirit of the corn was thought to reside safely in them through the cold winter months. In spring, the corn dolly would be planted along with the new seeds and the cycle would begin anew. Make your own corn dolly using wheat straw (you can buy it online from craft suppliers) or even long stems of  dried grass. There are instructions for making simple corn dollies here, or look online for video tutorials if you would like to try something more elaborate! If you would like to keep the spirit of your garden safe indoors through the winter you could use flowers or herbs with long stems as a stand in for the wheat. Hang the finished garden spirit dolly up to dry somewhere cool and dry with good air circulation, and then keep it safe all winter on your altar before returning it to the soil in the spring. 
  • Make a mandala of food stuffs which you can leave out as an offering to the local wildlife. You could make the centre a bowl of water (but put a few rocks in it so that any insects or small creatures that fall in can climb out again).

Ideas for celebrating in your home
  • Get baking! Lammas literally means 'Loaf Mass', i.e. the celebration of the first loaf baked from the new grain harvest. There are hundreds of bread recipes to be found online, and you can also experiment with your bread by adding ingredients like chopped herbs, olives, cheese, spices, or chilli. If you don't have any yeast you can make soda bread, using bicarbonate of soda as the raising agent. Any flour-based baked goods are appropriate at this festival, so as well as making bread - make a cake, or biscuits, brownies, cookies, crumble or a pie.  If you have a gluten intolerance, there are gluten-free flours available and plenty of gluten free recipes online to inspire you.
  • Make a small harvest altar to give thanks for your personal harvest this year. This may be a literal harvest of home-grown fruit and vegetables or it may be the things you have achieved such as a new skill, a job, promotion, qualification, initiation etc. It could also be the new friendship(s) you have made, the poem you wrote, the happy times you have shared with your children. What have you achieved, made, learned or gained this year? What are you grateful for? What would you like to give thanks for? Find items which literally or symbolically show your harvest for this year. Say a few words of gratitude, to the Universe, to your Gods/Goddesses, to your magical allies - and to yourself, for all you have worked for and achieved this year. Blessed Be!
  • As always there are online Pagan celebrations that you can join. The Glastonbury Goddess Conference is online this year and runs over the Lammas period. There is an online Lammas Full Moon Shamanic Journey Circle here. If you're on Facebook, this is a useful group to keep tabs on Pagan events both online and off. 
  • Trance into the Empress card of a tarot deck. The Empress is the Mother Earth archetype, all about abundance. Create sacred space in your preferred way, ground and centre yourself. Sit looking at the card, allowing your gaze to become soft and unfocused. Imagine yourself walking into the card and approaching The Empress. What will you say to her? Do you have questions to ask her? Does she have a message or a gift for you? Who or what else do you find within the card? When you are ready, thank The Empress - and any other beings you may have interacted with - and exit the landscape of the card coming back to yourself where you sit. Take a few moments to write down your impressions of the card and any messages or gifts you may have received. Make sure you are fully back and grounded - eat something if necessary (food is very grounding). Open your sacred space.
May we all have a sweet and blessed Lammas, and may your harvest be bountiful. Blessed be. 

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